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Printing for purgatory: indulgences and related documents in England, 1476 to 1536.

As Peter Stallybrass has recently insisted in no uncertain terms, printers do not print books, they print sheets. What happens to those sheets after they have been printed is none of their concern, unless the printer is also the publisher. Books naturally attract the attention of bibliographers, but printed sheets do not have to be turned into books. This is potentially important for historians of print and print culture, for in the early days of the new technology (as, indeed, even now) many sheets were single-sided products, speedily produced and distributed. Even if books, they did not have to be large: small pamphlets and other material could also be run off relatively speedily. Such minor printing, often intentionally produced as ephemeral, has rightly been identified as one of the foundations of a successful printing house. (2) In the market, such products might be considered as "cheap print," although there was no automatic correlation between such printing and market price: in some circumstances, the products might be inexpensive to produce yet still be sold dearly if the distributor could command the market.

Large quantities of single-sheet printed material were produced in England between 1476 and 1536, a good deal of it being linked to the advertising, marketing, and distribution of the various spiritual privileges which fall under the generic heading of "indulgences." (3) The terminal dates are themselves watersheds in English printing history: an indulgence-related document, a confessional letter issued in 1476 for the collection to fund warfare against the Turks, was among Caxton's first products at Westminster, (4) while 1536 effectively marks the Henrician Reformation's elimination of indulgences from English religion, (5) ending a printing tradition which arguably had played a vital part in the shift to the new technology over the preceding sixty years as an important--but neglected--chapter in the history of early English printing. (6) As a category of "cheap print," these documents certainly merit consideration but raise their own specific issues. Three points particularly call for attention: the relationship between print and manuscript "cultures" as print became increasingly accepted in England; the significance of such printing tasks for the printers themselves and for the establishment of print; and finally, issues of textual control and validation in the new technology.

Some preliminary comment is needed on the actual documents. They can be separated into four classes, although separation and allocation are not always easy or straightforward. (7) Moreover, boundaries become fluid as the emphasis moves away from indulgences (sometimes in conjunction with other aspects of devotion) and towards other types of devotional printing. Four categories are identified here, but subsequent discussion will focus almost exclusively on the first two.

The most important documents were the "confessional letters" or "letters of confraternity." (8) These were in effect sold, the printed sheets being equivalent to receipts for the purchases. (9) Such letters generally gave their holders the power to choose a confessor to confer plenary absolution at the point of death and usually also offered promises of remission of the sufferings which might be imposed by God in Purgatory after death as satisfaction for sins incompletely expunged whilst alive. The letters were usually in Latin but were occasionally printed in English; (10) and were almost always printed on parchment or vellum (probably because they had to be robust as portable documents with an uncertain but potentially long aftersales life). (11) They were printed as form documents, with gaps left at appropriate points to allow the purchaser's name and the date and place of purchase to be inserted by hand. (As printing became more sophisticated, some letters also left spaces to allow Latin word endings to be adjusted for the gender and number of purchasers for each form, as in printed forms issued on behalf of the Roman hospital of Santo Spirito from around 1515 to 1520.) (12)

The most important characteristic of such letters--and the distinctive feature which required them to be produced for retention--was the conferral of the power to choose a confessor. The chosen confessor often acquired thereby a delegation of papal absolutionary authority to absolve sins, an authority which would otherwise be reserved to episcopal and papal jurisdiction (although exclusions sometimes remained, depending on the precise terms of the indulgence grant). By remitting the culpa, the guilt, of the sins by means of that papally delegated absolution, the confessor also conferred the indulgence and remitted the consequent pena, the satisfaction for sins due to God which would otherwise be purged in Purgatory after death. (13)

The second and third categories may be seen as species of the same genus. Both are effectively publicity material. One, which is fairly common among the surviving documents, consists of printed announcements in English (and on paper) of the spiritual privileges offered by an institution or its agents. These range in size from small postcard-sized fliers to large densely printed sheets like those listing the privileges of the hospital of Santo Spirito in Rome, which were in effect posters. (14) The other class, likewise in English and on paper, comprises leaflets advertising where a specific indulgence could be obtained from specially appointed confessors. So far only one example is known, advertising the indulgence of the Roman hospital of Santo Spirito as being available from confessors at the Franciscan house in Ipswich. (15)

The final, fourth, category is miscellaneous. Its function is specifically devotional--to encourage prayers by offering rewards (or incentives) for the recitation. One subgroup comprises woodcuts depicting scenes such as Christ as the Man of Sorrows or the Pieta, often surrounded by the Arma Christi, promising indulgence in return for devotion. (16) The origins of these woodcuts are unknown, but they were presumably printed specifically for sale, as unofficial ventures aimed deliberately at a market. These were prints of manageable size, which could be inserted into devotional texts by their owners or used in other contexts. (17) With them can perhaps be combined other devotional printing such as the sheet recording a devotion supposedly located at "Newton in Suffolk," which one scholar has condemned as a forgery. (18) Such single-sided products exemplify market-oriented speculative printing, merging into a broader category of petty amuletic and devotional printing which was, of necessity, also cheap and ephemeral. (19)

The boundary between the indulgenced woodcuts and broader categories of devotional printing is made even more porous by the use of almost identical depictions (although in these instances lacking the pardon statement) to illustrate other printed texts and by the distribution of such woodcuts as prints in their own right. Indeed, boundaries are breached with one woodblock, produced for members of the guild of St. Anne at Lincoln and perhaps linked with an indulgence, which is now known only because it was used among the illustrations in a printed book of hours. (20)

Another subgroup is represented by a single surviving badly damaged example detailing pardons offered in return for prayers for the health and state of King Henry VIII, his queen (Catherine of Aragon), and their daughter Princess Mary. (21) Who issued this is unknown, but its size suggests that it was meant for public display (as a wall poster or on a handheld board). It was at least a "semiofficial" publication, maybe distributed by church hierarchs. Other small documents that might be included here were also printed, including slips certifying completion of the confessional process (and sometimes also affirming participation in the benefits of an indulgence), but these are almost impossible to integrate effectively into any argument. (22) At some point the single-sided devotional prints merge into other types of devotional "cheap print," the surviving small pamphlets which also recorded prayers and offered indulgences; (23) but the sheet requesting prayers for the royal family remains generically distinct. Cheap print outlining devotional exercises continued after 1536, but the material printed specifically to encourage acquisition of indulgences, especially from pardoners, had no future.

Indulgences catered for and to a mass market, and were indeed cheaply printed. (24) Their selling price, however, was not dictated by their production costs; as confessional letters were often distributed in fraternity membership drives and handed over as subscription receipts, individual letters were "sold" for anything from one penny to thirteen shillings and four pence, a range from one penny to twelve pence being most common, and four pence seemingly being the general level. (25) Such letters might almost be considered a spiritual form of paper currency, in that their face value (or selling price) bore no necessary relation to their intrinsic value (as promissory notes to buy off the pains of Purgatory) or to their costs of production. Alongside the cheaply printed confessional letters, the low costs of reproducing the other two indulgence-related formats is important, because that outlay was not recouped; as advertising, these documents were produced to be distributed with no return.

