Category Archives: Print Culture

Censorship as language

Sorry for the delay.  I recently finished a little foray into a series of censorship events (let’s just go with that for a term) in 1645-6.  I will try to sum up.

To set the scene, parliament, the Scots, and the king are trying to come to some kind of peace.  Unfortunately, everybody wants something different, and all are keen to justify their behavior and demands to the larger public.  In a series of pamphlets, the Scots Commissioners tried to make their case.  For the most part, these pamphlets were made up of the Scots Commissioners’ own papers.  Parliament responded by making gestures through censorship. When it finally succeeded in censoring an entire Scot pamphlet, it appeased the Commissioners by making another gesture.

Parliament had a difficult time trying to silence the Commissioners.  On one occasion, it made an inquiry into an offending pamphlet clearly published with the Commissioners’ consent, only to let the matter drop.  Without punishing anyone, parliament was trying to make its displeasure clear.

On another occasion, parliament ordered the preface and introduction to a Scot pamphlet burnt, condemning David Buchanan, a friend of the Commissioners and author of the preface as well as another condemned pamphlet.  Buchanan was relatively safe to attack, but the Scots managed to smuggle him out of England in time anyway.  The pamphlet also contained 3 of the Scots’ papers, which were left unscathed by the flames.  Parliament managed to avoid an open conflict with the Scots by not burning their papers, but successfully conveyed its displeasure with the pamphlet.  As well, parliament seems to have intentionally avoided carrying out a further inquiry into the authorship of the introduction after it discovered that it was likely authored by either the Commissioners’ secretary or the earl of Lauderdale.  Parliament thus sidestepped another complication by avoiding knowingly condemning a work by the Commissioners themselves.  This was certainly a more threatening gesture, but fell far short of censoring the Scots.

In one final move, parliament managed to block the publication of some of the earl of Loudoun’s speeches in a conference with parliament.  The Scots were offended and made a few attempts to retrieve the seized pamphlets.  Parliament could not return the pamphlets, but not wishing to force a breach with the Scots, appear to have tried to mollify them with a further act of censorship.  This time, it brought in Henry Walker for publishing a pamphlet that had particularly offended the Scots.  Walker claimed that he had received Mabbott’s permission for publication, and parliament ordered him to bring in proof.  As far as I can tell, that is where the matter ended.  Unable to satisfy the Scots’ demand for the return of their papers, parliament made another gesture, this time toward censoring an offender against the Scots, again without punishing anyone.

There is certainly a language to all of this.  I find it useful to remember that censorship was a tool in the early modern government’s toolbox which could be used for many purposes.  Here, it was a soft sort of diplomacy.  It also carried some important ramifications for some of the publishers, printers, and authors involved, their allegiances, and Mabbott, but I think that is a story for another time.

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Filed under censorship, Henry Walker, Long Parliament, Mabbott, Print Culture, Samuel Pecke

Random updates

The blog Early Modern History noted that Tanner-Ritchie now has, among others, the early HMC reports for purchase online.  While google books has some of the HMC reports up, it certainly does not have all, and I am seriously considering purchases reports six and seven.

Doing a little digging, I have found out that all the archival material of the Stationers’ Company up to the twentieth century has been microfilmed.  I am curious to see what the Court records have to offer.  The Huntington has copies, so I will have to go check it out.  Only about a dozen libraries in the US have full sets.  I may instead look up a guide and order some reels through ILL, because getting to the Huntington is a bit of a hassle.

The other day I told a friend I couldn’t do anything because I was busy reading about early modern papermaking.  Ever wonder what the hell it is that we do?

 I was at the Huntington for the Charles I conference last weekend.  It was really good.  I don’t have the time to go into it right now, but there were a lot of really interesting papers, such that it is difficult to single out any.  Of course, because of my own proclivities, Jason Peacey’s and Jason McElligot’s were most interesting, but all the papers were well considered and insightful.

I’m working on planning my trip back to the UK and Ireland in two weeks.  Most of the arrangements have already been made, but I’m trying to plan out my archive time as carefully as possible.  I’ve discovered, much to my chagrin (and Irish, as well), that the reason I have been able to find so little on Mabbott in Ireland is because of the fire that burned down the Irish Public Record Office in 1922.  Still, I’m making due, and I’m planning on swinging by the Dublin City Archives and the archive of the Representative Church Body which still has some of the old parish registers.  I’m hoping they will still have the one from the parish where Mabbott lived, but we’ll see.

I’m worried I might have to take a trip up to Edinburgh which I hadn’t planned for, though.  In the 1650s, Mabbott served as the agent for the town of Leith.  I’ve emailed the Edinburgh archives to see if there is anything I need to look at; hopefully I will hear back soon.  Clarke was stationed in Leith in the 1650s, which I assume is directly related to Mabbott’s service, but I would need to find some proof.  There is also the National Library of Scotland to consider.  I’m going down to the Huntington soon to check their manuscript catalogues.  If I need to, I’ll go, but I imagine Edinburgh is quite cold this time of year, and I live in Santa Barbara.

