Full chronology version


The Goldsmiths' Company is incorporated under a Royal Charter.

Stained glas window at the Worshipful Company pf Mercers.


The Mercers' Company is incorporated under a Royal Charter.


A Guild of Stationers is set up, after approval from the Corporation of London.


The Grocers' Company is incorporated under a Royal Charter.

Arms of the company


The Stationers' Company is incorporated under a Royal Charter.


Drapers' Company is incorporated under a Royal Chater.

Johannes Gutenberg


The printing press is invented by Johannes Gutenberg around 1440.


The Worshipful Company of Ironmongers is incorporated under a Royal Charter.


The Worshipful Company of Dyer is incorporated under a Royal Charter.

1473 - 1474

Recuyell of the Historyes of Troye or Recueil des Histories de Troye is printed, probably in 1474. A translation by William Caxton of a French courtly romance, it was the first book printed in English.

Stained glass to William Caxton, Guildhall, London


William Caxton sets up the first printing press in England at Westminster. The first piece of printing to come from Caxton's press is the 1476 bull of Pope Sixtus IV, which extended the benefits of indulgences to departed souls who are already suffering in purgatory.


An Act is passed by Parliament which restricts the conditions under which those who are not born in England could work or trade. The restrictions do not apply to any foreign workers who are engaged in the book-trade.


The Mercers' Company, along with the Dean of St. Paul's Cathedral John Colet, establish St. Paul's School.


Henry VIII succeeds his father to the throne.


Innholders' Company is incorporated under a Royal Charter.


Cardinal Thomas Wolsey begins the build of Hampton Court Palace.


Livery companies are granted an order of precedence by the Lord Mayor of London.


On Sunday 12 May, copies of Martin Luther's books are burned at the cross outside St Paul's Cathedral.

Assertio septem sacramentorum


The first ever book written for the press by an English monarch, Henry VIII's Assertio Septem Sacramentorium, which defended Catholic rites and ceremonies such as the seven sacraments, is printed in July. As a token of gratitude, Pope Leo X invests Henry with the title of Fidel Defensor, defender of the faith.


Cardinal Wolsey, worrying about Luther and reports of Tyndale's activities on the continent, plans another public burning of Luther's works at St Paul's Cathedral at the beginning of the year.


William Tyndale's translation of the New Testament is printed by Peter Shoeffer in Worms, Germany. This is the first translation of the New Testament into English from the original language of Greek.


The amalgamation of the Fullers and the Shearmen leads to the formation of the Clothworkers' Company.


In response to episcopal resistance towards the Boleyn marriage, Henry VIII issues a proclamation which forbids the importation of papal bulls that undermine the prerogative of the King.


A royal proclamation is issued in June which promises a vernacular bible but bans William Tyndale's New and Old Testaments and orders the arrest of anyone possessing books in English which are printed abroad.


An Act passes through Parliament which makes it an offence for someone to buy a book which has not been bound in England or sold by a foreign merchant.

Anne Boleyn


Anne Boleyn is executed at the Tower of London after being investigated for high treason.


St. James's Palace is completed, after five years of construction in the City of Westminster.

Whitby Abbey ruins, Yorkshire


Dissolution of the Monasteries: Between 1536 to around 1541 King Henry VIII enforced legal and administrative processes which led to the destruction of the monastic system, including abbeys, friaries, nunneries, and monasteries.

Westminster Abbey


Westminster Abbey granted cathedral status: King Henry VIII invokes a royal charter in order to grant Westminster Abbey cathedral status, protecting it from the dissolution of the monasteries.


In May, a proclamation is issued which orders copies of the Great Bible to be placed in all churches with a threat of a 40s. fine if they do not comply.

The annals of St. Helen's, Bishopsgate, London


As a result of the Henrician Reformation, the Benedictine Convent of St Helen in Bishopsgate is acquired by the Company of Leathersellers and used as their hall.

Edward VI of England c. 1546


Edward VI, son of Henry VIII and Jane Seymour, succeeds as King on 20 February with Edward Seymour, Duke of Somerset acting as Lord Protector.


Act of Uniformity: This establishes the Book of Common Prayer as the chief liturgical book in use in Church of England worship.

A group of dissenters in Norfolk during Robert Kett's rebellion of 1549


Following the 1549 risings, the Edwardian government issues a proclamation which bans publishing works in English, or performing plays or interludes, without written permission from six privy councillors.


Second Act of Uniformity: This authorises for worship a revised form of the 1549 Prayer Book, and among many other things, made it compulsory for attendance at services on Sundays and holy days upon pain of punishment.

Jane Grey


Following on from the death of Edward VI, Lady Jane Grey claims the throne, as Edward's heir presumptive.


The Stationers' Company moves from its headquarters in Milk Street in the parish of St Mary Magdalen, to Peter's College


Coopers' Company change their motto from the more religious 'Gaude Maria Virgo' to a more secular 'Love as Brethren'.


A proclamation ordering all aliens who were not denizens or established merchants to leave the country draws particular attention to booksellers and printers.: "On 17 February 1554, a proclamation ordered all aliens who were not denizens or established merchants to leave the country within twenty-four days and drew particular - and interesting - attention to booksellers, printers and preachers".


Lady Jane Grey is deposed on 19 July; Mary I arrives in London on 3 August and becomes Queen of England and Ireland on 1 October.


On Corpus Christi Day in June, the government issues a proclamation against the possessing seditious books. It lists forbidden authors such as William Tyndale, John Frith and Robert Barnes.


