The Common Paper: The 'new' ordinances [1391]

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: The 'new' ordinances [1391]', in Scriveners' Company Common Paper 1357-1628 With A Continuation To 1678, (London, 1968) pp. 5-8. British History Online [accessed 11 April 2024]

The new ordinances

For which above-written reasons, the aforesaid Masters, the said Wardens and all the other good men enfranchised of the said craft [mestier] of scriveners, in order to do away with the danger and evils which were able to befall [cheyer] as above, assented and agreed to the ordinances written below. That is to say:

That every one that shall be duly enfranchised in the said craft of scriveners shall make especially the following oath, charging himself in the presence of the Wardens of the same craft. And whosoever shall refuse and not make the same oath shall be suspected of falsehood and also presented to the Mayor as a rebel, which oath ensueth here in this form:

I, N., of my own proper will, swear upon the holy evangelists to be true in my office and craft, and to be diligent that all the feats that I shall make to be sealed shall be well and lawfully made after my understanding and knowledge. And especially I shall not write, nor suffer to be written by none of mine to my power and knowing, any manner of deed or writing to be sealed bearing a date a long time before the making of the same, nor a long time after, nor a blank charter, nor other deed sealed before the writing thereof, nor closed letters of a date far distant, nor of long time where through any falsehood may be perceived in my conscience, nor no copy of a deed but well examined word by word. And neither for haste nor for covetousness I shall take it upon me to make any deed touching inheritance or other deed of great charge whereof I have no cunning [sachaunt] without good advice and information of counsel. So help me God and all the saints.

[p. 7] Item, that every one who shall have made the said special oath, shall testify the same by writing it in his own proper hand in the common paper of the said craft in time to come. And when he is a notary shall put his sign if he pleases.

Item, that none of the said craft shall on Sundays or double feasts keep open shop for any business nor for any money covetousness, nor write openly or privately except in a cause of great necessity which may not be delayed, upon pain of paying double the same money and gain to the use of the said craft. And he that shall keep open shop of the said craft to make open show of his said craft to the view of people upon any Sunday or festival aforesaid shall incur the penalty of paying to the Chamber of the Guildhall of London 6s 8d. for the first offence, 13s. 4d. for the second, 20s. for the third and so forth.

Item, that every one who shall have made the said oath shall be vested in one suit (and) at the feast of Pentecost by the ordinance of their Wardens. And that every one of them for that shall pay a noble at the beginning of Lent before the buying of the cloth and the rest of the money shall be paid as soon as it may well be after the [de]livery of the said cloth. And that the same vesture be principally used on the day of Pentecost, in honour of God who has given all knowledge. And after that it is to be kept and used honestly for two years at least, that is to say, for the first year for festival days and the second year for holy days. And that their feast is to be held on the day of the Holy Trinity in honour of the same feast.

Item, that every one who is free of the said craft shall come in his proper person four times a year at a certain hour and place in the said City to be appointed by the Wardens to move, declare and dispute among themselves all mischiefs, perils and doubts of their said craft for their information and so that their said oath may be kept, and also to make orders for the good rule and government of the said craft. This is to be on the first Sunday after Christmas, the Sunday next after Easter, the Sunday next after the day of the nativity of St. John the Baptist, and the first Sunday after the day of St. Michael the Archangel, each of them paying to their Wardens, to the use of the said craft, four silver pennies [quatre den'i's dargent] at each of the four said terms. And if someone should be absent at any of the four said terms without reasonable excuse, and this should be duly proved, he should pay 40d. each time to the Chamber of the Guildhall, except always that if any such person be found excusable he should pay, nevertheless, the four pence for the term, and the expenses then incurred should be paid out of the said four pence and [should be paid] to the Wardens for the time being to be allowed in the account. (fn. 1)

Item, that when the election of new Wardens is to be made, it is to take place each year on the Sunday next after the day of the nativity of St. John the Baptist and will be of two people from the said craft of scriveners, of which one person will be chosen by the old Wardens and the other by the rest of the said craft. And if any altercation or discord should occur in the said election of one or the other, it is to be put before the majority [la greyndre p' tie] of the said craft at once. [p. 8] And that the old Wardens will immediately be barred from re-holding such office for the next three successive years, but will be at hand for the period of a year, and will help and advise the new Wardens concerning the government of the said craft for the whole year immediately following their own departure from the offices of wardenship. And that vesture for the same year is to be ordered and bought as well by the [ ? expense] of the two old Wardens as by the two new ones.

