The Common Paper: Articles enrolled in Guildhall, 1357-92

Scriveners' Company Common Paper 1357-1628 With A Continuation To 1678. Originally published by London Record Society, London, 1968.

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, 'The Common Paper: Articles enrolled in Guildhall, 1357-92', in Scriveners' Company Common Paper 1357-1628 With A Continuation To 1678, (London, 1968) pp. 1-4. British History Online [accessed 29 May 2024].

. "The Common Paper: Articles enrolled in Guildhall, 1357-92", in Scriveners' Company Common Paper 1357-1628 With A Continuation To 1678, (London, 1968) 1-4. British History Online, accessed May 29, 2024,

. "The Common Paper: Articles enrolled in Guildhall, 1357-92", Scriveners' Company Common Paper 1357-1628 With A Continuation To 1678, (London, 1968). 1-4. British History Online. Web. 29 May 2024,

In this section


[p. 1 translation] (fn. 1) The authorities, articles and ordinances for the Company of the Writers of the Court Letter of London, enrolled in Guildhall, London, book G, folio 61 (fn. 2)

20 May, 31 Edward III [1357], it was ordered and agreed by Henry Pycard, Mayor, and the Aldermen, that the writers of court and text letter, the limners and barbers [illuminatores et barbitonsores] dwelling in the City of London, should not in future be summoned on inquisitions in the sheriffs' courts between any parties pleading in the same. And if any amercement should be taken from them by the sheriffs' officers, the same should be restored without any gainsaying. Saving, however, that if they should be summoned to come to Guildhall on any arduous business touching the City, then they are to come under penalty. (fn. 3)

The general articles for all the Mysteries of London, enrolled in the Chamber of the Guildhall, London, book G, folio 135, in the time of Adam de Buri, Mayor, 38 Edward III [1364] (fn. 4)

Item, it is ordained that all the crafts of the City of London should be loyally ruled and governed, each according to its nature in the proper manner, so that no falsehood nor wrong work nor deceit should be found in any kind of the said crafts, for the honour of the good men of the said crafts; and that, for the common advantage of the people, four or six [men] should be chosen and sworn from each craft, either more or fewer according to the needs of the craft, which men so chosen and sworn would have the full power of the Mayor to do and carry out this, well and loyally. And if anyone of the said crafts should rebel against this or be a hindrance so that they are unable to perform their duty in the proper way, and should be convicted of this, he will remain in prison for 10 days and pay 10s. to the commonalty for the contempt. And at the second time he will remain in prison for 20 days and pay 20s. to the commonalty. And at the third occasion he will remain in prison for 30 days and pay 30s. to the commonalty. And at the fourth occasion he will remain in prison for 40 days and pay 40s. to the commonalty.

[p. 2 translation] The ordinances and articles enrolled in Guildhall, book G, folio 307 (fn. 5)

26 September, 47 Edward III [1373], came here the reputable men, the Common Writers of the Court Letter of the City, and delivered to the Mayor and Aldermen a certain petition in these words:

To the honourable lords, the Mayor and Aldermen of the City of London, the Writers of the Court Letter of the said City pray that whereas their craft [mestier] is much in request in the same City and it is especially requisite that it should be lawfully and wisely ruled and followed and that by persons instructed therein. And seeing that, for want of good rule, many mischiefs and defaults are, and have often been, committed in the said craft by those who resort to the said City from divers countries, as well chaplains and others, who have no knowledge of the customs, franchises and usages of the said City, and who call themselves scriveners [escryveyns] and undertake to make wills, charters and all other things touching the said craft; the fact being that they are foreigners and unknown, and also less skilled than the scriveners who are free of the said City and who for a long time have been versed in their craft and have largely given of their means for their instruction and freedom therein, to the great damage and disherison [desheriteson'] of many persons, as well of the said City as of many countries of the realm, and to the damage and offence [desclanndre] of all the good and lawful men of the said craft. Therefore, the good scriveners pray that it may please your honourable and discreet lordships to grant and establish for the common profit of the said City and of many other countries and for the well-being and amendment of their condition, that they and their successors for all time may be ruled and enjoy their franchise, in their degree, according to the following points—

First, that no one may be suffered to keep shop [de tenir shope] of the said craft in the said City, or in the suburb thereof, if he is not free of the City and also made free of the craft by men of it.

Item, that no one shall be admitted to the said freedom if he be not first examined and found able by those of the same craft who shall, for the time being, by you and your successors, be assigned and deputed in this business and be Wardens of the said craft.

Item, that every scrivener of the said City, and of the suburb thereof, shall put his name to the deeds which he makes so that it is known who has made the same.

