Fleet Street And The Press
( Originally Published Early 1900's )
TODAY, publishers have sought different haunts, and booksellers are not so greatly represented in Fleet Street as in other thoroughfares ; but printers chiefly those concerned in the production of the great news-papers whose offices may be said to be as the sands of the shore in Fleet Street and its neighbourhood still carry on a tradition which has now been connected with the locality for many a year. In the past, indeed, Fleet Street was the accepted home of those who gained a living by the production of books ; just as it was, to a certain extent, the domicile of those engaged in their making. The place had a literary flavour. Its taverns and coffee-houses had a literary flavour. Its most enduring memories are those connected with men of letters ; and if it has one tutelary deity, it is surely the great and good man who represented the familiar and traditional type of the literary character. But people who write books, although in the main a harmless race and all very wel
l in their way, can hardly be considered to attain to the importance they certainly have seldom, if ever, attained to the wealth of those who print and publish ; and this chapter must be devoted to the latter. Columbus discovered America; but what could he have done had no shipbuilder been at hand to enable him to cross the Atlantic !
The various stationers' shops which are to be found in Fleet Street are properly the descendants of the early booksellers, as we now understand the term ; and for this reason. In former days, book-sellers were such as hawked about the literary wares they had for sale they were merely itinerant vendors, like pedlars ; whereas the stationer was a man who kept a shop or stall, in a stationary place ; and as the latter frequently sold the materials which went to the making of books, as well as the completed article, the word stationery came to have its present meaning.
Formerly, too, book selling and publishing were carried on together far more than is the case today, when, although we have plenty of instances where a bookseller publishes works, the rule is for the two industries to be separate. Printing, obviously, pre-ceded both ; and in early times the printer published and sold books, as did Caxton at Westminster and as did Wynkyn de Worde, who set up his press in Fleet Street, " in parochia Sancte Brigide," and is the father of printing in this locality. He came hither about the year 1500, for two years later his Ordynarye of Crysten Men was issued at " the sygne of the sonne in the flete strete." Where abouts his premises actually were is not known, although, as The Assemble of Foules was printed and published by him " at the sygne of the sonne, agaynste the Condyte," it seems clear that his press must have been near Shoe Lane, as we know the Conduit stood in the centre of Fleet Street, practically opposite the lane. He apparently had his private house at the sign of the ` Falcon,' perpetuated by Falcon Court ; and it is interesting to remember that Gorboduc, the earliest English tragedy, was imprynted in Flete strete, at the sign of the Faucon," by William Griffith, in 1565, and was sold at his shop in St. Dunstan's Churchyard.
A contemporary of de Worde's, and, like him, a pupil of Caxton, Richard Pynson was another early Fleet Street printer, and a very prolific one, for he is said to have produced no fewer than two hundred and fifteen books in this thoroughfare alone. The first issued by him here was printed, in 1493, " by me Richarde Pynson at the Temple-barre of London," and this, Noble tells us, was the first book printed in Fleet Street. Pynson seems to have occupied various places in the thoroughfare. In 1494, his imprint bears the words : " withoute the Temple Barre " ; in 1503, he prints The Imytacion of Criste, in Fleet Street " at the sygne of the George," and in 1526 The Pylgrimage of Perfection was issued "in Flete Strete besyde Saynt Dunstan's Churche."
At this time Robert Redman had set up as a printer, and incidentally annexed Pynson's trademark, issuing books both from the George without Temple Bar, which had been Pynson's house, and later at the George by St. Dunstan's Church. It is probable that an agreement had been come to between the rivals, as otherwise Redman's imprint is mysterious.