The survival record for this material is dire. Many texts survive only in unique and mutilated copies, often rescued from book bindings. Some are so fragmentary that they are almost useless. (26) At least one has been lost within living memory without being fully recorded. (27) There is at least one other case in which no known original copy survives, but a transcript from a lost copy was included in a nineteenth-century volume. (28) The original documents that have survived outside bookbindings have incomplete provenances and so lack full historical contexts. However, future research may increase the number of known survivors. In recent years, closer examination of bookbindings has added to the list, (29) and the tally will probably grow as the search for early printed material expands to local record offices and private archives; even major library collections may yet hold unnoticed additional texts and copies. (30)

These documents were rarely meant to have a long life, but some were not totally ephemeral. Publicity material and confessional letters might be needed only for one specific fund-raising campaign, but where there were regular and repeated collections all types of material would need to be produced for the long term. If old documents were not simply reused, or material not produced in sufficient quantities to last for the whole anticipated life span of the collection (production on that scale being inherently unlikely), then the long-term needs of the collection would require intermittent--sometimes frequent--reprinting to maintain stocks. This might be done without changing the text, even when some updating might be expected. Confessional letters for York's guild of St. Christopher and St. George in 1529--and presumably in earlier years of the decade--still referred to Leo X as the current pope even though he had died in 1521. (31)

The regularity of reprinting varied. In some cases, confessional letters were printed in sufficient numbers to last several years, (32) but others carried the precise year of production, which would limit their sell-by date. (33) Purchasers were expected to retain their letters until the confessional privilege was invoked, which might be some years after purchase. In the 1550s John Hooper, bishop of Worcester and Gloucester, inquired whether any of his subjects were still being buried with their confessional letters--letters which had not been distributed in England for some fifteen years. (34)

Hooper's inquiry points to another aspect of the longevity of confessional letters, whether handwritten or printed: that many were kept not until death but beyond it; they were grave goods. Large numbers of pardons were apparently disturbed when churchyards were grubbed out during the building of Somerset House in Edward VI's reign. (35)

The printed material, especially when distributed through pardoners and similar agents, fits into a generic context that had been established in the fourteenth century and had remained stable over the intervening years. Its production was in continuity with mass-produced handwritten documents, both confessional letters and publicity leaflets. (36) By the early 1400s, there was probably already a linguistic distinction between the vernacular of many (but not all) publicity documents and the Latin of confessional letters. (37) Pardoners probably carried around not just the statements of privileges, intended as scripts for oral delivery, (38) but also the batches of letters they were to sell. (Only confessional letters were sold as documents; because the pardons they offered and the confessors' delegated absolutionary powers remained latent until the point of death, both needed formal advance documentary validation.) With the shift to print, the pardoners and agents presumably still carried the letters, but some of the publicity may have been tackled differently, especially in large towns. The vernacular schedules could be glued to church doors, as attested to for the Rounceval Guild at Charing Cross, London, and the Guild of Our Lady in Boston, Lincolnshire, so becoming available for public perusal without the pardoners as oral intermediaries. (39) Such publicity was firmly ephemeral in function, unlike some early handwritten schedules of privileges, which were apparently returned to "base," possibly for later reuse. (40)

How the production and distribution of this printed material should be interpreted remains uncertain, partly because the basis for interpretation is largely conjectural. How the various pieces of the puzzle might fit together is also elusive--assuming that the available pieces, which certainly do not fit together, are indeed fragments of a single picture. For instance, a unique copy of a printed but undated publicity leaflet survives for the Guild of the Name of Jesus in St. Paul's Cathedral, London. (41) The listed spiritual privileges exclude the massive temporal indulgence which Humphrey Newton, of Pownall in Cheshire, noted in his list of pardon acquisitions, and which he clearly thought that he had obtained from the guild. (42) That discrepancy cannot be explained. The printed sheet is very much a flier: it is eye-catching and a straightforward statement. It survives wrapped around an almanac dating from 1522, effectively providing a paperback binding for the pamphlet. The almanac itself seems typical of the products distributed by chapmen and peddlers; scattered evidence indicates that pardoners combined indulgence distribution with such petty trading. (43) Can it be assumed that the St. Paul's leaflet was distributed in this way, or is that an improper reading of uncertain evidence? (44)

Similar difficulties arise with another sheet (again a unique copy) printed for St. Roche's Hospital, Exeter. (45) The hospital was small; its collecting activities have left few traces. (46) Yet it was active in York diocese in 1523, when its agent had a collecting license valid within the jurisdiction of the dean and chapter of York Minster. (47) Similar licenses were presumably granted for areas of the diocese under the archbishop's jurisdiction, possibly also for the archdeaconry of Richmond, but no record survives. A problem here is to bridge the gap between Exeter and York and unite the two records, especially when nothing in the York records indicates the nature and scale of the privileges and indulgences being offered by the hospital's agents within the diocese in return for donations. The printed leaflet promises no more than that "y e daye that they do say a pater noster an Ave and a Crede it is graunted to them that they schal never in fecte nor greved w t the stroke of y e pestylence." Was this all that was offered in Yorkshire in 1523, being nevertheless expected to attract sufficient donations to cover the costs of operating so far from base?

A final example of the difficulty of integrating a printed indulgence document with a collecting structure comes from the palmers' guild in Ludlow, Shropshire. This major association had a complex collecting system with agents who toured central and southern England to gather installments towards the total subscription. (48) The guild's surviving archives (49) give no hint that it issued confessional letters, and offer no sign that it commissioned printed indulgence-related documents. Yet a single, undated, printed confessional letter supposedly issued by the guild survives, offering appropriate spiritual privileges. (50) The document names Leo X as pope, but the above-cited case of York's St. Christopher and St. George Guild shows that the Ludlow document need not have actually dated from his pontificate. (51) How does this document fit into the picture of the guild's collecting arrangements suggested by its surviving archives? Was it distributed to aspiring members by the guild's agents on their tours? Or is it evidence of an entirely different collecting structure, a statement of additional privileges offered only to those who had fully paid their dues--even if possibly distributed by the same circulating agents? (52)

Unanswerable questions can only be left unanswered. Other issues allow concrete consideration. One concerns the expansion of print within the indulgence trade. This was a slow process: there was no immediate full switch from manuscript to print. (53) Handwritten and printed documents used in the indulgence business existed in parallel throughout the period, although print's role gradually increased. This expansion cannot be traced in detail or in total, but the factors that affected it can be discussed.

