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William Barley, Draper and Stationer by J. A. Lavin
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William Barley, Draper and Stationer
J. A. Lavin

Although William Barley does not rate an entry in the DNB, other standard reference works, both bibliographical and musicological, memorialize him as one of the first English publishers and printers of music. Grove's Dictionary of Music, for instance, labels him an "English 16th-17th century music printer," and says that

Barley, as bookseller, printer and publisher, lived in Newgate Market London . . . and worked until at least 1614. . . . His own printing was done in Little St. Helen's, and was particularly bold and good. (5th ed. 1954, I, 438-39)
Charles Humphries and William C. Smith in Music Publishing in the British Isles (1954), describe him as a "Draper, bookseller, printer and publisher," whose "printing was done in Little St. Helen's" (p. 64), and the Oxford Companion to Music tersely identifies him as a "music printer" (9th ed. 1955, p. 86). The Dictionary of Printers 1557-1640 calls him a draper, bookseller, and printer (p. 20), and he is also referred to as a printer in such reference works as McKerrow's Devices (pp. 166, 202).[1]

In Bruce Pattison's "Notes on Early Music Printing," The Library (4th Series, XIX, 1939), Barley's printing is discussed, and it is asserted that

In 1591 he was committed to prison for irregular printing, and in 1595 fined 40s. for printing three ballads and a book without license. (p. 413)[2]


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Pattison also states that Barley had printed a number of ballads, that he printed A New Booke of Tabliture in 1596 from wood blocks because he "had no music type at this time," and that "his association with Morley also caused him to print Morley's Ayres (1600), and madrigals by Farmer and Bennet (1599)."

The solitary article devoted exclusively to a study of Barley, John L. Lievsay's "William Barley, Elizabethan Printer and Bookseller," SB, VIII (1956), 218-25, of course refers to his printing. Lievsay is at pains to demonstrate that "Barley's rôle among our early printers of music is thus clearly one of considerable importance," (p. 222); that his "name is associated — as printer, publisher, agent, or patentee — with approximately one hundred publications," (p. 218); and that "from 1606 to 1613 all English music books were printed by him or by his assignees," (p. 222). He refers to Barley's "own printing" (p. 218), to "the printing shop in Little St. Helen's" (p. 222), and to how in 1596 "he made shift to print from wooden blocks" (p. 221). Reference is also made to "lesser Elizabethan writers whose works he printed or sold" (p. 225), and Barley himself is categorized as a "law-flouting anti-monopolist printer" (p. 221).

All the above statements, and even the title of Lievsay's article, are questionable. Apart from other matters of fact, an examination of the evidence makes it clear that Barley was never a printer. Lievsay points out that

So far as his own printing and publishing are concerned, Barley's career falls into two clearly marked active periods separated by a long and unexplained period of virtual silence. The first and more vigorous period extends from 1591 to 1599; the second begins in 1606 and continues to 1614. (pp. 218-19)
But a statement made by Barley suggests very strongly that at least during "the first and more vigorous period" of his career he had no printing-press, and that he was not a printer, but a publisher and bookseller. In answer to the third interrogatory put to him in a Star Chamber case on 26 June 1598, Barley said:
That he doth knowe that emongest other thinges in the said decree [Star Chamber Decree of 23 June 1586] Conteyned it is there ordered that euery person which after the sayd decree made should errecte or sett vp any presse for printing of bookes should within tenne dayes next after such settinge vp thereof bringe a trewe note or certifycatt thereof vnto the master & wardens of the Company of Stacyoners in London vppon such payne as in the said decree lymitted and this Examinate sayth that he this Examinate for his owne person hath not at any tyme since the said decree made sett vp any such presse or presses.[3]
Since the Star Chamber Decree in question was dated 23 June 1586, and since Barley completed his apprenticeship with the Drapers' Company in


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1587,[4] the only conclusion one can arrive at from his answer (unless he was lying in his teeth) is that in the eleven years since becoming a freeman, and during "the first and more vigorous period" of his career as a publisher (at least up to 26 June 1598), he had not owned a press.