Robert Coplande, an assistant at one time of de Worde's, printed books at the sign of the ` Rose Garlande in Flete Strete,' where he was succeeded by William Coplande, who, besides being a noted typographer, was a benefactor to Bridewell, and is supposed to have died in 1569. J. Hugh Jackson is found printing George Wapul's very rare comedy, The Tyde taryeth no Man, in 1576, " in Fleete Streete beneath the Conduite, at the signe of 'Seynt John Evangelist ;'" and Richard Bancks had one of several printing-presses, at the sign of the 'Whyte Hart ' notable as being the place where, in 1600, Thomas Fisher produced the first edition of Shakespeare's Midsummer Night's Dream. Laurence Andrewe reprinted Caxton's Mirrour of the Worlde, at " the Golden Crosse by Flete Bridge," and Thomas Berthelet, printer to the King, had his head-quarters "neere to the Condite at ye signe of the Lucreece." Machyn thus records his burial in the autumn of 1555, although the place of his interment is not known :
" The sam day at after none was bered mister Berthelett sqwyre and prynter unto Kyng Henry ; and was bered with pennon and cote-armour, and iiij dosen of skochyons and ij whytt branchys and iiij gylt candyllstykes, and mony prestes and clarkes, and mony mornars, and all the craftes of prynters, boke-sellers, and all stassyoners."
Berthelet was evidently a man of importance in his day. Indeed, we find him employing, on occasion, other printers to produce the works he published notably in the case of Tyndale's Bible, which was printed for him by Redman, in 1540, and Taverner's translation of the Bible, which was produced to his order by John Byddell in the previous year. This Byddell was sometimes called Bedell, and sometimes though why I do not know Salisbury.' He had his headquarters first at the sign of " Our Ladye of Pitye, near Flete Bridge," and later at the " Sun neere the Conduit," probably the house which de Worde had once occupied.
Other sixteenth-century printers include William Rastell, " at the signe of the Star in Saynete Bridy's Churchyarde " ; Richard Tottill or Tottel, at the ` Hand and Star,' now No. 7 Fleet Street ; Thomas Marsh, who printed Stow's Summary of English Chronicles at the 'Prince's Armes,' in Fleet Street, in 1567 ; Whit-church, another tenant of the 'Sun ' ; Charles Yetsweirt, who is known to have had a press in the Middle Temple Gate in 1594 ; and Humphrey Hooper, who in 1597 sold the first edition of Bacon's Essays " at the black Besse in Chancery Lane." What would he have said had he known that in the year of grace 1911 a copy of this book would be bought for £1950, the sum Mr. Quariteh gave for it in the Huth Sale !
In the following century, the splendid lead thus given by earlier printers in Fleet Street, was well maintained. Thus we find John Jaggard, followed by a number of lesser-known printers and booksellers, occupying the 'Hand and Star,' once the press of Tottill ; and John Smethwicke, described as a stationer " under the diall " of St. Dunstan's. Smethwicke and Jaggard are both notable for their connection with the early production of Shakespeare's plays. Another well - known publisher of this period was Richard Marriot, whose first premises were at the King's Head Tavern until he moved to St. Dunstan's Churchyard. He is chiefly remembered as the publisher of Walton's Angler and Butler's Hudibras, concerning which latter work Noble gives the following curious advertisement from the Public Intelligence for Dec. 23, 1662
" There is stolen abroad a most false, imperfect copy of a poem called Hudibras, without name either of printer or bookseller, as fit for so lame and spurious an impression. The true and perfect edition, printed by the author's original, is sold by Richard Marriot, under St. Dunstan's church, in Fleet Street ; that other nameless impression is a cheat, and will but abuse the buyer as well as the author, whose poem deserves to have fallen into better hands."
We remember that Pynson's house was known as the 'George ' ; when, then, we find Thomas Dring, who was one of the publishers of Howell's Londinopolis, issuing books in 1655 from the ' George ' near Clifford's Inn, I assume that the two places were identical ; and if so, this is one out of several instances where a book-seller's or printer's premises have been kept in the same business for a lengthy period. A contemporary of Dring's was John Starkey, who brought out Shadwell's Plays at the ` Mitre ' between the two Temple gateways, and who took much interest in parochial affairs, being on the Common Council of the Ward in 168E
Other printers and publishers of this period were Matthias Walker, " under St. Dunstan's Church," who, together with others, published Milton's Paradise Lost in 1667 Abel Roper, " at the Black Boy " opposite the church, the printer of the Postboy news-sheet ; and Dan Major who, with Samuel Lee, brought out the Little London Directory of 1677 at the ` Flying Horse ' in Fleet Street ; Henry Seile, the publisher of Aulicus Coquinarice, in 1650, " over against St. Dunstan's Church " ; and M. Wotton, who published Rushworth's Collections, and had his house at " the 'Three Pigeons against the Inner Temple Gate."
