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Early Use Of Paper In England

( Originally Published Late 1800's )

Mr. Hallam, in his "Introduction to the Literature of Europe," Chap. I., § 58—65, has summed up the authorities that fix the date of the introduction of paper into Europe as a vehicle of writing—a question he very justly distinguishes apart from its invention ; but he is not enabled to demonstrate much as to the use and adoption of paper in England, either for the purposes of communication by letter, preservation of accounts, matters of business, or for remembrances quasi of record; leaving it to be inferred by his readers from the paucity of the instances he cites that paper was by no means in general use in England till near the end of the reign of Edward III.

The following extract from a contemporaneous Year Book, containing a Report of Pleadings before the Justices in Eyre at the Tower of London in the fourteenth year of King Edward II., will (in my opinion) tend more towards fixing the date of the general use of paper in England than any other yet cited. I will give you the ex-tract entire, as it sets forth why the mayoralty of the city of London was seized into the King's hand in consequence of the corrupt practices of John Gisors,* and has therefore some historical interest. [Year Book of London, Iter 14 Edward II. MS. Hari. 453,t if. 11, et seq.] Placita Itineris London coram Hervico de Stanton et Sociis suis apud Turrim London' anno r. R' E. filii R' Edwardi quinto decimo.

Translation.—" * * * * By the verdict of an Inquest it was found, that, whereas the freemen of the City of London had such a franchise that if any of them were indicted of felony they should be delivered on mainprise until the coming of the Justices in Eyre, and in the meanwhile they ought not to answer to any indictment or appeal,—So it was, that one Henry of Brandon, who was not free of the City of London, was indicted of manslaughter, etc., the sixth year of the reign of the King that now is; and John of Gisors, then Mayor of London, caused his name to be put in paper (en paper—another copy of this MS. reads ' en lo papier') among the names of those who were freemen of the city, and received as free of the city, and caused the date of the entry, etc., to be put six weeks before the felony committed, and afterwards delivered him on mainprise as free of the city, etc., whereby the King's suit and the party's was delayed against common right : and because the said mayor was chosen by the commonalty of the said city, and his act must turn to the prejudice of the commonalty, and he misused this franchise to the disinherison of the King and the dishonour of the crown, it was awarded that this franchise was lost for evermore; and consequently, because he had wrongfully used this franchise as mayor, and by colour of his mayoralty, the mayoralty was taken into the King's hand at his grace; and Sir Ralph de Berners was assigned warden on the King's behalf; and it was commanded all the sheriffs and other ministers of the city, and others, that they should be obedient to him ; and the said John is in ward, and at the King's grace. And afterwards in the place of Sir Ralph was Sir Robert of Kendall* assigned warden of London on the King's behalf by commission, t and he brought the King's commission that commanded this into Eyre," etc.

In addition to the instances of cotton paper now in existence and referred to by Mr. Hallam, may be noticed an ancient manuscript book, now in the possession of the Dean and Chapter of Lichfield, and which Mr. Gresley of that city, solicitor, their registrar, obligingly exhibited to me. This cotton paper presents the appearance of a smooth pressed surface rendered apt to receive the exaration of the pen, by size or some similar preparation, and now rendering the surface of a brown colour; the edges of the leaves, from which the sizing has been rubbed or worn off, disclose the white cotton much the same as it appears in its raw state; in fact, the makers of this paper seem to have followed the course of the manufacturers of the ancient papyrus. [See Note 3.]

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