This conclusion is borne out by the title-pages of the eighty-five items issued by Barley which are listed in Morrison's Index of Printers, Publishers and Booksellers in STC. Of these, only eleven claim to be printed by him. Of the thirty-nine which he issued before 1599, twenty were "printed for" Barley, and eighteen "sold by" him. A solitary title claims to be printed by Barley (STC 2495, dated [1598?] by STC, but probably printed in 1599). From the printers' names or initials which appear on twenty-eight of the thirty-nine it is apparent that before 1599 Barley usually employed Thomas Creede (9 items), John Danter (7), or Abel Jeffes (9), to do his printing for him. Simon Stafford printed one, and R. B. two items.

Of the ten works printed for Barley before 1599 which do not bear printers' names or initials, it is possible to identify a further five from their ornaments as also coming from Danter's press (1593 25122, 1594 20867, 1595 14707, 1596 1433 and 18418). It is evident that what Barley said in his deposition was true, and that the sentence (which seems to have been ignored) in his dedicatory epistle to the Countess of Sussex in A New Booke of Tabliture (1596), is to be taken literally: "I my selfe am a publisher and seller of Bookes, wherby I haue my liuing and maintenance" (sig. A2).

The majority of another thirty-nine titles listed in Morrison's Index, which were issued by Barley during the latter half of his career (1606-1613), also bear the name of the printer, and are distributed as follows: Windet 4, East 7, Creede 5, Snodham or the Lownes-Brown-Snodham partnership 7, Allde 2, R. Blore 2, [W.White?] 1, for Barley, or by his assigns 8, and lastly, those claiming to be printed by Barley himself, 3. A glance at the numerous ornaments in these last three items (1608 25202, 1609 20759 and 21127) makes it at once apparent that despite their imprints they were printed not by Barley, but by John Windet.[5]

This leaves eight items allegedly printed by Barley, of which seven constitute his total recorded output between 1599 and 1606 (five titles in 1599, and one each in 1601 and 1602). The eighth probably belongs to the same period, as mentioned above, but is dubiously dated [1598?] by STC.


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Of these eight items, two printed in 1599 (13563 and 18131) share an ornamental initial I and clearly came from the same press. Moreover, 13563 displays the McKerrow device 322, which in 1597 was in the possession of the obscure London printer Henry Ballard. McKerrow does not record the fact that 322 had earlier belonged to Richard Tottel (who used it in 1572 in STC 3393), to whom Ballard was apprenticed. It therefore seems significant that the title-page border used in the other book, 18131, is last recorded in the hands of Tottel. We may conclude that 13563 and 18131 were printed for Barley by Henry Ballard.

Two of the final six items share a set of initials of conventional floral design, the owner of which I have not yet identified, but breaks in the frame of the S should ultimately make positive identification possible. The other four I have not been able to examine, but they will probably turn out to be the work of one of the printers Barley habitually employed.

Although I have not identified the actual printer of every one of the books claiming to be printed by Barley, it should now be clear that he was never a printer, and that the statements concerning his printing which were cited at the beginning of this paper are erroneous.

Apart from the central question of Barley's printing, some biographical matters remain. Mr. Lievsay in his second paragraph says of Barley's antecedents:

We have his own word that he was born about 1565; but where, deponent sayeth not. Possibly his family was originally of Sussex. Some support for this conjecture may be seen in his being twice before the Court of High Commission for illegal sale of printed matter in the Sussex town of Cowdry, and again in his dedicating two of his publications to residents of that county. (p. 218)
Lievsay refers the reader to the Dictionary of Printers and Booksellers 1557-1640 as the source of his information, and there we find this version:
From some information supplied by himself in June, 1598, in a deposition, we learn that he was born about 1565, and that on two previous occasions he had been before the Court of High Commission, once for selling a twopenny book relating to Her Majesty's progress, and again for selling a ballad concerning the safe return of the Earl of Essex from Cadiz. Both these sales took place at Cowdry in Sussex. (p. 20)
Unfortunately, the main assertion of the above paragraph is a non-fact, a misremembering of what Barley actually said in the deposition from which I have already quoted, made on 26 June 1598. Interrogatories were put to Barley following a raid which the Stationers made on the printing shop of Simon Stafford (also a Draper) on 13 March, 1598. Four thousand pirated copies of The Accidence had been found in the house next door, occupied by Roger Pavier, another Draper, but which had been until shortly before in the possession of William Barley. The illegal volumes were seized, as were Stafford's types, and parts of the press.


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In his examination Barley stated that he was "aged xxxiij yeeres or thereabowts." The last phrase is a legalism and does not imply any uncertainty about his age or the date of his birth. In answer to the second interrogatory he admitted that he had been twice bound before the High Commissioners

in causes ecclesyastycall abowt the sellinge of books the first tyme was for that he had sold a booke of ijd of her maties progress to Cowdrie in Sussex & the second time was for that he had sold balladds wherein the safe & happie retorn of the right ho therle of Essexe Erle marshall of England was wished or prayed for when his honor went the Cales voyage[6]

Elizabeth's Progress to Cowdray lasted from 15 to 21 August 1591, and is described in John Nichols, The Progresses and Public Processions of Queen Elizabeth (1823), III, 90-96, who reprints an account from a pamphlet now in the British Museum (STC 3903, the title-page of which differs somewhat from Nichols's transcription, given below):

The Honorable Entertainment given to her Majestie, in Progresse, at Cowdray in Sussex, by the Right Honorable the Lord Montecute, anno 1591, August 15. Printed by Thomas Scarlet, and are to bee solde by William Wright, dwelling in Paules Churchyard, neere to the French Schoole. 1591.
Since Scarlet was requested to appear before the Archbishop of Canterbury in 1591 (Arber, I, 548), it is possible that he and Barley were in trouble over this same pamphlet.

I cannot identify the ballad about the Earl of Essex, but it is interesting that Barley (unlike the Dictionary of Printers), refers to the expedition as the Calais voyage. Calais was besieged by the Duke of Parma in 1596, and the English force sent to relieve it was diverted to Cadiz only after the town fell. Thus, Barley never did sell "printed matter" or anything else illegally "in the Sussex town of Cowdry" (so far as we know); consequently, he was never prosecuted for doing so; and, therefore, no support for the conjecture that he was from Sussex is to be found in his "being twice before the Court of High Commission for illegal sale of printed matter in the Sussex town of Cowdry." We now know that in fact he was from Woburn in Bedfordshire.[7]

The latter part of this note concerns Lievsay's contention that there was something irregular or clandestine about Barley's joining the Stationers. He remarks:

He [Barley] first appears in the London records as a member of the Drapers'


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Company, his term of apprenticeship in the company ending in 1587. Apparently there is no record of his translation from the Drapers' to the Stationers' Company, which must have taken place shortly thereafter. Such translations were not uncommon; but in Barley's case the change must have involved some irregularity. It is difficult, otherwise, to account for the fact that a man who had followed the stationer's trade for sixteen years should be made free of the Company only so late as 1606.
Whatever may be the fact behind his obscure and possibly clandestine entry into the ranks of the Stationers . . . (p. 218)
There are no grounds for assuming that Barley's translation to the Stationers' Company "must have taken place shortly . . . after" the completion of his apprenticeship with the Drapers, and all the evidence suggests that it did not. As Lievsay himself points out (note 6), we know that Barley was admitted as a freeman of the Stationers' Company in 1606 (Arber, III, 29, 683). Even more to the point is Barley's answer to the fourth interrogatory put to him on 26 June 1598, which asked whether he was familiar with that provision of the Star Chamber decree of 23 June 1586 governing the excessive number of printers and the procedure for allowing the erection of new presses. He was reminded that the decree ordered that no person should set up a press unless elected from among the free Stationers by the Master and Wardens of the Company under the direction of the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Bishop of London. He was asked whether at any time he had been so elected and allowed, and of what Company in London he was free. He said he knew the provision, and that
he this examinate was not at any tyme heretofore so ellected or allowed of as ys mencioned in the said decree and this Examinate sayth further that he this examinate is free of the Company of Drapers in london. (Judge, pp. 170-171)
The last statement makes it certain that at least on 26 June 1598 Barley had not yet been translated.