Print had obvious advantages over manuscript production for indulgence distributions. The need for extensive publicity and multiple copies of confessional letters generated an effective system of mass production even before print. In the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries it was not uncommon for several hundred copies of specific texts to be regularly produced to publicize collecting campaigns, especially for collections linked to cathedral fabric funds. (54) Handwritten confessional letters were as sophisticated as their printed successors, being likewise produced as forms with gaps being left to insert names and dates as appropriate. (55) In this regard, print marked a technological breakthrough but not a conceptual change for its products. How print broke into this market needs further examination. It seems a straightforward assumption that organizers of indulgence campaigns immediately saw the benefits and enthusiastically adopted the new process. Reality appears more complex.

Here the continuity of manuscript production alongside print is important. The well-attested dualism of manuscript literary volumes alongside printed texts was to some extent a matter of choice, especially where a manuscript was copied from a printed text. (56) For indulgence-related documents, different considerations may apply. This, after all, was material for which cost mattered, especially if there was to be no return. Overall cheapness, however, was not determined merely by comparing simple production estimates for printed and manuscript documents. Other considerations had to be factored in, including the accessibility of a printer and the costs of travel and transport when dealing with him. In terms of basic cost-effectiveness, and taking all of the costs into account, for the sponsors of an indulgence distribution who were located far from a printing center it may still have been cheaper to continue with manuscript production than to undertake the time-consuming and costly process of arranging print at a distance. This might be a consideration throughout the period, but the imperatives in individual cases are rarely apparent.

One uncertainty here--and a complicating factor--is that many of the printed texts float in a kind of limbo. They may have been issued for a particular body; but that need not mean that they were issued by it as official commissions. In very few cases can links between institutions and printers be directly established, chiefly from accounts. Like the original purchasers or readers of such documents, scholars assume--and unless there is reasonable evidence to the contrary, can only assume--that the texts were authorized products and the collections did benefit the named causes. Yet modern scholars are often no better placed to make that assumption than those original purchasers or readers of the documents; the documents' claims must be taken on trust, much as the buyer of a document printed at York in the 1520s accepted the promises supposedly made on behalf of the monastery of massive indulgences in exchange for financial support of Langley in Kent. (57) He was conned--the monastery did not exist.

Who actually commissioned and paid for the printing of these early indulgence documents? There are good grounds for arguing that in the early days of English printing, this was done not by the people running the institutions or causes intended to benefit from the sales but by lesser distributors--the regional agents. Several collections of the 1470s and 1480s are represented by both printed confessional letters and manuscript letters using the same texts, indicating insufficient administrative centralization of the collections to ensure standardization in production of the pardon documents. It would, frankly, be bizarre for any central administration to have used both production methods in tandem. What perhaps happened is that regional agents--or even the more local pardoners below them--received a master text of the confessional letter and organized reproduction as they saw fit. (58) It was the regional agents, or those in closest proximity to the London printshops, who commissioned the printed copies and either then took them out on their own rounds or supplied them to subsidiary pardoners (how that was managed is unknown).

On this model, the permeation of print through the indulgence trade would, initially, have been highly regionalized in southeastern and central-southern England (occasionally extending at least as far north as Oxford). (59) Coverage was probably inconsistent, varying from campaign to campaign. However, the possibility still existed of wider penetration or at least of awareness of the new technology, because not every purchaser of a letter would be from this limited area, and the documents would be carried elsewhere.

How long this agent-centered model persisted cannot be determined. The benefit of centralized distribution of printed letters for a national collection was certainly recognized in instructions for the distribution of a crusade indulgence in 1489. Yet the difficulties of access to a printer mean that continuation of manuscript production alongside print can be suggested for major collections even into the sixteenth century--for collections with small catchment areas, the benefits of adopting print may have been outweighed by the real costs throughout the period. If the sole evidence for documentary production linked to an indulgence distribution is a single printed document of unknown provenance, it does not follow that all other relevant confessional letters or publicity documents were printed. Nor, conversely, does it follow that collections leaving no printed evidence relied exclusively on handwritten texts.

The problem of access to a printer (which reflects the problem of the economics of printing and the scale of investment needed to establish a printshop) was persistent. Beyond Westminster and London, printed indulgence-related documents are known only from York and Cambridge. York produced them intermittently after 1510, while production at Cambridge is known only briefly in the 1520s--so briefly that comment is almost impossible. (60) The evidence from York is as patchy and elusive as the broader evidence of printing in the city, suggesting, at worst, repeated attempts to establish a printshop there or at best unappreciated continuity. (61) In most places, one determinant of the recourse to print would therefore be ease of access to London and the relative cost benefits of using a London printer against local manuscript production. Print clearly radiated out from London (initially from Westminster), and the geographical distribution of institutions which used documents printed in London for their indulgence distributions increased accordingly: Boston, Ludlow, Salisbury, Exeter, and Beverley all join the list. (62) Some nationwide collections, such as those for the Carmelite order, also used print; (63) while some private projects--for instance, collections for individuals seeking to pay off ransoms to the Turks--presumably began in London and then grew into national collections, carrying their printed documents with them for wider distribution.

Not every collection exploited print; but to seek fully to explain this failure is to argue from silence. As suggested, even as late as the late 1520s it may not have been automatically worthwhile to leap into print; cheap print was still not cheap enough once all the factors were taken into account.

If ease of access to a printer was an important consideration for the potential customer when deciding whether to use the new technology or not, then for the printer the availability of customers was no less significant. To establish a printshop was a major investment. It required considerable amounts of capital for the press, for the type, and for other costs. Technological limitations, especially the need for economy when using limited amounts of type, made production of a large volume--maybe anything bigger than a single gathering--a time-consuming process. The early English printers did produce big books, but they also needed short-term contracts to give immediate cash flow; they had to be jobbing printers to some extent. (64)

This is where printing for the indulgence trade enters into the equations, for it was exactly that kind of short-term contract printing. Numerous short campaigns, with numerous short print runs providing numerous small payments, might suffice to keep a printshop ticking over, covering basic costs as larger projects matured. (65) The cheap print of the indulgence trade could usually be produced quickly; one-sided, perhaps with multiple settings on a sheet, it needed little investment of time or labor yet provided income. Printing on parchment was technologically more demanding and took longer but was still not particularly time-consuming.