The title pages of seventeenth-century books reveal the names of many other publishers and printers connected with Fleet Street for instance, Cowley's Works, 1684, were " to be sold by Charles Harper, at the Flower de Luce, over against St. Dunstan's Church " ; the Cabala was " printed by G. Bedell and T. Collins, and are to be sold at their shop at the Middle Temple Gate," in 1663 ; The Death of Charles L Lamented, by W. Langley, was issued by Sym Gape, "next to Hercules' Pillars in Fleet Street," in 1660. The list might be extended, of course, but I think we can see, from the names given, that in the seventeenth century Fleet Street was fully as active in the matter of ` bookishness ' as it was in earlier days.
But its great period in this respect was the eighteenth century. That wonderful time, when so much was written of permanent value, and also so much of merely ephemeral importance, gave plenty of work to printers and publishers. Authors began to be 'kept ' by these ` middlemen ' of literature ; Grub Street came into being ; patrons were sought for with avidity, and many a fulsome dedication has been paid for by a rich man's guineas. One remembers Johnson as he dismally tells how
"Toil, envy, want, the patron, and the gaol"
assail the miserable scholar's sordid existence. Naturally, the result of such a blood-thirsty clinging to literature multiplied publishers and booksellers, and many of these found their natural headquarters in Fleet Street, and helped to carry on the now ancient literary traditions of that thoroughfare.
One or two of these stand out from the rest, because of their own eminence or because of their connection with some author who was lucky enough to catch the taste of the town. Of these was Jacob Tonson, who, in 1670, had been apprenticed to Thomas Basset, a then well known bookseller of Fleet Street. Tonson set up for himself about ten years later, and from the 'Judge's Head,' at the Fleet Street end of Chancery Lane, he published many of Dryden's works from 1681 to 1693. A year later, he removed to near the gateway of the Inner Temple, carrying is sign of the ' Judge's Head' with him, and subsequently migrated to the Strand where Andrew Millar succeeded him, and elsewhere. The number of books bearing Tonson's imprint seems endless ; indeed, although there were plenty of other well known publishers at this period, he appears to have had the lion's share of the business a success that no one will grudge the man who first made Paradise Lost popular, and helped to reveal the splendours of Shakespeare's genius.
A man with a very different reputation to that enjoyed by Tonson, was Edmund Curl], whose shop was known by the sign of the ` Dial and Bible,' close to St. Dunstan's Church, where he was fined for selling indecent literature, for which he was placed in the pillory at Charing Cross, besides undergoing the additional ignominy, for another lapse of taste, of being tossed in a blanket by the boys of Westminster School. Pope, who on other counts had no reason to love the publisher, speaks ironically of " Curll's chaste press." The quarrel between the two has no little element of mystery about it. It need not detain us except for the fact that a meeting between them, at which Curll said he had been half poisoned, took place, on a memorable occasion, at the Swan Tavern in Fleet Street.
Curll was a man who was continually getting into trouble, and the annals of contemporary bookselling are full of his misdemeanours : breaches of privileges, offences against taste, more serious offences against morals. Indeed, he was so unfavourably notorious in the last respect that the selling of offensive books was termed at the time the " Sin of Curllicism." Curwen 1 quotes a very strong article which appeared in Mist's Weekly Journal for April 5, 1718, in the course of which the writer terms Curll " a contemptible wretch a thousand ways he is odious in his person, scandalous in his fame," and he adds : " more beastly, insufferable books have been published by this one offender than in thirty years before by all the nation." A man who has been thus spoken of, and who has, besides, been damned to everlasting fame in the Dunciad, may well claim a respite from further vituperation.
The name of Pope brings us conveniently to his well known publisher, Bernard Lintot, who occupied a shop known as the 'Cross Keys,' between the Temple gates, next door to Nando's Coffee-House, where he began business in the year 1700. From here Lintot issued, during the years 1715 to 1728, his splendid subscription edition of Pope's translation of the Iliad and the Odyssey. There was a building close by his premises, called the ` Post House,' in the Middle Temple Gate, and here Lintot was publishing in 1701, probably during alterations at the 'Cross Keys,' for later (in 1709) I find E. Sanger, in conjunction with Curll and J. Pemberton, at the ` Golden Buck,' near St. Dunstan's, issuing, from the ` Post House,' Whitelocke's Memorials of State.