Further evidence is supplied by various entries in the parish register of St. Peter's upon Cornhill, which have not been cited by anyone writing about Barley, and which seem not to have been used by the compilers of A Dictionary of Printers and Booksellers 1557-1640 (1910), even though the register was published by The Harleian Society in 1877 (ed. G.W.G.L. Gower). The relevant entries follow:

  • 1603 June 15 [Weddings] Wedensday: William Barley of this parish booke seller: And Mary Harper of this parish allso, by bannes thrise asked
  • 1604 June 9 [Christenings] Satterday: Katherin Barley daughter of William Barley Draper, the childe born one satterday fourtenth night afore. The godfather Syr Edward Stanhop Knight, godmother ye Lady Granger
  • 1605 July 21 [Christenings] William Barley the sonne of William Barley draper yett a booke Seller dwelling in gratious streete

  • 220

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  • 1606/7 March 21 [Burials] Jone Barley Widdow: Mother to William Barley Stationer, dwelling in Gratious streete
  • 1607 Aprill 9 [Christenings] Marie Barley the daughter of William Barley Draper yett a booke seller dwellinge in gratious streete
  • 1609 Auguste 24 [Burials] Marie Barley the daughter of William Barley stationer, dwellinge in gratious streete
  • 1611/12 March 21 [Burials] Annis Hadley servant to Mr Barley Stacioner in gratious streete

Apart from their intrinsic value as biographical facts, these entries make it clear that until 1606, when he became a freeman of the Stationers' Company, Barley called himself a bookseller and Draper, but that thereafter he was identified as a Stationer. This solitary instance does not, however, contradict the statement by William E. Miller in his very useful "Printers and Stationers in the Parish of St. Giles Cripplegate 1561-1640," SB, XIX (1966), 16: "I have been unable to find any correlation between the use of stationer in the registers and admission to the Freedom of the Stationers' Company." The use of the old designation by the parish clerk when recording Marie Barley's christening in 1607 is further evidence that Barley was established in his neighbours' minds as a Draper and bookseller.

The most interesting, and certainly the most surprising information supplied by these entries, is the revelation that Barley, a tradesman, was on terms of some intimacy with Sir Edward Stanhope, a gentleman directly concerned with the regulation of the booktrade. Canon of St. Paul's Cathedral and chancellor of the diocese of London, Stanhope acted for Archbishop Whitgift in matters affecting the press, though his name appears only once in the Registers as a licenser (of Bacon's Essays; Arber, III.79). In April 1601 he was a commissioner in the inquiry concerning piracies, and after being knighted on 25 July 1603 he served on the commission under which Raleigh was tried for high treason, and he was appointed one of the four learned civilians who were to examine and adjudicate upon all books printed in the realm without authority. He bequeathed money and books to Trinity College, Cambridge, (where W. W. Greg was at one time Stanhope Librarian). I have not identified Lady Granger.

Finally, not only is it not difficult to account for Barley following the stationer's trade for sixteen years before he was translated, but his entry into the ranks of the Stationers was neither irregular, obscure, not clandestine. Simon Stafford had been "brought up and exercised in the art and trade of printing" for over twenty years as a Draper before he was translated to the Stationers on 7 May 1599, as he tells us himself (Judge, p. 177).