Evidence of print runs for this material is limited and often relates to documents which no longer survive, making a full sense of the scale of the work undertaken elusive. Yet indulgence-related printing could offer a series of small bread-and-butter jobs much like those of modern print shops--whatever the historic stature of the likes of Wynkyn de Worde and Richard Pynson, the early printers were also an early version of Prontaprint or Kinkos. In 1502 to 1503, for instance, the dean and chapter of St. George's Chapel, Windsor, paid Pynson ten shillings for seven hundred copies of a papal bull tied to their recent acquisition of a pardon. (66) In the 1520s, accounts of the Rounceval Guild of Charing Cross mention batches of "briefs"--publicity documents--purchased from Wynkyn de Worde at eight pence per hundred, and later indulgence letters from Richard Copeland at eighteen pence per hundred. (67) In 1533 to 1534, York's Corpus Christi Guild paid for three hundred printed letters, which were presumably linked to its own indulgences or to those of the hospital of St. Thomas, which was overseen by the guild. The payment--three shillings and eight pence--also covered purchase of an image of St. Thomas. (68) A few years earlier, York City Council had obtained a thousand printed briefs for ten shillings. (69)

This was indeed cheap print (although York's city council splashed out an additional three shillings for a woodcut of Wolsey's arms to embellish the briefs, paying for it directly rather than via the printer). (70) It was also, of course, erratic print, and if it consisted wholly of one-off commissions it would be unreliable as a source of income for the printer. What was really needed was a consistent run of such tasks--a series of repetitive contracts. Richard Pynson's career shows that such contracts were available, examples being his printing for Santo Spirito Hospital in Rome between 1515 and 1520 and for the Boston Guild of Our Lady from the 1510s until his death in 1530. (71)

Only the latter case provides evidence beyond the surviving documents, in the accounts of Boston's guild of Our Lady, which record print runs and costs for a few years in the early 1520s. (72) Pynson printed annually for the guild: confessional letters, publicity documents (sometimes seemingly in two different classes, as great and small briefs), and "jubilees" (what those were is unclear as no known copy survives, but the price suggests they were relatively small documents). The letters were priced at fifty-three shillings and fourpence per thousand, the briefs at thirty shillings per thousand, and the jubilees at just five shillings per thousand. As Pynson is not always named as the printer, some of these products may have been printed by someone else; but what impresses is the total scale of the activity. If Pynson did print everything, then in 1524 to 1525 he would have produced seven thousand each of parchment letters and great briefs, and five thousand jubilees, receiving just over twenty-six pounds sterling. (73)

Annual figures obviously fluctuated, but in the mid-1520s the guild officials seemingly assumed an annual demand for around four thousand letters; the demand for the other documents is not clear. Pynson's profit on the contracts is incalculable--some of the price differentials must reflect varying input costs, such as the price of parchment for producing the letters (and possibly greater wastage) against the paper for the briefs and jubilees. (74) Nevertheless, even if profit was minimal, what mattered was that the business's basic running costs were met, providing leeway not just for investment in larger projects being slowly brought to fruition but also to keep things going during slack periods.

Jobbing printing may have been particularly vital in the early days of a printshop, giving the initial cash flow to ensure its continuity. That London absorbed so much of this work between 1476 and 1536 may itself be significant for the geography of English printing: without sustained regional demand for material like that needed for indulgence collections, there would not be the revenue to sustain an incipient printshop, and it would go under. Much is made of how Caxton and his successors played to the market, particularly the market in liturgical and devotional works; they had to, if they were to survive. But liturgical works were themselves big investments. They guaranteed returns, but only after they had been printed, and that took time. Cheap print such as indulgence-related documents also guaranteed returns--smaller but enough to provide the lifeblood. However, only sustained continuity in the contracts would ensure that the printshop kept going: interrupted flow would make the difference between profit and loss, between continuity and collapse.

The third issue to be considered here, control and validation, redirects attention to the customers, and perhaps to their own overseers. Print--cheap or not--had real benefits. One, in the context of indulgence distribution, was that print allowed greater control and centralization as the agent-centered model of commissioning documents gave way to one where the collection's lead organizers took over. This is evident early on in regulations for a crusade collection in 1489 which used printed confessional letters. (75) The instructions describe the printed forms; (76) they also insist that local agents obtain the forms from the central administrator as needed. Here there is control over the text, over the activities of the local collectors, and potentially over numbers, and therewith a mechanism to check receipts.

How things actually worked out is unknown--only the instructions and a few confessional letters survive--but centralization and control extended to other collections over the next decades. Again, details are elusive, but that the Rounceval Guild of Charing Cross commissioned documents from a printer and seemingly organised their nationwide distribution suggests control and centralization. (77) In the 1520s, the Boston guild's regular annual commissioning of material from Richard Pynson suggests something similar--with additional control in the fact that the confessional letters often bore the precise year of printing, imposing a clear sell-by date.

Where there were no pardons, just publicity leaflets, control and centralization might still be imposed. At York in 1527 to 1528, the city council organized the publicity for an indulgence campaign to fund repair of the city bridges and supervised production of the briefs. These were duly passed on--actually, sold on at cost price--to the agents who toured the country. Controlling the publicity allowed the city council to ensure that the agents all delivered the same message. (78) In theory, with the printed publicity being widely displayed, there would be less opportunity for the misrepresentations that critics (including church hierarchs) had often complained about as characteristic of a pardoner's spiel. (79) Whether that really worked cannot be tested.

A different but related issue generated by the mass production of print centered on the reliability of the texts, but this need not have been a bigger problem than with manuscript production. As with the handwritten material, mass production in print did not mean flawless production; the scribal errors of manuscripts became the typographical errors of the press, although the character of the errors may have changed during the transition. Whereas the manuscript scribes can be presumed--justifiably or not--to have possessed some degree of latinity, and their errors were often visual as eyes slipped or abbreviations were misread, the compositors of printed texts may have been illiterate in Latin and based their work on a copy text, usually handwritten. (Such a text was perhaps being provided when York City Council paid eight pence for a handwritten copy of a brief for its bridge collection in 1527). (80) Poor latinity is not uncommon in the confessional letters (the English publicity documents are noticeably "cleaner"), as letters are misread, words run together, and abbreviations ignored. Some errors may be due to the basic technological difficulties of manipulating text--errors of composition rather than of comprehension--but the two together doubled the failings. The erroneous and erratic texts continued to circulate; proofreading did not detect the mistakes. Indeed, that there was proofreading may be doubted, especially when documents were reissued. In these cases, earlier issues probably supplied the base text, subject to any obviously needed amendment. Unthinking and ignorant reproduction could introduce anachronisms and new mistakes.

The case of York's Guild of St. Christopher and St. George at York can again be cited here, but now in more detail. The guild acquired further spiritual privileges from Pope Leo X in the final years of his reign and presumably printed confessional letters immediately afterwards. (81) What can be presumed to be similar letters were still being printed in 1529. Evidently, however, no one had thought to check on the need for revisions to the base text: Leo X was still being described as "now pope" almost ten years after his death. (82) Failure to correct the error may explain why the guild's collection in Exeter diocese was suspended by the diocesan vicar-general two years later, the collectors' letters being decried as false and deceitful. (83) Inspection of the documents at that point may at last have exposed the anachronism--but that it had evaded detection for so long (if it indeed had) is also noteworthy.