Another well remembered publisher of this period was Lawton Gilliver " at Homer's Head, against St. Dunstan's Church." He it was who brought out the first authentic edition of the Dunciad, in 1729, which contains a long letter addressed to the publisher, by William Cleland, dated Dec. 22, 1728.
Not so well known as those I have mentioned was Benjamin Tooke, whose premises were at the Middle Temple Gate, where he was succeeded by Benjamin Motte, famous as having had a hand in making Gulliver's Travels known to the world. Motte was in turn succeeded by Charles Bathurst in 1738. Motte and Bathurst were related, having each married a daughter of the Rev. Thomas Brian, once head-master of Harrow.
Other lesser known eighteenth-century publishers and booksellers were Thomas Wotton, who succeeded a certain Francis Tyton at the 'Three Daggers,' near the Inner Temple Gate, and who published a Baronetage from this house ; George Hawkins, who occupied the 'Milton's Head,' between the Temple Gates, and was treasurer of the Stationers' Company in 1766 ; Charles Corbet, at 'Addison's Head,' who became a baronet on the death of his kinsman Sir Richard Corbet in 1744 ; and Benjamin White, to whom Payne, afterwards of Pall Mall, was once manager, of 'Horace's Head ' in Fleet Street, whence he began publishing, inter alia, Malcolm's Londinum Redivivum in 1802.
The last named brings us to the nineteenth century ; for it does not seem necessary to seek out the names of the many obscure members of the trade who once lived in Fleet Street during the days of the Georges. But the nineteenth century, although producing plenty of signs of activity in the production of books, and especially of newspapers, does not present us with such a large field for investigation with regard to publishers or booksellers. Certainly, William Wood-f all, the brother of the better known Henry Sampson Woodfall, whose name will endure as long as the Letters of Junius are remembered, had a printing-press at 82 Dorset Street, Salisbury Square, and other members of the family appear to have been connected with this locality ; while Mr. Henry Butterworth, who died in 1860, and was then the oldest publisher in business, carried on the tradition associated with No. 7 Fleet Street, as a sort of lineal descendant of Richard Tottill, a tradition still, to some extent, enduring in the present proprietors of the business, Messrs. Shaw & Sons, whose chief premises are in Fetter Lane.
But if we are not able to produce a great number of nineteenth-century publishers as being connected with Fleet Street, that thoroughfare and that century can both boast of one whose name stands second to nobody's in this direction of human endeavour ; for John Murray (or MacMurray, as the name was originally spelt), having bought the stock and goodwill of William Sandley, who had turned banker, began at the 'Falcon,' otherwise No. 32 Fleet Street, that remarkable and prosperous career which has culminated in the great publishing house of Murray. In Smiles' book on the Murrays will be found an exhaustive account of the inception, by Lieutenant MacMurray, of this great firm. What the Murrays (long since moved to Albemarle Street) have not published would, it almost seems, be easier set down than what they have ; but their first three successes are said to have been Langhorne's Plutarch, Mitford's Greece, and D'Israeli's Curiosities of Literature, all of which were issued from 32 Fleet Street.
As was then the custom, No. 32 was also the private house of John Murray (he dropped the Mac on buying the business, as Scotchmen were not popular in the eighteenth century), and here, in 1778, was born the second John Murray. The elder died in 1793, and his son moved to the West End in 1812, when the Fleet Street business was purchased by Thomas and George Underwood. They, however, failed in 1831, and Mr. Samuel Higley (whose father had been Murray's manager) took the place, having been previously engaged as a medical bookseller at 174 Fleet Street. The continuity of the house was, later, kept alive by its being in the possession of Mr. George Philip, the bookseller.
Centuries before Murray came here, No. 32 had 327 a bookselling and printing history of great antiquity, for it was here that William Griffith had his press, from 1561 to 1570 ; so that No. 32 Fleet Street, like No. 7, can boast of an ancestry equal to that of any business house in London.