By the custom of London a Freeman of the City was entitled to pursue any trade he chose, even though his apprenticeship might have been in a trade unconnected with his occupation. A. H. Johnson came across members of the Drapers' Company pursuing the following trades during the reign of Elizabeth:


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the retailing of linen cloth and of mercery, embroidering, upholstery, felt-making, silk-weaving, and wine-selling, 'occupying oils, butter, cheese, and vinegar,' that is, grocery. To these we must add an apothecary, a smith, a gunner, two pewterers, a salter, a woadmonger, and a bookbinder, several barber-surgeons, painter-stainers, printers, booksellers and stationers.[8]
On the other hand, Christopher Barker, the Queen's Printer, tells us that in 1582 booksellers, bookbinders, joiners, and chandlers were free of the Stationers' Company.[9] So, we may add, was Robert Crowley, vicar of St. Giles's, Cripplegate (Arber, II, 679).

The craft gilds strenuously opposed this encroachment on their rights, but as their power weakened during Elizabeth's reign the privilege was more frequently claimed. One solution was to set over or translate the offending individual to the craft he was pursuing. Christopher Barker, with whom Stafford served his apprenticeship, was a Draper pursuing the trade of Stationer, and was himself translated from the former company to the latter in 1578.

The Drapers and the Stationers seem to have regarded as a test case the suit brought by the Stationers against William Barley and Simon Stafford, which would determine whether the custom of London permitted Drapers to function as printers. The raid on the houses of Barley and Stafford and the Star Chamber case which followed it were merely the culmination of a series of legal manoeuvres which stretched back some years, and which included, in 1596, an attempt by the Drapers to establish the right to have their own printer, for which purpose they retained the services of none other than Edward Coke, the Attorney-General and future Chief Justice (Johnson, II, 170). That the test case succeeded in reaffirming the Stationers' monopoly is seen in the translation of Stafford to the Stationers on 7 May 1599, and in the fact that between 1600 and 1602 fourteen other Drapers were similarly translated (Johnson, II, 171).

William Barley was not one of them, which returns us to the question of his "long and unexplained period of virtual silence," and second active period, 1606-1614. It will be noticed at once that the beginning of this second period coincides with Barley's admission to the Stationers' Company in 1606, which suggests that the preceding years of silence are to be explained by his not then being a member of the Company. It will further be noticed that his period of silence begins following the Star Chamber case of 1598. The Privy Council Order of 10 September 1598 which records the judgement in the case between Stafford and the Stationers makes no mention of Barley, merely indicating that the parties have agreed to translate Stafford to the Stationers, until which time he is forbidden to print (Greg and Boswell, Records, p. 64). His seized printing materials were


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redelivered to him on 5 March 1599, and he became a freeman on 7 May.

Why was the same arrangement not made for Barley? I think the answer is contained in Stafford's reply to the fourth interrogatory (Judge, pp. 170-171). This makes it very clear that the point at issue was not really pirated books (none were found on his premises, and Barley no longer occupied the house where they were found), but whether or not a man who had worked as a printer for twenty years, and who had served the required seven years' apprenticeship in the printing trade, albeit to a master who was then a Draper, was to be permitted to operate a press.

The Archbishop of Canterbury had been approached on several occasions by Stafford's influential friend (and perhaps relative) Sir Edward Stafford,[10] on the printer's behalf, but had insisted on being certified by the Stationers that Stafford had been brought up and served as an apprentice in that trade the space of seven years, before he would allow Stafford to erect a press. When the Stationers, because Stafford was a Draper, refused so to certify, he appealed to the Lord Mayor, who in May 1597 ordered the Recorder and Council to examine the question. They found for Stafford, whereupon the Mayor and Aldermen wrote to the Archbishop, supporting Stafford's plea. His Grace then discussed the matter with the Attorney General (Edward Coke!) and Stafford was permitted to print. On 4 August 1597 the Stationers obtained a Star Chamber injunction to stop Stafford's printing, and it was this defence of their monopoly which lay behind their raid on his premises of 13 March 1598.

