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Literary Print Culture: The Archives of the Stationers' Company - Lib AAC
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Literary Print Culture: The Archives of the Stationers' Company

Arms of the Stationer's Company 1790-1802 © The Worshipful Company of Stationers and Newspaper Makers

Thanks to the renewed cooperation with the FID AAC and the support of the German Research Foundation the database "Literary Print Culture" is now available to German library users. After granting access to the Publisher's Weekly Digital Archive, the FID BBI negotiated a second national licence for Germany this summer.

The Adam Matthews database "Literary Print Culture" contains digitized business and administration documents from the archive of the "Worshipful Company of Stationers and Newspaper Makers" (aka Stationers' Company), a book trader's guild founded in 1403 in London. This guild later held the monopoly over print and publishing in England for several stretches during the 16th and 17th century. The Stationers' Company played a central role in the development of censors, censorship of the press, and the copyright.

Because we negotiated a national license for Germany, you can access "Literary Print Culture" via the central Database Information System (DBIS) in Germany. 

Literary Print Culture in DBIS.

A Valuable Source: The Register of Entries of Copies

„Mr. William Shakespeares Comedies, Histories, & Tragedies“ (London 1623) in the Register of Entries of Copies (8. November 1623). Liber D, 10 Jul 1620 – 1 Dec 1645, p. 69. © The Worshipful Company of Stationers and Newspaper Makers

Besides varied archival matierial pertaining to the English book trade, the "Register of Entries and Copies" is an especially valuable resource of this database, which makes its complete contents digitally accessible for the first time. Since its implementation in 1556, the register recorded newly published works that had been approved by the censors. Thus, it functioned as a positive list of all publications in England. 

Early on, printers and book traders recognized another benefit of the register: They used it as copyright record and tied the right to the printed and sold work to each register entry. In 1709/10 the government officially installed the Register of Entries of Copies was as the copyright register that kept its function until 1911. In contrast to the Holy Roman Empire - where only regional regulations, if any, were in effect during the Early Modern Period - a work recorded in the English register could not simply be copied or distributed by a third party. This, of course, also concerned the works of William Shakespeare.

In combination with the files of the "Courts of Assistants," the leading council of the Stationers' Company, the register can support the reconstruction of the publication history of particular works. All the register's volumes are equipped for full-text searches, thanks to Handwritten Text Recognition technology (HTR) - however, the quality leaves room for improvement and search results are often not exhaustive or completely reliable.

Central Contents

Ceremonial Barge of the Stationers‘ Company, used for festive processions on the River Thames (1829), © The Worshipful Company of Stationers and Newspaper Makers

Due to the great influence of the Stationers' Company, their archive is of superior importance for the study of English book trade of the Early Modern Period. The database grants access to:

  • statutes, licenses, and privileges of the Stationers' Company,
  • the register of members of the Stationers' Company,
  • the "Entry Book of Copies" (1595-1842): The registers volumes can be selected via the filter on the left side of the database,
  • the files of the "Court of Assistants" the leading council of the Stationers' Company,
  • administration files of the Stationers' Company
  • the "English Stock Documents" (1603-1961) attesting to the activities of the successful publishing branch of the Stationers' Company. The treasurers' receipts (1734-1800), for example, lead to detailed information about payments for print, paper, and advertisements,
  • collections of photographs and architectural plans of Stationers' Hall and its premises,
  • interviews with members of the Stationers' Company.


As with all our licenses, the Kompetenzzentrum für Lizenzierung (KfL) has negotiated with the publisher to provide access to the materials from your university’s network or via the database information system (DBIS) provided by your library. Independent scholars or scholarly-minded people without an affiliation can register for access to nation-wide licenses with the DFG (German Research Council) when they permanently reside in Germany. Find more information concerning registration and all our databases on the FID AAC page at the KfL.

Additional materials on related topics (books, journal articles, DVDs, Blu-rays) can be provided by the FID via inter-library loan.

This is a translated and altered version of the article that appeared on the FID BBI Blog on July 7, 2022. 

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