The Stationers


We were just with our friend in London, Captain Peter Hames, RN, Retired.  After Peter left the sea he became the Clerk to the Stationers, a member organization of the Livery Company. We went to see the Stationers Hall, a beautiful 17th Century hall built after the Great London fire to replace the old hall.

The Livery Company was a corporation organized with the approval of the Crown which incorporated the various Guilds.  The Guilds were the trade organizations formed to regulate the trades and prevent competition in old England.

I thought of Livery as meaning delivery or chauffeurs or the like.  But it is a broader term, meaning the right to wear certain dress.  The Livery Company has produced many Lord Mayors of London.  Meaning the City of London, the financial district within the old city walls, comprising a square mile.  While not an important position, the Lord Mayor exercises a lot of political influence.

A Clerk of the Stationers is a key person, worthy of a carved wooden plaque listing all the Clerks going back hundreds of years.  It sits beside the plaque of all the past Masters of the Stationers, the elected head of the trade organization.  There is a similar arrangement in every musical organization, like the L.A. Philharmonic, which has a Music Director and an administrative President, who is a paid and powerful full time employee.

Several interesting etymological facts.  The Stationers, who began as the organization to control the content of printers, to assure that nothing was printed that was salacious or seditious, evolved as time changed into an organization whose approval had to be obtained in order to reproduce a printed work. Copies could be sold.  It is there that the term  “copyright” was born.

And originally, members of the Stationers were the only ones allowed to sell their manuscripts from fixed stalls in the courtyard of St. Paul’s.  All other sellers were itinerant.  They were “stationary,” even if the term is spelled differently.

Thank you Peter.

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