Worshipful Company of Stationers and Newspaper Makers
The Worshipful Company of Stationers and Newspaper Makers is one of the Livery Companies of the City of London. The Stationers' Company was founded in 1403; it received a Royal Charter in 1557. It held a monopoly over the publishing industry and was officially responsible for setting and enforcing copyright regulations until the passage of the Statute of Anne in 1709.
Today, the Company mostly carries out ceremonial functions. Furthermore, it contributes to educational charities. All its members work in the book or allied trades. In the order of precedence of the Livery Companies of London, the Stationers' and Newspaper Makers' Company is forty-seventh.
In 1403 the Corporation of London approved the formation of a Guild of stationers. At this time stationers were either booksellers or limners. Booksellers sold manuscript books that they or their employees had copies. They also sold the writing materials that they used. Limners illustrated and decorated manuscripts.
Printing gradually displaced manuscript production and by the time that the Guild received a royal charter of incorporation in 1557 it was in effect a Printers' Guild. In 1559 it became the 47th livery company. It was based in Peter College, which it bought from St Paul's Cathedral.
The Stationers' charter established a monopoly on book production ensured that once a member had asserted ownership of a text (or 'copy') no other member would publish it. This is the origin of the term 'copyright'. Members asserted such ownership by entering it in the 'entry book of copies' or the Stationers' Company Register. In 1695 this monopoly was diminished and in 1710 Parliament passed the first copyright act.
In 1603, the Stationers were formed the English Stock, a joint stock publishing company funded by shares held by members of the Company. This profitable business gained many patents of which the richest was for almanacks including Old Moore's Almanack. The business employed out of work printers and disbursed some of the profit to the poor.
In 1606 the Company bought Abergavenny House in Ave Maria Lane and moved out of Peters College. The new hall burnt down in the Great Fire of 1666 along with books to the value of about £40,000. It was rebuilt its present interior is much as it was when it reopened in 1673. The Court Room was added in 1748 and in 1800 the external façade was remodelled to its present form.
Registration under the Copyright Act of 1911 ended in December 1923 so the Company established a voluntary register in which copyrights could be recorded to provide printed proof of ownership in case of disputes.
In 1937, a Royal Charter amalgamated the Stationers' Company and the Newspaper Makers Company, which had been founded six years earlier, into the Company of the present name.