Licensers for the Press &C. to 1640: A Biographical Index Based Mainly on Arber's Transcript of the Registers of the Company of Stationers

Licensers for the Press &C. to 1640: A Biographical Index Based Mainly on Arber's Transcript of the Registers of the Company of Stationers

Licensers for the Press &C. to 1640: A Biographical Index Based Mainly on Arber's Transcript of the Registers of the Company of Stationers

Licensers for the Press &C. to 1640: A Biographical Index Based Mainly on Arber's Transcript of the Registers of the Company of Stationers

Excerpt

The '&c.' of the title must be given a wide extension. While many of those who put their hands to or otherwise approved of copies were either themselves entitled to act as licensers of the press or were officially recognized as acting on behalf of such persons, others obviously had no claim to authority whatever. Included in the list are all these under whose 'hand' copies were in fact entered, or who appear as in some way warranting, approving, or recommending their publication, with the exception of officials past or present of the Stationers' Company.

The fact is that permission to print a certain work may mean either of two quite different things, between which the Clerk made no attempt to distinguish. On the one hand, it may mean permission, on the part of the author or of some person in possession or control of the copy, to put that copy into print. Or, on the other hand, it may mean a guarantee, on the part of a censor or official supervisor of some sort, that the publication of the copy is not contrary to public policy. Either might be described as an imprimatur, though it is to the second that this term is by custom restricted. A cursory examination of the Registers suffices to show that when a copy is said to be entered 'under the hand' of some person that person may be acting in either of the capacities indicated: indeed, when a copy is entered under the hands of two persons (neither being an official of the Company) it not seldom happens that one is acting in one capacity and one in the other.

But the matter is in fact much more complicated than this. It is evident that whatever was laid down in official decrees and ordinances, in practice the very idea of licence remained vague, or at any rate only gradually acquired definition. At first the Company's officers appear to have thought of a licenser merely as one . . .

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