That disciplinary action in Exeter diocese is of a piece with similar oversight of indulgence distributions in the manuscript age. (84) Where the shift to print did see a significant change in authorizing processes was in the introduction of a kind of censorship. Several early-sixteenth-century confessional letters identify not only the printer but one or more church officials who had inspected the pardon and effectively thereby attested that the printed text did not misrepresent the spiritual privileges. This suggests real anxiety to oversee the indulgence trade and to assure buyers of the veracity and validity of the privileges. It is matched by signs of similar concern on some publicity schedules, but there the emphasis is on validating the texts as epitomes of papal bulls, so the authorities' role is slightly different. (85) When this practice began is uncertain--for publicity schedules it may have started during the manuscript period in authorization of pardoner's "scripts." (86)

The notations on the printed documents complement contemporary signs of developing concern to check printed books, (87) and are matched by other evidence of anxiety about the control and validation of indulgence-related activity. Particularly striking is the document issued to a group for whom John Mortymer secured indulgences and privileges at Rome in 1506. This is a printed form, in which names were to be inserted by hand. Given its limited application, only a few copies were needed. The extant example bears a manuscript notarial attestation declaring its conformity with the original grant. (88) A decade later, a printed publicity leaflet declaring the benefits offered by two merchants for contributions towards their ransom was clearly a private enterprise. To warrant its authenticity it reproduces (in Latin) the grant of the collecting license issued by Archbishop Warham of Canterbury. (89) Such certifications indicate awareness of the weaknesses inherent in print, but these were dangers that the authorities had long appreciated. They fit into a much older pattern of concern about control and validation of pardons and (especially) pardoners and of recognition of the threat to souls (and, indeed, to the Church's own authority) posed by unauthorized charlatans who exploited the system.

In his play of The Pardoner and the Friar, the sixteenth-century playwright John Heywood has a pardoner proclaim his wares in a parish church. (90) Although exaggerated and satirical, his declamation is probably a fairly reliable depiction of what actually happened. While the pardoner is not obviously using a printed publicity schedule (but he may be, for all we know), he is plying a trade. He urges his audience to come up to buy "letters" and "images"; (91) these could easily be printed confessional letters and woodblock prints. He is, perhaps, a kind of chapman or peddler and may be selling other printed goods as well, the other (relatively) cheap print of the chapman's trade, extending even up to full books of hours. (92)

This potential combining of indulgence-related material and other printed products merely reinforces the argument that cheaply printed documents produced for the English indulgence trade between 1476 and 1536 cannot be divorced from other contemporary printing, religious and secular. However, they do form a distinct category, which poses its own questions about the impact and integration of print into English culture at the time. It could be argued that indulgence-related material, at least in the fifteenth century, provided many people in England with their first contact with the products of the new technology as documents which they could acquire for themselves or which would be available for public display and use. That so little material survives, and that that little can rarely be fully contextualized, is a real challenge to scholars seeking to place and assess this material in context. There are major issues about production, distribution, and reception; about the choices made when deciding whether to adopt the new technology or maintain a manuscript tradition. Linguistic distinctions, the development of flyposting, and the mobility of the documents, all feed into discussions of the development and nature of literacy and of how far and how quickly print penetrated England's culture. The guillotine which came down on the printing of indulgence-related documents in 1536 did not end the use of cheap print in religious contexts, but it did end a specific strand in the history of print in England.

University of Birmingham


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Brewer, J. S., J. Gairdner, and R H. Brodie, eds. Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic, of the Reign of Henry VIII, 23 vols. in 38. London: Her/ His Majesty's Stationery Office, 1862-1932.

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Colchester, J. C., ed., Wells Cathedral Fabric Accounts, 1390-1600. Wells, UK: Friends of Wells Cathedral 1983.

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Eisermann, F. "Mixing Pop and Politics: Origins, Transmission and Readers of Illustrated Broadsides in Fifteenth-Century Germany." In Incunabula and Their Readers: Printing, Selling, and Using Books in the Fifteenth Century, edited by K. Jensen. London: British Library, 2003.

Erskine, A. M., ed. The Accounts of the Fabric of Exeter Cathedral, 1279-1353, 2 vols., Devon and Cornwall Record Society, n.s. 24, 26 (1981-1983).

Frere, W. H. and W. M. Kennedy, eds. Visitation Articles and Injunctions of the Period of the Reformation, 3 vols., Alcuin Club Collections, 14-16. London, New York, Bombay and Calcutta, 1910.

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Gee, S. "The Coming of Print to York, c. 1490-1550." In The Mighty Engine: The Printing Press and Its Impact, edited by P. Isaac and B. McKay. Winchester, UK: St. Paul's Bibliographies, and New Castle, DE: Oak Knoll Press, 2000.

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Hughes, P. L., and J. F. Larkin, eds., Tudor Royal Proclamations, 3 vols. New Haven, CT, and London: Yale University Press, 1964-1969.

McKitterick, D. Print, Manuscript and the Search for Order, 1450-1830. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2003.

Needham, P. The Printer and the Pardoner: An Unrecorded Indulgence Printed by William Caxton for the Hospital of St. Mary Rounceval, Charing Cross. Washington, DC: Library of Congress, 1986.

Needham, P. "The Customs Rolls as Documents for the Printed-Book Trade in England." In The Cambridge History of the Book in Britain, vol. III, 1400-1557, edited by L. Hellinga and J. B. Trapp. Cambridge, UK: 1999.

Oliver, G. Lives of the Bishops of Exeter and a History of the Cathedral; with an Illustrative Appendix. Exeter, UK: William Roberts, 1861.

Orme, N., and M. Webster, The English Hospital, 1070-1570. New Haven, CT, and London: Yale University Press, 1995.

Pollard, A. W., and G. R. Redgrave, A Short-Title Catalogue of Books Printed in England, Scotland, and Ireland, and of English Books Printed Abroad, 1475-1640, 3 vols., 2nd ed., rev. W. A. Jackson, F. S. Ferguson, and K. F. Pantzer. London: Bibliographical Society, 1976-1991.

Sayle, C. "Cambridge Fragments." The Library, 3rd ser. 2 (1911): 336-339.

Skemer, D. C. Binding Words: Textual Amulets in the Middle Ages. University Park, PA: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2006.

Slavin, A. J. "The Tudor Revolution and the Devil's Art: Bishop Bonner's Printed Forms." In Tudor Rule and Revolution: Essays for G. R. Elton from His American Friends, edited by D. J. Guth and J. W. McKenna. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1982.

Stallybrass, P. "'Little Jobs': Broadsides and the Printing Revolution." In Agent of Change: Print Culture Studies after Elizabeth L. Eisenstein, edited by S. A. Baron, E. N. Lindquist, and E. F. Shevlin. Amherst, MA: University of Massachusetts Press, 2007.

