On Monday 16 March the Master, Upper Warden and friends of the Stationers’ Company Archive gathered for a series of briefings on various projects which the Library and Archive Committee is
currently pursuing. It was also an opportunity to look at some items from the Archive and to see images of copyright registration which had been digitised last year by the National Archive.
Professor Matthew Davies of the Centre for Metropolitan History at the Institute of Historical Research
briefed us on ROLLCO – Records of London Livery Companies online. This project, which was launched in 2008 , aims to bring together the membership records of London Livery Companies into a transcribed and fully searchable on-line database. 9 Companies including the Mercers, Goldsmiths, Drapers and Clothworkers have so far signed up to this project which provides access to membership records free of charge to academic researchers.
The Stationers’ Company Library and Archive Committee has identified participation in ROLLCO as a priority objective with the aim of making the membership records widely available to researchers. Much of the work in transcribing information from the company’s membership records has already been done by Liveryman Michael Turner whose London Book Trades Database will be used by the ROLLCO team to source data up to 1830. Professor Davies’ team is therefore aiming to complete the database up to 1900 by transcribing entries from 1830 – 1900 directly from the company’s records. The cost of supporting this work will be borne by the Library Fund of the Stationers’ Foundation. For further background see: http://www.londonroll.org/about
We were then briefed by Giles Bergel of the University of Oxford on ‘Conceptions of Copyright 1695-
1801‘ a project conceived by Giles and Professor Ian Gadd of the University of Bath Spa together with Professor Martin Kretschmer of Glasgow University.
Quoting from the project outline: ‘’The project will create the first-ever database of British historical copyrights that considers them as objects in themselves: a powerful analytical model of an intangible market within which real publications were issued, traded and trafficked. The database will for the first time, link biographical records of the book trade (the London Book Trades database at the Bodleian) with bibliographical records of printed works (the English Short-Title Catalogue). As is clear from its title, the focus of the project will be on the period 1695-1801.
The Library and Archive Committee has agreed to support this project by supplying digital images of copyright entries for the relevant period. The research team will transcribe the digitised material for their database. The Project leaders are now applying for a grant to fund their work from the Arts and Humanities Research Council and the bid submission recognises the Stationers’ Company as partners. It is envisaged that the project will be formally launched at an event to be held at the Hall.
The last of our guest speakers, Claudine Nightingale of Adam Matthews Digital Publishing, spoke about
digital on- line publishing projects implemented by her company. The on – line publication of the company archives has been under discussion for some years and in recent months members of the Library and Archive Committee with the assistance of Liveryman Fiona Campbell have been exploring this possibility with Adam Matthew Publishing, a division of Sage, a Stationers’ Company corporate member. Claudine demonstrated the functionality of the database with particular reference to the Global Commodities archive. It is worth noting that unlike the transcribed ROLLCO and Copyright databases referred to above, Adam Matthew Digital databases present the images of the original archive.
We also had the opportunity to see some of the important early court books as well as Liber A, one of the two oldest registers in the Archive. Liber A is unusual in that it records correspondence to the Company by external authorities such as the Lord Mayor and Court of Aldermen along with other individuals, as well important documents such as wills. This book has had an interesting history over the past 60 years or so. In 1956 the leading bibliographer Graham Pollard undertook to edit a transcription of the entries in Liber A (which span two hundred years) for publication by the Bibliographical Society. When Pollard found after some years that he was unlikely to be able to complete the task, he handed it over in the 1970s to the equally eminent Oxford Professor Don McKenzie who was working on an edition of the text in 1997. However, McKenzie died before he could complete the task and Liber A remains unpublished today, nearly 60 years after Pollard’s original proposal to edit it. It remains on the agenda of the Publication Committee of the Bibliographical Society which is chaired by Liveryman David Pearson. Ian Gadd of Bath Spa University, mentioned above in connection with the Conceptions of Copyright project and Peter Blayney, author of The Stationers’ Company and the Printers of London 1501-1557 are currently charged with editing Liber A.
Resolving the issue of Liber A’s (long overdue) publication seems now more pressing than ever as it has become clear that conservation work done on the volume in the 1960s involved treatment with soluble nylon, as a result of which the pages are sticky and unstable. It is, in fact, possible that this treatment cannot be reversed. Thus digital imaging of this volume and publication of an edited transcription warrants urgent attention. Photos of the event were taken by Richard Gilpin.
Finally, it was good to see digital images of the copyright registration of some of the great classics of English literature including Shakespeare’s first folio,
John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress
and Milton’s Paradise Lost,
reminding us just how extraordinarily significant the copyright registers are as a primary source for the history of publishing.
To view the images and text more clearly please click here for the PDF file.