The Foundation of an Industry
The early attempts of the crown to bring the book trade under control were not entirely unsuccessful. The various regulations issued by Henry VIII were substantially enforced but the very success of the trade made enforcement increasingly difficult. The growing demand for printed books and the consequent increase in the numbers of printers and booksellers made the task of control ever more complex. This was not only a problem for the crown; it was also a problem for the trade itself, and especially for those within it who had made substantial investments in equipment and personnel. By the middle of the sixteenth century it was clear that if the trade was to be properly regulated and organised, as contemporary opinion held that every activity should be, new mechanisms would be needed to achieve that end. The mechanism which emerged was the Stationers’ Company — the Worshipful Company of Stationers of London, to give it its full title — whose history from the 1550s to the early eighteenth century is central to the wider history of British publishing and whose residual influence survived long after its legal position had been undermined.