Evidences, 1883: Stationers' Company

Pages 347-349

City of London Livery Companies Commission. Report; Volume 1. Originally published by Eyre and Spottiswoode, London, 1884.

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Stationers' Company

The deputation withdrew.

Depution from Stationers' Company.

The following gentlemen attended as a deputation from the Stationers' Company :—

Mr. J. J. Miles, Master.
Mr. John Miles Wardens.
Mr. C. Layton
Mr. C. R. Rivington, Clerk.

3279. (Chairman to Mr. J. J. Miles.) I believe you come here as representing the Stationers' Company?—Yes.

3280. I believe there are some facts which you wish to lay before the Commission ?—Yes. If you would allow me I think it would save the time of the Commission if I ask our clerk to reply to the questions. He has all the information so much better at his fingers' ends.

3281. (To Mr. Rivington.) I understand that you are prepared to show that there are some peculiarities in the constitution of your Company?—I am.

3282. You have duties imposed upon you by Act of Parliament, is not that so?—Under the Copyright Act.

3283. Will you state what those duties are?—I may mention that that is not the special peculiarity of our Company. I must go back, if you will allow me, to a date before the incorporation, but I will not keep your Lordship many minutes. The Stationers' Company was incorporated in 1556, but it had existed for upwards of a century or a century and a half before as a society or brotherhood, consisting exclusively of persons employed in the production of other than official books. The members were printers and they had a common stock. Each member put a certain sum of money into a common stock; the work was divided amongst the members and the productions sold at a profit, and a certain portion of the profit was distributed amongst the members of the Company. In 1556 the Company was incorporated and clothed with certain powers as to the controlling of printing and books issued. Then, of course, the Company became a corporation, but the old body existed, and trading has existed and been carried on separate from the Company as a corporation from that time until the present day, and it is continued, so that in the Stationers' Company there are really two bodies; there is the corporation of the Stationers' Company and the partners in the stock, which is called an English stock. Formerly there were several stocks; there was a Latin stock, an Irish stock, a ballad stock, and a bible stock. The stock existing now is an English stock. About 1601 the Company obtained a grant from the king giving them the exclusive right of printing certain publications, and that was amalgamated with the English stock. This stock has a capital of between 41,000l. to 42,000l., which is held amongst 306 members of the Company. The capital is divided into certain shares which are held just in the same way as the shares of ordinary companies, and the profits of the stock and property belonging to the stock are appropriated thus : A certain amount is distributed amongst the poor of the Company (it used to be 100l. a year, but now it is 400l. a year), and after paying that the nett profit is divided by way of dividend which is paid each half year. The members of the Company under the byelaws have a power of disposing of the shares to their widows but to no other persons. Upon the death of a person who has not disposed of his share to his widow the amount is paid out, and an election takes place among the members of the Company to that vacant share. If the share is bequeathed to the widow, the widow can take the share and enjoy the profits during her life, and upon her death that share is then disposed of in the same way as I mentioned before.

3284. (Sir Sydney Waterlow.) Then, as a matter of fact, each member subscribes capital towards what is called the English stock just as in the case of a joint stock company?—Not each member of the Company, but each partner. The members in the trading stock are only a certain number of the liverymen.

3285. And the capital thus raised by that select number of the liverymen is a trading capital used in printing and publishing books at the present time ?— It is.

3286. And that monopoly enjoyed by the Company from the charter granted by the King was a monopoly for printing bibles and almanacks?—Almanacks and primers.

3287. Of course that monopoly has ceased many years?—That monopoly has ceased many years.

3288. The Company still continue operations?— They still continue operations and publish school books.

3289. Can you tell the Commissioners what is, in round numbers, the amount of corporate money beyond that belonging to the English stock?—The money belonging to the corporation is all set out in the detailed returns which I had the honour to submit to the Commissioners. The property belonging to the English stock consists of this trading capital and investment of certain profits which were accumulated and not wholly distributed amongst the partners. At the time that the Stamp Duty was repealed, a large sum of money was received by the Company, and that was invested, and the produce of that was divided amongst the partners as part of the profit.

3290. Is the membership of the Company still limited to persons connected with the trade?—Exclusively to persons connected with the trade, and to persons born free. So particular are the Company as to that, that if any application is made from any person who is not a member of the trade, it is not even submitted to the court.

3291. Is the Company practically carrying on at the present time all the duties imposed upon it by the original charter?—Yes. Of course the duties relating to the controlling of printing are obsolete at the present day, but the Company bind a very large number of apprentices, as many as between 100 and 200 a year; and those bindings are all bonâ fide bindings, the apprentices actually serve their time to printers or booksellers. The Company have the administration of the charities which are exclusively confined to members of their trade. They have nothing to do with persons outside their trade with regard to their charities. They have various duties under the Copyright Acts. Indeed there is now a Bill pending before the House of Commons to increase those duties very considerably by requiring registration of all engravings at Stationers' Hall.

3292. Do the Company derive any profit as a Company from the fees taken under the Copyright Act ?— None at all. Far from deriving any profit they are at a considerable expense; it is no pecuniary advantage to the Company.

3293. (Mr. Firth.) On the first page of your return, speaking of your charter, which you say is destroyed, you say that it purported to establish a corporation to control the printing and publication of books. I think this Company was established by Queen Mary, apprehending, as she says, much ill to the State and Holy Mother Church, and giving you absolute control and sole power to print and publish books; is not that so ? —It was incorporated.

3294. Giving you the monopoly?—At that time, certainly.

3295. And under that monopoly you destroyed many thousands of books?—A very large number.

3296. As to almanacks of which you spoke, your almanack monopoly began, I think, in the reign of James I.?—Yes, that is so.

3297. And that lasted for 150 years, I think?— Until the middle of the last century.

3298. How many almanacks do you publish now? —About 20.

3299. Old Moore's Almanack you publish, amongst the rest, I think?—Yes.

3300. And do you still continue your prophecies in Old Moore?—No.

3301. With respect to Stationers' Hall, do you consider that Stationers' Hall carries out the object set out in the statute of George III., that it tends to the greater encouragement of the production of literary works of lasting benefit to the world?—That is a matter of opinion.

3302. I ask you your own opinion?—It is a subject I have not considered.

3303. You have not considered whether your own Stationers' Hall has that effect?—The Company perform all the duties cast upon it, I believe.

3304. Is there an index or register kept at Stationers' Hall?—There are four different registers kept there.