Archive News

We’re delighted to announce that the Adam Matthew digital resource, Literary Print Culture: The Stationers' Company Archive, can now be accessed remotely by all members of the Stationers’ Company via the Members’ section of our website.

It’s very straightforward: log in as usual, and you’ll see that the final entry on the left-hand sidebar is ‘Access to Digitised Archive’. Click on this and you’ll be linked through to a document containing the Terms and Conditions of Access to the resource. Please do read through these, at least on your first visit, and make sure you understand them! If you’re happy to accept, click on the link at the bottom of the page, and you will be redirected to the Adam Matthew website.

Once there, if you are using the resource from the comfort of your own home (or any other favourite haunt) you will then need to log in with the details provided by Adam Matthew exclusively for members of the Stationers’ Company. You can view the log in details here.

And that’s it! The historical documents of the Stationers’ Company’s Archive are now at your fingertips.

You can navigate through the Introduction to the Resource, read essays about the archive and the history of the Stationers, or browse documents and images from the collection. The high-quality digitisation allows you to zoom in on texts, and the resource as a whole offers a fantastic entry point to the collections.

You may find the Search Directories section of the resource useful to help you locate documents. This uses some information derived from the archive catalogue, such as the names of record series, and some information, such as keywords and themes, which was created and added by the Adam Matthew Editorial Team. Free text searching of documents is available, and there is a search-bar on every page. This is a very convenient way to start your research. Please bear in mind, though, that free text searching only works on typed and printed documents – so occurrences of a name or term which appear in letters and manuscripts will not be picked up, unless those documents have been transcribed into print, or the relevant search terms are used in the catalogue description.

If you have any questions about any aspect of the resource, from the Terms and Conditions and what they mean to you, to how best to conduct a search, please don’t hesitate to email me directly at

Happy browsing!

Members will be pleased to know that they now have free access to the Adam Matthew Literary Print Culture: The Stationers' Company Archive 1554-2007 through the Members Only area on this site.  Terms and Conditions apply and access will only be possible once those have been accepted.  Members should log in and then click here to proceed. 

This blog post was written by Ruth Frendo, our Archivist. It is one of a series of blog posts on History Collections on the theme of Magic and the Supernatural, as part of History Day 2017.

What would Halloween be without witches? Easiest costume to cobble together, subject of some of the best horror films (from ‘Black Sunday’ and ‘Suspiria’ right through to last year’s brilliant ‘The Witch’), and those hats are the perfect shape to cut out of chocolate or cookie dough.

However, behind the broomsticks and black cats lies a more sinister story, of thousands of people, mostly women, tortured and executed during witch-hunting mania that swept Europe in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. One aspect of that mania which it’s timely to remember is the role played by mass information. Fake news, it turns out, is not a recent phenomenon.

Nowadays we think of printing in terms of the extraordinary advances it precipitated in education, cultural life, and scientific method: advances which led to inestimable improvements in the lives and health of millions of people. And here at the Stationers’ Company, we’re lucky enough to have recorded the publication of texts which reflect these developments, allowing us to trace the circulation in England of works by seminal thinkers from Luther and Copernicus on.The Stationers’ Registers or entry books of copy, where publishers registered their rights to a work, offer a fascinating insight into the early book trade. But, as we know only too well, any technology is only as good as the use it’s put to. And for some, the power of print to elevate gossip into fact proved fatal.

The first major trial for witchcraft under Elizabeth I’s ‘Act Against Conjurations, Enchantments and Witchcrafts’ was held at Chelmsford Assizes in 1566. Three women, Elizabeth Frauncis, Agnes Waterhouse and her daughter Joan Waterhouse, all of Hatfield Peverel, stood accused. The outcome of the trial was that Frauncis was imprisoned, Agnes Waterhouse was hanged for committing murder by witchcraft, and Joan was found not guilty. However, the trial’s impact did not stop there. For, in what could be described as an early example of tabloid journalism, by the end of that year William Pekerynge had registered his licence for printing two lurid accounts of proceedings. ‘The examination of certain wyches at Chensforde before the quenes majesties Judges in the Countye of Essex’ must have been popular enough to merit a sequel, for ‘The second examination and confession of Agnes Waterhouse and Joan her Daughter’ came out soon after.

The pamphlets certainly contain some colourful descriptions of Frauncis’s magical cat, somewhat unsubtly named Satan, who procures several favours for her, including the financial ruin and untimely death of a man who wouldn’t marry her. Satan (the cat, that is) is then handed over to Agnes, who contracts with him to dispose of various items of livestock belonging to obstreperous neighbours. Agnes and Satan even subject a dairymaid to the extortions of a horned, ape-faced dog with a predilection for freshly churned butter.

Of course there’s long been an appetite for gruesome tales and sinister stories, as anyone familiar with folk music or fairy stories knows. But these pamphlets were disseminated with a speed and range far beyond the reach of oral culture – meaning that their contents could stoke fears and reinforce prejudices before the commotion of a public witch-trial died down. One effect of the Chelmsford case was the sudden rise of a new embellishment to the accusations and dubiously extracted ‘confessions’ of witchcraft: the use of an animal as a diabolic familiar.