Item, if there be anyone duly elected, in this way, to be Warden who is able to carry out this office if he pleases, but refuses the office and responsibility [charge] of being Warden, he is to be presented to the Mayor or the Chamberlain of the Guildhall as a rebel and he is to pay for that rebellion 40s., half to the said Chamber and the other half to the use of the same craft, without any credit [grace] or pardon on the payment. And without delay another is to be elected in his place, and the new Wardens are to be presented to the Court of the Mayor to receive their charge, as is the custom, within eight days of the said election.

Item, that the old Wardens will render their accounts on a certain day fixed and assigned by the new Wardens, after which the new Wardens themselves are to receive their charge at the Guildhall and delivery is immediately to be made to them of their common paper and of their common treasure if there be any.

Item, that no one of the said craft of scriveners will admit any foreign man to hold shop of the said craft under him on pain of paying 40s. to the Chamber of the Guildhall and 40s. to the use of the said craft, and losing the control [de voyder] of such shop, and such kind of foreign man, on pain of paying 10 li. to the above-mentioned Chamber.

Item, that no one of the said craft shall take any hired [allowys] servant into the same craft, unless the hiring itself is to create an apprentice of the said craft in the above-mentioned City, on pain of paying equally 40s. to the said Chamber of the Guildhall and 40s. to the use of the said craft, and of losing this kind of servant, on pain of paying 10 li. to the above-mentioned Chamber: unless it be through the permission [grace] and leave [conge] of all the said craft.

Item, that no one of the same craft shall take an apprentice of the said craft in order to release him before his term by deceit, on pain of paying equally 40s. to the said Chamber and 40s. to the use of the said craft. And that each apprentice is to be entered in that paper [entree en y ceste pap'], after which the apprenticeship indenture is to be enrolled. And that the Wardens keep good watch to find out who is an apprentice and who is hired.

Item, (fn. 2) it is ordained and established by the common consent of all that are of the said mystery, that every person whatever his estate or condition and in or by whatever manner, instance, prayer, commandment, favour, reward he should offer, shall not be received as a freeman of the said mystery or be enfranchised within the said mystery in any manner by the Master and Wardens or by any person belonging to the said mystery but only in the lawful manner and way of apprenticeship; and that when the same person has been apprenticed and has well and truly served his master to whom he was apprenticed or his executors or assigns for the term of his apprenticeship; or by way of birth as the custom of the City requires in such a case; and that especially for the common profit of the realm and the honesty of the said mystery and also to avoid and eschew disorder, especially mischiefs done in the past by strangers ignorant and lacking in good behaviour and good fame and not expert in the said mystery, free [men] shall not be made contrary to this article. And if any Master, Wardens or other person whatever he be in the said mystery shall act hereafter in any way, contrary to this article, ordinance and establishment, which can be proved by the honest company of the said mystery that he has at any time or in any way acted contrary to this ordinance, shall pay . . . to the Chamber of the Guildhall 10 li.; and to the common use of the said mystery 6 li. 13s.4d.; and thereupon he shall be found and accounted a rebel for so doing, by the Master and Wardens of the said mystery and the governance of the same and be without pardon or remission by any means in that case at any time to come.


  • 1. This, as much other of the text, is obscure, but it is hoped that this translation conveys the meaning that even if a member of the craft had a valid excuse for absence he still had to pay the 4d., but any part of that sum remaining after the payment of the Wardens' expenses in this matter was to be credited to the funds of the craft.
  • 2. This article is badly faded in the original; the version here printed is largely based upon the translation in the Report from the Committee of Assistants of the Company delivered to the Master, Wardens, and Court of Assistants, 23 June 1748, and reproduced in the City of London Livery Companies' Commission, Report and Appendix, vol. 3 (1884), p. 754.