Item, that everyone who shall act against this ordinance and institution [establisement] shall pay to the Chamber 40d. the first time, half a mark the second time, and 10s. the third time.

[p. 3] Item, that these articles shall be enrolled in the said Chamber as being firm and established for ever. Which petition being read and heard, and advice thereupon had by the Mayor and Aldermen, it was agreed between them and granted that the said articles shall be henceforth observed and that offenders thereof shall be punished in the penalty in the form written above.

After which points and articles had been written, the aforesaid Common Scriveners of the Court Letter had Wardens and used to put their names to the deeds which they made and produced, continuously, by estimation, for about the next three years.

Now it happened that at the time when the article that we should put our names to deeds was drawn up, the custom or the usage then was to write on each kind of deed and writing 'Dat' london" or 'Done a lonndres', except only in charters and writings of lands, tenements and rents granted outside London which, however, were to have the date when the lands, tenements and rents were granted. And a plan [un poy] was then worked out by the wise men of the kingdom, and all means have since been used, as far as concerns the making of them [i.e. the deeds], to remove the date of the grants (fn. 6) in the majority of all kinds of deeds and writings with the intention of alleging the date of the grant [and] of the making of the deed when it will be more suitable for the party bringing an action. And, in that the writing of our names must be contrary to this kind of allegation—in a case where the allegation [or alleging] will take place outside the region where the scrivener, who wrote the deed, lives—the aforesaid article, that we should put our names on deeds, was not used any more, nor was the penalty on this injunction ever carried out. For which reason, and for other reasonable causes, and because of the many evils which could have happened by the aforesaid writing of our names on deeds (as appear more fully at the end of this paper), (fn. 7) if it had been necessary to have used and continued the process for a longer period, the aforesaid scriveners stopped the said writing of their names on deeds. And the said craft of scriveners of the court letter was afterwards without Wardens [and] without rule and control for 15 years and more.

[p. 4] In which time, through lack of Wardens and of good rule and control over the said craft, many foreign men, not initiated in the said craft, held open shop of it, just like men enfranchised in the said craft, so it happened that one Thomas Pantier, a foreigner, who had been a hireling with a scrivener for two years and was never apprenticed, began to hold shop of the said craft and within a quarter of a year [dr' quart' dan] from his beginning through lack of knowledge and ignorance of the science of the said craft, he was sent to the pillory in the time of Adam Bamme, Mayor, in the 14th year of [the reign of] King Richard the Second, to the great slander and shame of all the good men enfranchised of the said craft. (fn. 8)

Through [pur] which lack [of Wardens] and villainy, the worthy [p'des] men of the said craft at once requested, by a petition to the said Mayor, Adam Bamme, to have licence to assemble and discuss the control of the said craft, which Mayor allowed them to make assemblies, in the name of God, telling them they had good reasons for entering the Guildhall and asking why they had no Wardens.

Upon which all the good men enfranchised in the said craft of scriveners of the court letter, as well by virtue of the aforesaid general article concerning all crafts in London as by virtue and authority of their own points and articles, especially written for and granted to them, assembled and chose two Wardens as appears by the annexed written record:

Enrolled in the Chamber of the Guildhall, London, book H, folio 267 (fn. 9)

On the 17th day of May in the 15th year of the reign of King Richard the Second [1392] there came into the Chamber of the Guildhall of the City of London honest men of the craft of writers of the court letter in the said City and presented to the Mayor and Aldermen of the same City, Martin Seman and John Cossier, writers, elected by them to be masters of their art for the following year, on which day the same Martin and John were sworn to the good and faithful control of their said art [or craft] by sparing no one through love or oppressing no one through hate, and by presenting shortcomings which they found in the said art to the Mayor, Aldermen and Chamber of the said City, &c.


  • 1. At the top of the page, above and between the words Iste and sunt, are the initials W:M.
  • 2. See Sharpe, Letter-Book G, p. 88, and Riley, Memorials, p. 295.
  • 3. Throughout the margins of the manuscript are various memoranda and scribblings, e.g. Henrici Maioris; 1357 31E. These have been omitted unless they shed any light on the content of the paragraphs to which they refer.
  • 4. See Sharpe, Letter-Book G, p. 174.
  • 5. See Sharpe, Letter-Book G, p. 312 and Riley, Memorials, pp. 372, 373.
  • 6. Common Paper, p. 222, has a passage very similar (in places identical) to this. See the note referring to it.
  • 7. The clause in brackets is inserted above the line in the text; the 'many evils', in fact, are not stated.
  • 8. See Sharpe, Letter-Book H, p. 365, under date 22 Apr. 1391, and Riley, Memorials, pp. 527–9.
  • 9. See Sharpe, Letter-Book H, p. 375.