Strype, John. Ecclesiastical Memorials Relating Chiefly to Religion and the Reformation of It, and the Emergencies of the Church of England under King Henry VIII., King Edward VI., and Queen Mary I, 3 vols. in 6. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1822.

Swanson, R. N. "Contributions from Parishes in the Archdeaconry of Norfolk to the Shrine of St. Thomas Cantilupe at Hereford, ca. 1320." Mediaeval Studies 62 (2000): 190-218.

Swanson, R. N. "Letters of Confraternity and Indulgence in Late-Medieval England." Archives 25 (2000): 40-57.

Swanson, R. N. "Fund Raising for a Medieval Monastery: Indulgences and Great Bricett Priory." Proceedings of the Suffolk Institute of Archaeology and History 40 (2001-2004): 1-7.

Swanson, R. N. "A Small Library for Pastoral Care and Spiritual Direction in Late Medieval England." Journal of the Early Book Society 5 (2002): 99-120.

Swanson, R. N. "Caxton's Indulgence for Rhodes, 1480-81." The Library, 7th ser. 5 (2004): 195-201.

Swanson, R. N. "A Rounceval Pardon of 1482." Archives 30 no. 113 (Oct. 2005): 51-54.

Swanson, R. N. "Prayer and Participation in Late Medieval England." Studies in Church History 42 (2006): 130-139.

Swanson, R. N. Indulgences in Late Medieval England: Passports to Paradise? Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2007.

Thomas, H. "An Indulgence Printed by Pynson, 1491." British Museum Quarterly 9 (1934): 32-33.

Treptow, O. John Siberich: Johann Lair von Siegberg, edited by J. Morris and T. Jones. Cambridge Bibliographical Society Monographs, 6. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Bibliographical Society, 1970.


(1.) The first version of this article was completed in 2005 to 2006, while holding a British Academy/Leverhulme Trust Senior Research Fellowship, and with much of the work being done during my tenure of the Agnes Gund and Daniel Shapiro Membership at the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton. I am grateful to the School of Historical Studies at Birmingham University for additional funding for the time spent at Princeton. The article was originally intended as a contribution to a volume of essays which will not now appear, and has been amended for publication here. Much of the final revision was completed while I held the John E. Sawyer Fellowship at the National Humanities Center in North Carolina in 2010. The article draws on and complements research for my book, R N. Swanson, Indulgences in Late Medieval England: Passports to Paradise? (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2007); unreferenced generalizations receive fuller substantiation in that volume.

(2.) P. Stallybrass, "'Little Jobs': Broadsides and the Printing Revolution," in S. A. Baron, E. N. Lindquist, and E. F. Shevlin, eds., Agent of Change: Print Culture Studies after Elizabeth L. Eisenstein (Amherst, MA: University of Massachusetts Press, 2007), 315-341; see esp. comments at 315, 323, 340.

(3.) A summary listing is in A. W. Pollard and G. R. Redgrave, A Short-Title Catalogue of Books Printed in England, Scotland, and Ireland, and of English Books Printed Abroad, 1475-1640, 3 vols., 2nd ed., rev. W. A. Jackson, F. S. Ferguson, and K. F. Pantzer (London: Bibliographical Society, 1976-1991), 2:2-9; 3:279. (Hereafter "STC"; unless otherwise necessary, only STC numbers are cited in notes).

(4.) STC 14077c. 106. P. Needham, The Printer and the Pardoner: An Unrecorded Indulgence Printed by William Caxton for the Hospital of St. Mary Rounceval, Charing Cross (Washington, DC: Library of Congress, 1986), 32, 84.

(5.) The death knell is generally held to have sounded in a proclamation issued in December 1535/January1536: see P. L. Hughes and J. F. Larkin, eds., Tudor Royal Proclamations, 3 vols. (New Haven, CT, and London: Yale University Press, 1964-1969), 1:236-237. See also Swanson, Indulgences, 491 n. 96.

(6.) Indulgences have received attention as individual documents and occasionally as a genre, but their overall historical contribution to the early history of English printing has not been considered in detail. Several relevant documents are reproduced in K W. Cameron, The Pardoner and His Pardons: Indulgences Circulating in England on the Eve of the Reformation, with a Historical Introduction (Hartford, CT: Transcendental Books, [1965]). Texts of most known indulgences printed before 1500 are in E. G. Duff and Lotte Hellinga, Printing in England in the Fifteenth Century: E. Gordon Duffs Bibliography with Supplementary Descriptions, Chronologies and a Census of Copies by Lotte Hellinga (London: British Library with the Bibliographical Society, 2009), nos. 204-220, suppls. 13-23.

(7.) It is, for instance, unclear where STC 14077c. 23A should fit; it may be the kind of "image" alluded to by the pardoner in John Heywood's play The Pardoner and the Friar; see R Axton and P. Happe, eds., The Plays of John Heywood (Cambridge, UK: D.S. Brewer, 1991), 100.

(8.) R N. Swanson, "Letters of Confraternity and Indulgence in Late-Medieval England," Archives, 25 (2000): 40-57.

(9.) As is bluntly recognised in a Mercedarian document of 1532: STC 14077c. 123.

(10.) STC 14077c. 51, of 1491, for the Crutched Friars of London (see photograph in H. Thomas, "An Indulgence Printed by Pynson, 1491," British Museum Quarterly, 9 [1934]: pl. X) and the Mercedarian letter mentioned in note 9 are both in English.

(11.) For printing on parchment, see L. Hellinga, "Printing," in L. Hellinga and J. B. Trapp, eds., The Cambridge History of the Book in Britain, vol. III, 1400-1557 (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1999), 93-94.

(12.) STC 14077c. 90-97.

(13.) Swanson, Indulgences, 118.

(14.) E.g., STC 14077c. 98. For fliers, see the documents referred to in notes 41 and 45 below.

(15.) STC 14077c. 43.

(16.) STC 14077c. 6-16, 23. It might be objected that as woodcuts these do not properly count as "cheap print." That can be debated. Cf. comments on the similar issue in Germany in F. Eisermann, "Mixing Pop and Politics: Origins, Transmission and Readers of Illustrated Broadsides in Fifteenth-Century Germany," in K. Jensen, ed., Incunabula and Their Readers: Printing, Selling, and Using Books in the Fifteenth Century (London: British Library, 2003), 163.

(17.) See e.g., Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS Rawl.D.403, fols. 1v, 2v (fol. 3v is also a devotional print but without an indulgence).

(18.) STC 14077c. 64.

(19.) For Continental printing of this kind (including reference to the Newton sheet), see D. C. Skemer, Binding Words: Textual Amulets in the Middle Ages (University Park, PA: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2006), 222-232.

