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The Stationers’ Company

Posted by: | September 16, 2009 | No Comment |

The Stationers’ Company is a Livery Company that resides in London.  It was originated back in 1403 with control over the publishing industries and  in charge of enforcing copyright regulations of all books in England, except those printed by Oxford and Cambridge universities.

Book authors could not be part of the guild and therefore they could not officially self-publish and they did not get any payments on the books that sold well. Most of the members were booksellers and bookbinders, who copied and sold manuscript books and writing materials. People that were in any way involved with the book-trade had to become a member of the company.

The Stationers were lawfully provided with the power to seize “offending books” that violated the standard rules of the Church and State; the offenders were taken before religious authorities including the Bishop of London and the Archbishop of Canterbury.

A Royal Charter of Incorporation was given to the Stationer’s Guild in 1557, providing them with a greater influence over the trading business. Anybody that wanted to print anything and sell it within the monarchy, had to be either a member of the guild, or exempt by some type of privilege.

This Royal Charter gave the government control over which type of books could be printed without affecting the image of the King or Queen. However, in 1695, the monopoly authority of the Stationers’ Company diminished and in 1709 was replaced by the Statute of Anne (also known as the Copyright Act 1709).

The Statute, (An Act for the Encouragement of Learning, by Vesting the Copies of Printed Books in the Authors or Purchasers of such Copies, during the Times therein mentioned), wanted to prevent any future domination over the book trade. It also granted authors instead of printers the ability to reproduce and print any of their works. 

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