Shakespearean Text: The Stationer’s Register is Important for Publishers, Book-sellers and Scholars

Even much before Shakespeare was born, the book trade of London was monopolized by a Stationer’s Company that existed since 1404. Its incorporation was made by a Royal Charter of 1557 which provided for an elected Master, two Wardens and a Court of Assistants. Read More about William Shakespeare It secured the monopoly of English printing except for the book‘s published by the two universities of Oxford and Cambridge. All the publishers and book-sellers of London as also most of her printers (93 as per the charter of 1557) formed the freemen of the company. The exercise of monopoly powers over publication and printing of books was deemed necessary to fight the political and religious views antagonistic to the regime of Mary Tudor. Read More about History of English Literature (Essay)

The system once introduced continued and practical procedure was laid down for licensing. The printers who were the freemen of the company entered their copy in the stationer’s register for a fee of 4£ pence, which was later raise to 6 pence. Read More about Drama  
This procured for them the sole right of printing or selling a book. The company had total control of the licensed presses and unlicensed printing became well-nigh impossible. 

The company, however did not bother how, its members secured their copy. Many published plays went unregistered and without copyright. This led to confusion and the cumbrous licensing procedure was sought to be remedied by a Decree of the Star Chamber of 23 June, 1586 which provided that all books had to be licensed for printing by Archbishop of Canterbury or Bishop of London who again functioned through authorized deputies, mostly clergymen. The book Read More about Drama  was entered by the publisher in the register of the Stationer’s Company, under the hands of the licensee and one or both of the wardens and payment of requisite fee would then secure the copyright. Later in 1607 the authority to license books was entrusted to Master of Revels. Read More about History of English Literature (Essay)

The Stationer’s Register is important evidence establishing Shakespeare’s authorship Read More about William Shakespeare of his plays. It, again, is of immense help in ascertaining their chronology. An entry in the register proves the existence of a play before that date, for example, Hamlet’s entry on 26th July, 1602 shows clearly that its composition was complete prior to that date. Non-entry, however, does not account for bad quartos, and entry of bad texts in the Stationer’s Register was not infrequent.


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