(20.) Reproduced in E. Duffy, Marking the Hours: English People and Their Prayers, 1240-1570 (New Haven, CT, and London: Yale University Press, 2006), 134.

(21.) STC 14077c. 146. See also R. N. Swanson, "Prayer and Participation in Late Medieval England," Studies in Church History, 42 (2006): 130-131, 139.

(22.) See, e.g., STC 14077c. 1-5.

(23.) See, e.g., A Gloryous Medytacyon of Jhesus Crystes Passyon (London: Richard Fakes, ?1523), STC 14550; STC 14077c. 148.

(24.) See pp. 92-93.

(25.) Swanson, "Letters," 47-48.

(26.) See, e.g., fragments now in the library of Christ's College, Cambridge. The only reference to them in C. Sayle, "Cambridge Fragments," The Library, 3rd ser., 2 (1911): 349-350, mentions a single piece, but in fact there are several.

(27.) STC 14077c.68A, which was destroyed in a fire at Packington Hall in 1978.

(28.) G. Oliver, Lives of the Bishops of Exeter and a History of the Cathedral; with an Illustrative Appendix (Exeter, UK: William Roberts, 1861), 249.

(29.) Needham, Printer and the Pardoner, 81-82; R N. Swanson, "Caxton's Indulgence for Rhodes, 1480-81," The Library, 7th ser., 5 (2004): 195.

(30.) Swanson, "Caxton's Indulgence," 195-197 (a complete copy of STC 14077c. 107c); London, BL MS Add. 4719/2 (not in STC).

(31.) BL MS Add 4719/2.

(32.) Some of the pardons for the guild of Our Lady at Boston were printed with the equivalent of "15_" or "152_" as the date, allowing the final figures to be added (or not) on purchase.

(33.) This is especially notable with indulgences which appeared in different issues over several years, such as those for the Boston guild of Our Lady and for Santo Spirito. Other pardons appeared in limited issues, presumably with shorter sale periods. Printed indulgences with gaps for a precise date of sale to be inserted should perhaps be distinguished from those that bear a full date (see, e.g., Duff and Hellinga, Printing in England, nos. 214-220, suppl. 20-22), which follow the manuscript practice of copies being sent out for sale already fully dated.

(34.) W. H. Frere and W. M. Kennedy, eds., Visitation Articles and Injunctions of the Period of the Reformation, 3 vols., Alcuin Club Collections, 14-16 (London, New York, Bombay and Calcutta, 1910), 2:304. In the mid-1540s, a Calais chaplain reported that he still possessed a stash of confessional letters for Rome's Santo Spirito Hospital--was he holding onto them in the hope that he might still have an opportunity to sell them? See J. S. Brewer, J. Gairdner, and R H. Brodie, eds., Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic, of the Reign of Henry VIII, 23 vols. in 38 (London: Her/His Majesty's Stationery Office, 1862-1932), 15: no. 37.

(35.) John Strype, Ecclesiastical Memorials Relating Chiefly to Religion and the Reformation of It, and the Emergencies of the Church of England under King Henry VIII., King Edward VI., and Queen Mary I, 3 vols. in 6 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1822), 2/i:283. Obviously, such documents would rot if buried, but if entombed with their owners aboveground, they might last longer; for a handwritten pardon so recovered, see C. A. J. Armstrong, England, France, and Burgundy in the Fifteenth Century (London: Hambledon Press, 1983), 156.

(36.) Swanson, "Caxton's Indulgence," 198-199; R N. Swanson, "A Rounceval Pardon of 1482," Archives, 30. no. 113 (Oct. 2005):51-54.

(37.) For a vernacular publicity document of 1404 for Holy Cross Hospital, Colchester, see BL Stowe ch.603.

(38.) A role most obvious in BL Sloane charter xxxii. 15, 27 (both for the Hospitallers); see also BL MS Harley 211, fol. 101v (for St. Mary in the Sea at Newton in Cambridgeshire).

(39.) Needham, Printer and the Pardoner, 44-45; BL MS Egerton 2886, fols. 144r, 172r.

(40.) R N. Swanson, "Fund Raising for a Medieval Monastery: Indulgences and Great Bricett Priory," Proceedings of the Suffolk Institute of Archaeology and History, 40 (2001-2004):1-2.

(41.) STC 14077c. 59G.

(42.) Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS Lat.Misc.c.66, fol. 17v.

(43.) See, e.g., entries of dual occupation in F. Collins, ed., Register of the Freemen of the City of York from the City Records, vol. 1:1272-1558, Surtees Society, 96 (1897), 194, 229 (Ed. Sotheby, questor alias chapman; William Smyth, haberdasher and questor). See also Swanson, Indulgences, 210-211, 220, 433-435. On peddlers, see J. Davis, "'Men as March with Fote Packes': Pedlars and Freedom of Movement in Late Medieval England," in P. Horden, ed., Freedom of Movement in the Middle Ages, Harlaxton Medieval Studies, 15 (Donington, UK: Shaun Tyas, 2007), 137-156.

(44.) There is, of course, no way of telling when or by whom the leaflet and almanac were united.

(45.) STC 14077c. 41, reproduced in N. Orme and M. Webster, The English Hospital, 1070-1570 (New Haven, CT, and London: Yale University Press, 1995), 124.

(46.) Ibid., 247-248.

(47.) York Minster Archives, H3/1, fol. 122r.

(48.) The collecting methods are outlined in A. T. Gaydon, ed., Victoria County History: Shropshire, vol. 2 (London: Published for the Institute of Historical Research by Oxford University Press, 1973), 137-138.

(49.) Shrewsbury, Shropshire Archives, LB5/.

(50.) STC 14077c. 61.

(51.) See p. 88.

(52.) The problem is to some extent similar to that of Beverley Minster. Limited evidence survives for the minster's indulgence distributions from c. 1300 to the 1530s, but the only mention of confessional letters occurs in a printed sixteenth-century publicity schedule: STC 14077c. 26.

(53.) Cf. general comments on the transition from manuscript to print in D. McKitterick, Print, Manuscript and the Search for Order, 1450-1830 (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2003), 9-10, 47-48. The latest handwritten confessional letter I have seen is from 1526, for the hospital of Burton Lazars (Exeter, Devon Record Office, 312M/TY.195), but others may have been produced into the 1530s.

(54.) A. M. Erskine, ed., The Accounts of the Fabric of Exeter Cathedral, 1279-1353, Devon and Cornwall Record Society, n.s. 24, 26 (1981-1983), 2:218, 274, 282-283, 285, 288, 290; J. C. Colchester, ed., Wells Cathedral Fabric Accounts, 1390-1600 (Wells, UK: Friends of Wells Cathedral, 1983), 12, 18, 24, 31, 38; R. N. Swanson, "Contributions from Parishes in the Archdeaconry of Norfolk to the Shrine of St. Thomas Cantilupe at Hereford, ca. 1320," Mediaeval Studies, 62 (2000): 191.