If the nineteenth century cannot rival the preceding one in the number of its book publications emanating from Fleet Street, it, however, far outstrips it in its magazines and newspapers. Certainly it can be proved that the Gentleman's Magazine was, at least, partly printed in Red Lion Court (No. 169 Fleet Street) from 1779 to 1781, at the press of Nichols and his sons, but the vast majority of its numbers have been printed, in our own time, in Whitefriars ; and Charles Knight's Penny Magazine, inaugurated in Fleet Street in 1832, must have had a sale far exceeding anything the Gentleman's Magazine ever dreamed of.
What comparison, too, can be instituted between the exiguous halfpenny news-sheets, which were issued three times a week by Parkins of Salisbury Square, Read of Whitefriars, and other enterprising eighteenth-century publications : the ` Daily Courants,' the ` Post-boys,' the official ` Gazettes,' small, badly printed, badly edited ; and such journals as the Daily Telegraph, the Daily News, the Standard, the Daily Chronicle (the observant reader will note the strict impartiality of this artfully arranged list I), whose offices are small colonies, whose leaders make statesmen quail, whose advertisements give food for so much reflection to the loiterers outside the office windows or the more earnest students who flock the office reading-rooms.
And besides these leviathans, what an array of smaller craft float about this street around them : local papers, provincial journals ; scientific, sporting, medical news-sheets. As you walk down Fleet Street, you may see many of them looking out at you from ground-floor windows ; but the offices of more are above, and, glancing up, you will read their legends in white letters, or more dramatically advertised, on every side, until you will cease to think of the thoroughfare as one of ordinary commerce, but as some great monster who is bearing along on its back myriads of parasites, who, like the cuttle-fish, are continually making black the atmosphere by their inky emissions. At night you will feel this literary atmosphere best, perhaps ; at night you will get into the skin of Fleet Street, as it were the Fleet Street of George Gissing, the Fleet Street of George Augustus Sala,' the Fleet Street of Dickens, the Fleet Street of Johnson !
All these newspapers are in a way part and parcel of the thoroughfare, just as are all the great men and women of the past who have been connected with it. But as from among this motley throng one figure (as I have said before) emerges triumphant that of Dr. Johnson so from the rank and file of the journals, one always seems to slip to the front, and to stand out as preeminently the journal of Fleet Street : I mean Punch.
The history of Punch has been written by an able hand ; Punch itself is known throughout all towns, all counties, all countries ! Its birthplace was Fleet Street ; and at No. 3 Crane Court, where ` Parr's Life Pills' also came into existence, " it first saw the light, and here the circumstances matured which led to its birth." 2 The double association of 3 Crane Court is significant : what Parr's Pills attempted to do for those whose bodily ailments needed such cures, so Punch's Pills to purge Melancholy did, and do, for the mind and the spirits. Punch has brightened life to such an extent, it has on so many occasions shown such a wise prevision and such a telling criticism on events of national importance, it has been so absolutely free from anything that could wound susceptibilities or shock the feelings, it has kept up for so many years such a high level of genuine wit and humour, that its presence in Fleet Street is like a ray of sunshine ; and if in the old days, when its offices were at the corner of Bouverie Street (they are close by still), you met, on a murky November day, say, everybody with long faces and pursed-up lips, when you came by this window (exhibiting some of Mr. Punch's latest wares or some of his oldest it didn't matter) you were always sure of finding a group of delighted loiterers, who, in spite of cold, in spite of fog, —in spite of deadlier cares, perhaps,--were electrified, for the nonce, into a state of happy forgetfulness of everything except of one of Punch's `latest' or of one of Punch's perennial ` good ones.'
As we have to take our leave of Fleet Street some-where, I think that we can do it no better than in the contemplation of such innocent happiness.
Annals Of Fleet Street:
Streets South Of Fleet Street
Streets North Of Fleet Street
Temple Bar And Some Bankers
Inns Of Court And Chancery Clifford's Inn
Churches Of Fleet Street
Taverns And Coffee-houses Of Fleet Street
Famous Men And Women Of Fleet Street
Fleet Street And The Press