Saturday, 15 June 2013

Stationers' Hall, A brief visit to a London Gem

A rare sunny day in London as I walked past st Paul's cathedral. Tourists were picnicking in the festival gardens and chatting on the west entrance steps. Just around the corner was Ave Maria lane, but I had to ask a nearby doorman where to find the Hall of the Worshipful Company of Stationers and Newspaper makers. The unassuming gateway led to a secluded courtyard and the cool shadow of the hall.

I was attending the annual meeting of the German-British Forum. Arriving early, and with permission of the manager in charge, I had the great opportunity to wander around and take pictures from the stock room, the main hall and the court room where the event was to take place.

If the slideshow below does not play on your device, visit the image collection here: https://picasaweb.google.com/107595387761034666575/StationersHallLondon


The current hall was rebuilt over 1670-1673 after the Great Fire of London in 1666 and has gone though several internal decorations. Glowing stained glass, rich panelling and the shields carried by Liverymen in the Lord Mayors procession of 1749 are some of the images I captured in that short half hour.


As a publisher and writer, it was a particular pleasure to visit the Stationers' Hall. The Stationers ' Company was formed in 1403, when the scribes and lymners (book illustrators) were granted the right to a single trading company to oversee their affairs. They set up their stalls in St Paul's Churchyard and were known as 'stationers', for being at a fixed site rather than itinerant vendors.


Later, the stationers, obtained a royal charter from Queen Mary in 1557 giving them the exclusive right to print and sell books. The right to control all printing and the need for all new books to be authorized by the company meant that a register of approved books was held at the hall - a system of control and censorship for the government. This right continued through till 1695.


In 1710, the Copyright Act came into effect and this gave those who registered their books with Stationers' Hall protection, along with a requirement to provide a legal deposit in one of the copyright libraries. This tradition of mandatory and then after 1911, voluntary registration with Stationers' Hall finally came to an end in 2000, ending 450 years of tradition.


Now the company continues its other long interest, the administration of charity through the Stationers' Foundation. This assists young people with the cost of education and helps schools with printing equipment etc. They also offer help to those in the industry suffering hardship.


The fact that these premises can be hired is an additional benefit to the lucky visitors who can enjoy the preserved heritage.


A special thank you to Stationers' Hall which let me take these quick snapshots of one of London's gems. Please do visit their pages at http://www.stationers.org/

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