I conclude that though, like Stafford, Barley had served his time as a Draper, unlike Stafford he had not been brought up in the trade of printing. For that reason the compromise achieved by Stafford, and later extended to cover other Drapers with printing experience, could not apply to Barley. The period of silence preceding Barley's admission to the Stationers' Company is the highly significant one of seven years, during which time one might have expected him to have remedied this defect. However, this seems not to have been the case. McKenzie (Stationers' Apprentices, p. 108) records the fact that Barley bound himself to Thomas Phipps on 30 April 1606 for seven years, but as mentioned above, within two months he was freed by translation from the Drapers (on 25 June 1606).

It cannot be a coincidence that on the same day the Court of the Stationers' Company settled a dispute between Barley and Thomas East, supporting Barley's claim to a patent for the printing of all music books,


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which had originally been granted to Thomas Morley by the queen. Under the terms of the settlement East, as the assign of Barley, was permitted to print music books he had lawfully entered, but had to pay Barley twenty shillings in each instance, and provide him with six sets of the song books he printed.[11] Barley's apprenticeship to Phipps must have been intended to strengthen his claim to Morley's patent, perhaps by signalling his readiness to submit to the authority of the Stationers' Company. Whether his translation from the Drapers was agreed upon on 25 June 1606 earlier or later than the Court's decision cannot be determined, but the Stafford case suggests that Barley's acceptance by the Stationers was probably part of the settlement.



"It is not known what became of his printing material, but his device No. 304 is found in 1633 in the possession of Augustine Mathewes" (p. 166). Device No. 304 is probably the only printing material Barley possessed (see below).


Barley was actually arrested for contempt (Arber, I.555), and said himself that this arrest and the later fine were for selling unlicensed books (see below). Pattison merely assumed that his crime was "irregular printing."


C. B. Judge, Elizabethan Book Pirates (1934), p. 170. Italics indicate expanded contractions.


Percival Boyd, The Roll of the Drapers' Company of London (1934), p. 12.


On this subject Greg remarked: "But it was quite common at the time to speak of 'printing' a book when what was meant was getting it printed, or publishing it. Some stationers regularly used the term in this sense in their imprints, as John Walley (1546-82), Robert Crowley (1549-57), and Anthony Kitson (1550-65) earlier, and later Richard Jones (1565-1600). Jones, it is true, possessed a press, but it is not known whether any of his numerous books were printed on it." (W. W. Greg, Some Aspects and Problems of London Publishing Between 1550 and 1650 (1956), p. 83.)


Judge, p. 170.


D. F. McKenzie, Stationers' Company Apprentices 1605-1640 (1961), p. 108. The Woburn Register does not record the baptism or burial of Barley. Entries in 1601 and 1604 record the baptisms of Elizabeth and Alice, daughters of a Wm. Barly (information supplied by Miss D. Summers, Bedfordshire Record Office), but that he was the publisher seems unlikely (see the entries from the St. Giles's register below).


A. H. Johnson, The History of the Worshipful Company of the Drapers of London (1915), II, 165.


Arber, I.114.


Whether Sir Edward Stafford, Ambassador to France 1583-90, who died intestate in 1605 was a relative of Stafford the printer has not been determined, but his attempts to help Simon suggest that he was. He was a friend worth having; his mother, who died only a year before him, aged 78, was an intimate of the Queen. Her epitaph in St. Margaret's Church, Westminster, records that "She served Queen Elizabeth 40 years, lying in the bedchamber." It may have been this Lady Stafford, rather than Sir Edward's wife, who helped Simon buy a house in 1600 (Arber, III.103).


W. A. Jackson, Records of the Court of the Stationers' Company 1602 to 1640 (1957), pp. 19-20. The Court also enforced Morley's patent against Thomas Adams on Barley's behalf in 1609 (Jackson, Records, pp. 39-40).