(55.) Swanson, "Letters," 43. Other "bureaucratic" texts were also produced as forms; see A. J. Slavin, "The Tudor Revolution and the Devil's Art: Bishop Bonner's Printed Forms," in Tudor Rule and Revolution: Essays for G. R Elton from His American Friends, ed. D. J. Guth and J. W. McKenna (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1982), 7-8.

(56.) N. F. Blake, "Manuscript to Print," in Blake, William Caxton and English Literary Culture (London and Rio Grande, OH: Hambledon Press, 1991), 285-289. In the absence of readily available multiple printed copies, hand-copying continued to be used: McKitterick, Print, 47-48; R. N. Swanson, "A Small Library for Pastoral Care and Spiritual Direction in Late Medieval England," Journal of the Early Book Society, 5 (2002): 196-197.

(57.) STC 14077c. 48, illustrated in Swanson, Indulgences, 460.

(58.) As no early publicity schedules survive which demonstrate overlap between production in print and manuscript, it is impossible to say whether a similar pattern applied to their production.

(59.) Swanson, "Caxton's Indulgence," 196-199.

(60.) STC 14077c. 151-152. On these Cambridge documents, see O. Treptow, John Siberich: Johann Lair von Siegberg, ed. J. Morris and T. Jones, Cambridge Bibliographical Society Monographs 6 (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Bibliographical Society, 1970), 30, 58-59.

(61.) S. Gee, "The Coming of Print to York, c. 1490-1550," in P. Isaac and B. McKay, eds., The Mighty Engine: The Printing Press and Its Impact (Winchester, UK: St. Paul's Bibliographies, and New Castle, DE: Oak Knoll Press, 2000), 80-81, 83-84. In addition to the material cited, there is the purchase of three hundred printed briefs for the indulgences associated with the hospital of St. Thomas, Micklegate, noted in York City Archives, C102:3, in 1533 to 1534, presumably from a York printer.

(62.) STC 14077c. 26-35, 41, 61, 69. That Beverley turned to Pynson in London rather than to a York printer is suggestive. As noted, that documents survive is not proof that they were formally issued by those bodies they purport to represent. A unique surviving confessional letter is in each case the only indication that the Ludlow palmers' guild and the hospital of St. Thomas at Salisbury used printed documents (STC 14077c. 61, 69); their commissioning and purchase are not visible in the surviving accounts, but there is no reason to challenge their authenticity.

(63.) STC 14077c. 24.

(64.) Cf. D. R. Carlson, "A Theory of the Early English Printing Firm: Jobbing, Book Publishing, and the Problem of Productive Capacity in Caxton's Work," in W. Kuskin, ed., Caxton's Trace: Studies in the History of English Printing (Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 2006), 45-48, 52. (I would temper his comments about printed indulgences at 47.) The issue of jobbing printing, the necessity for printers to undertake small jobs, and the profitability of these jobs is discussed with greater chronological breadth in Stallybrass, "Little Jobs," 315-341, although he would challenge the use of the label of "jobbing printer" for Caxton, seeing him rather as a printer "who tried to balance the rapid cash flow that came from job printing against the speculations they made when printing books" (ibid., 335).

(65.) While this article focuses on indulgence-related printing, other similar products, including ballads and maybe royal proclamations, also provided small-scale contracts and thereby fit into the picture (as Stallybrass indeed asserts, with specific reference to Pynson: "Little Jobs," 324-345--material cited elsewhere in the present article extends his list of Pynson's post-1523 minor printing, notably for the Boston guild).

(66.) Windsor, St. George's Chapel archives, XV.59.1, m.10d.

(67.) Needham, Printer and the Pardoner, 44-45.

(68.) York City Archives, C102:3.

(69.) Ibid., CB3, 188.

(70.) Ibid., 189.

(71.) STC 14077c. 27-35, 91-99 (this list can now be expanded). See also comments on Pynson's prioritizing of minor contracts in Stallybrass, "Little Jobs," 324.

(72.) BL MS Egerton 2886, fols. 209r, 228r, 241v, 260v-261r, 264v, 299v, 303r (Pynson is not always identified as the printer). See also Brewer, Gairdner, and Brodie, Letters and Papers, 3/ii: no. 3015.

(73.) BL MS Egerton 2886, fols. 299v, 303r. From the pricing, I assume that the three thousand "small briefs" produced for fifteen shillings are the same as "jubilees." The documents detailed at fol. 303r were significantly cheaper than the other batch.

(74.) With a unit cost of just under a halfpenny, the parchment letters may push at the limit of the category of single-sided "cheap print" because their printing costs were higher than those of contemporary ballads. To exclude them would, however, be an arbitrary choice.

(75.) Oxford, Bodleian Library MS Bodley 123, fols. 149r-v.

(76.) For the letters, see STC 14077c. 114-115.

(77.) Information about this is scattered through the guild accounts, now among the Westminster Abbey Muniments.

(78.) York City Archives, CB3, 188, 241.

(79.) Swanson, Indulgences, 191-193, 454.

(80.) Ibid., 188.

(81.) These may be represented by the fragments of STC 14077c. 84 (their issuer is wrongly identified), which in their overlaps are textually identical to the document cited in note 82 below. STC suggests a date of ?1520, but the printed date could be either 1520 precisely or 152_.

(82.) BL MS Add. 4719/2 (not in STC).

(83.) Exeter, Devon Record Office, Chanter 15, fols. 61r-v; see also Swanson, Indulgences, 457.

(84.) Swanson, Indulgences, 174-175.

(85.) The sense of inspection is most evident in the Santo Spirito documents and some of the confessional letters for the Boston guild. A small fragment bound into Cambridge University Library F152.b.6.3 is a similar attestation, now visible only under ultraviolet light. (Listed in STC at 14077c. 84, but I am not convinced that the two fragments are actually separated parts of the same document. There is no textual overlap to validate a link.) The Boston guild publicity leaflet, STC 14077c. 35, also has signs of such examination.

(86.) BL Sloane ch.xxxii.27.

(87.) J. B. Gleason, "The Earliest Evidence for Ecclesiastical Censorship of Printed Books in England," The Library, 6th ser., 4 (1982): 137-138, 140-141.

(88.) London, National Archives, SC7/64/6 (not identified in STC). The inserted name is no longer legible or recoverable.

(89.) STC 14077c. 124.

(90.) Axton and Happe, Plays of John Heywood, 96-107.

(91.) Ibid., 100.

(92.) See P. Needham, "The Customs Rolls as Documents for the Printed-Book Trade in England," in Hellinga and Trapp, The Cambridge History of the Book in Britain, vol. III, 1400-1557, 159.
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