The Worshipful Company of Fishmongers is endowed with the Gresham School by the school's founder Sir John Gresham. The Company still the trustee of the school to the present day.


On 4 May 1557 the Stationers' Company receives a Royal Charter of Incorporation.


Thomas Dockwray is elected as the first Master of Stationers' Company. He is re-elected the following year.


Richard Waye is elected Master of Stationers' Company. He is re-elected in 1563.


Proclamation in June against the possession of books that are seen to be heretical or seditious. Possession of any said book could result in execution as a rebel.


Elizabeth I succeeds her half-sister to the throne.


The eight-time Master of the Grocers' Company dies in this year and under terms of his will leaves a substantial estate which the Company uses in order to set up Oundle School.


Upon the death of Andrew Judde, the Skinners' Company is passed responsibility for the running of Tonbridge School.

The Rainbow Portrait of Queen Elizabeth I


Reginald Wolfe is elected Master of Stationers' Company. He is re-elected in 1564, 1567 and 1572.


Elizabeth I is crowned on 15 January.


Injunctions of 1559 set out that books and other printed works are to be run past the Company first, with the licensing being granted by the Crown or its nominees.


On 1 February 1560 the City of London grants the company the right to have a Livery, and so it gains the full status of a Liveried Company.


Stephen Kevall is elected Master of Stationers' Company. He is re-elected in 1565.


John Cawood is elected Master of Stationers' Company. He is re-elected the following year and in 1566.

By Francis Bond (1852-1918) (Francis Bond) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons


A lightning strike causes a fire at St Paul's Cathedral, badly damaging the spire and melting the bells.


Ordinances passed by the Company make it so that members with printed work not given a Royal Grant must have a licence for the Wardens and enter their work in the Company's register.


John Foxe's Protestant martyrology, Actes and Monumentsis published by John Day, who will become Master of Stationers' Company seventeen years later.


Canterbury Convocation draw up a new set of articles which declared, among many other things, that communion in two kinds was of necessity and that the Council of Trent's declaration that Tobit, Ecclesiasticus and the Books of Maccabees were part of the canon of scripture is false and cannot be used as the basis of doctrine.


A resolution from the governing body [of the Company] states that 'a freeman could have "the empression of any Copye, peculier to hym" either by royal grant "or by the ordenaunces of this Company"', establishing the idea of copyright and its link to the Company.


Preachers are to urge obedience of the laity to the Prayer Book and Injunctions of 1559 and the clergy are to carefully follow the stipulations of clerical dress which says that parish Eucharists can wear the surplice rather than the cope.


The Star Chamber Decree. This decree 'was a clear recognition of the Stationers' Company as an executive tool of the Government'. This decree extends the search-and-seize powers of the Company, originally granted under the Charter, so that they were now able to search '"all workhouses, shops, warehouses and other places of printers, booksellers, or such as bring books into the realm to be sold, or where they have reasonable cause of suspicion"'. 'The Decree provided that any foBRFeited books were to be brought to the Company to be destroyed or turned into waste paper, and that any moneys generated were to be divided one half to the queen, the other half to the person who seized the books or made the first complaint which led to such seizure'.


The Red Lion Theatre is built outside the City, towards the east.


Richard Jugge is elected Master of Stationers' Company. He is re-elected in 1569, 1573 and 1574.


William Seres is elected Master of Stationers' Company. He is re-elected in 1571, 1575, 1576 and 1577.


Pope Pius V's Regnans in Excelsis, which declares Elizabeth I a heretic and excommunicates her from the Church, is 'published' by John Felton when he nails it to the door of the bishop of London's palace on 25 May.


In the aftermath of the Northern Rising, Parliament passes the Treason Act. Publishing views that Elizabeth is a tyrant, heretic or usurper of the English Crown is now punishable through high treason and anyone convicted could be hung, drawn and quartered.


George Wapull is appointed Clerk to Stationers' Company.


The Mayor and Corporation of London bans public plays, in an effort to reduce the risk of the plague spreading.


Jane Kevall dies in June and leaves a house in Salutation Alley for the Company on condition that £5 a year is paid to the poor of the parish of St Mary-at-Hill. It comes to be known as the Dark House.


In June, a royal proclamation is issued against the First and Second Admonition to Parliament, tracts which are fiercely anti-episcopal and argue that bishops are the root cause of all the problems within the church. The proclamation condemns the works and demands the surrender of every copy.


In October, a royal proclamation is issued which demands stricter enforcement of the Act of Uniformity and makes imprisonment the punishment for preaching or writing against the Prayer Book.


Company Halls now required to maintain a store of gunpowder, compounding their role in the defence of the city.


Richard Collins is appointed Clark to Stationers' Company.


The Theatre is opened by James Burbage, in Shoreditch, and is London's second permanent public playhouse.


The election for the Master and Wardens of Stationers' Company is held on Saint's Day and William Seres is elected as Master for his third successive year.


John Wolfe asserts his right to print whatever he wants to and rallies against the Company. He is imprisoned twice but eventually is subdued as he is bribed with membership in the Company.


The theatre is opened in Shoreditch, outside the City of London, and remained open until 1624.


Christopher Barker, who was the printer for the Geneva Bible the year before, is granted the right to print the Book of Common Prayer and all service books.


Richard Tottell is elected Master of Stationers' Company. He is re-elected in 1584.


James Goneld is elected Master of Stationers' Company. He is re-elected in 1582 and 1585.

John Day Woodcut.


John Day is elected Master of Stationers' Company. He dies four years later.