The Stationers’ Registers contain many more entries for pamphlets reporting on witch trials, and ballads relating the heinous doings of these witches. And witches played their part in the theatre too, Shakespeare’s Macbeth containing the best known examples. But digging a little deeper in the Registers reveals the complexity of the context in which these witch-hunts were pursued: for instance, while witchcraft was frowned upon, ‘prognostication’ was not only accepted, but lucrative (via their best-selling Almanacs, not least for the Stationers themselves).

Find out more by visiting the Stationers’ Company Archive: our new reading-room will be opening in Spring 2018, and you can contact Ruth for further information.

Happy Halloween!


At the Stationers’ Company Archive:

Stationers’ Company Register A, TSC/1/D/02/01

Liber B, TSC/1/F/02/01

Registers of Entry of Copy, Libers C-G, TSC/1/E/06/02 – TSC/1/E/06/06

Key text discussed:

The Examination and Confession of Certain Witches at Chelmsford in the county of Essex Communicated and prefaced by H. Beigel [A reprint of “The examination and confession of certaine wytches et Chensforde … before the Quenes maiesties Judges, the xxvi daye of July Anno 1556,” and “The second examination of mother Agnes Waterhouse, and Jone her daughter … the xxvii day of July Anno 1566], consulted on the Internet Archive,

If you want to read more about ‘witches’ in this period:

Ben-Yehuda, N. (1980), ‘The European witch craze of the 14th to 17th centuries: A sociologist’s perspective’ in The American Journal of Sociology, 86 (1), 1-31

Bever, Edward, The realities of witchcraft and popular magic in early modern Europe : culture, cognition, and everyday life, 2008

Ginzburg, Carlo, ‘Deciphering the Sabbath‘ in Ankarloo Bengt and Gustav Henningsen (eds.), Early Modern European Witchcraft: Centres and Peripheries, Clarendon Press, 1990, pp.121-37

Clark, Stuart, Thinking with demons: the idea of witchcraft in early modern Europe, Clarendon Press, 1997

Online – great piece that got me thinking about all this in the first place – nothing to do with this post, but an interesting discussion!

Members will be interested in the video which Adam Mathew created about their exercise to digitise the Company's archive. It can be viewed here.


A conservator’s job is to care for cultural heritage so that it is accessible now and in the future. The conservator must be respectful and humble when treating and caring for objects and yet have the confidence to be able to make informed decisions and judgements. I am a newly qualified paper conservator and am currently doing contract work for the National Conservation Service. I am sent for short periods of time to assist with projects at institutions that do not have conservators. The Stationers’ Archive are currently moving their collection from a safe store at Stationers’ Hall to an offsite storage space at Upper Heyford. My job was to assist the archivist, Ruth Frendo, in ensuring all objects were safely packed for the move.

The Stationers’ Company allowed me to spend a short but insightful week, in and around the Company’s building; and on Thursday, 13 July I spent the majority of my day in the Library and Archive. Whilst having a strong literary interest, I have never particularly had the opportunity to be at such close quarters to books that in their age, and in some cases rarity, between them and through the omissions and gaps in the documentation, begin to expose the interweaving social and cultural influences on the world from the times at which they were written. This opportunity gave me much to think about in terms of the place of these books in modern society and what that might mean to us.

Members might remember that in 2011 Freeman Richard Gilpin produced an article for Stationers' News about the Company’s garden and its history. 

A lot of important things are going on at Stationers' Hall, many of which entail people passing through, and using, the garden; so we thought that it would be worth making that article available again (here) along with these extra ‘thoughts’.

Almanacs have existed for as long as people have attempted to interpret the seas and the skies. The Babylonians compiled star catalogues, and the early Greeks and Egyptians knew the importance of correctly predicting the weather. Medieval almanacs introduced elements of divination to their texts. And, as early medicine associated human physiology with astrology, almanacs soon carried health advice too, with an edict of the University of Paris decreeing, in 1437, that all physicians must own a copy of the latest almanac. To read a bit more about the history of early English almanacs and their role in the practice of medicine, check out this fascinating blogpost from the Wellcome library.

The Stationers’ Company exhibition at Guildhall Library is now open. Claire Scott, the organiser, has found some beautiful pieces to display, including a selection of paper lace – apparently British paper-makers were renowned for the quality of their output. The exhibition is designed to be quite interactive, and younger visitors are encouraged to try their hand at printing with ink stamps.

Ruth Frendo, Stationers' Archivist,  writes:

For the exhibition accompanying our very successful 2017 Archive Evening, we were loaned some fascinating items from Cambridge University Library. These included a first edition of Robert Hooke’s

The Worshipful Company
of Stationers
and Newspaper Makers

Stationers' Hall
Ave Maria Lane
London EC4M 7DD

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