I have been finding some interesting tidbits on Mabbott’s later years, but nothing I’m ready to report on just yet.  It looks like he may have lived much longer than anyone has hitherto guessed and had some rather elite acquaintances.

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Filed under Mabbott, Print Culture, Uncategorized, William Clarke

Cyndia Clegg

I recently finished reading Cyndia Clegg’s Press Censorship in Jacobean England (2001). It took me a while, not because of the length (it’s only about 230 pages), but because of a needed holiday break. I hope everybody’s went well. I have been busy killing locust people and playing Rock Band 2. I highly recommend both.

I would also recommend the book. Although there are some oddities with how she deals with the historiography for the period (for instance, while both excellent historians to consult, she seems to rely far too heavily on Kenneth Fincham and Peter Lake), the books’ strengths are in how Clegg deals with meanings at recognizing the lack of any kind of monolithic censorship. She strongly makes the point that “in Jacobean England efforts to control the press and to suppress its products mark the points of difference—the ruptures—in the Church, state, and society” (15). It was the battleground for factional struggles as well as a place where different authorities overlapped.

She draws a moderate course between Christopher Hill and Sheila Lambert as to the strength and purpose of censorship. While she does not find it the powerful, oppressive, state-driven force of Hill, neither is it the weak, economically-driven instrument of Lambert. It was not capable of squashing all that the crown desired, nor did the crown try to suppress everything it had reason to, but James did try to expand the state’s control of the press (for instance, by hiring Francis Cottington as licenser).

Clegg’s real strength is her dissection of the meanings of different kinds of censorship. James would sometimes engage in public book burnings, but also in unannounced, “private” ones. Rarely did he think he could remove all copies of something from circulation, though when he tried, he always failed. Rather, the purpose of a public, announced burning was to voice displeasure, “to attract attention to how distant their ideas were from his own” (89). If the books affronted him personally, they were often censored privately, so as to avoid drawing further attention to them.

Clegg has some interesting examples. I think my favorite was James’s suppression of Ralegh’s The History of the World. Poor Ralegh expected the king to like it, but because Edward Peacham voiced a similar concept of divine retribution for kingly infirmities in “Balaam’s Asse” as voiced in Ralegh’s History, James suppressed the History out of fear for his own life. The example was part of Clegg’s discussion of private suppressions, and it shows well how James’s personal disposition could act itself out in censorship.

One of Clegg’s chapters discusses the confrontation between the Civil and Common Law. Here she claims to argue against both Whigs and revisionists, finding more conflict than revisionists and less ideological conflict than Whigs. I think her idea of revisionism might be a bit too caricatured here, but she does show that some of the more famous cases of civil and common law disputes were more personal than anything else. James often acted in such disputes to protect his own authority, in both common law and civil law courts.

The fifth chapter touches on printing after the outbreak of the Thirty Years’ War. In sum, James did try to control print ephemera in the period, but was only moderately successful. It was not Thomas Cogswell’s “evil time” nor was it just the Stationers’ Company trying to protect itself, as in Lambert. Clegg discusses James’s attempt to limit the subject matter of sermons and the appointing of Francis Cottington. Both were attempts to limit discussion of the Spanish Match. However, neither of these was more than moderately successful. Some preachers did self-censor, and Cottington did manage to control some of the presses, but many preachers and printers continued to openly criticize James’s foreign policy. Here I think she may have been unfair to Cogswell. Certainly these moves show James’s increasing interest in controlling the presses, which would certainly be frightening to many potential authors and printers, and probably encouraged more self-censorship than Clegg gives credit. Still, her discussion is quite reasonable and convincing.

Her final chapter moves on to the rise of Arminianism. She distinguishes between people of the word and people of silence, meaning Calvinists and Arminians, respectively. Part of being Arminian in England was theological silence. For Clegg, “the issue here may not be so much whether or not censorship under Charles I was or was not the repressive system Christopher Hill discovered but that the discursive practices of the Laudians and the Calvinists-cum-Puritans so diametrically opposed each other that the people of the word and the people of silence could never become reconciled” (223). This certainly places Charles’s ban on discussing predestination into a different light. I’m not sure how I feel about this. I’m not sure it really fits the evidence. Sounds like I need to do some more reading on Arminianism. I think I’ve got a biography of Laud sitting around somewhere. Any recommendations?

I can see now that I haven’t even mentioned her discussion of the various laws and bodies that carried about the censorship. But I’m tired now. Overall, I enjoyed the book, and I appreciated the examples that she used, and I think it qualifies as a “must-read” for anyone working on print culture in the seventeenth century.

Before I finish, I will strongly recommend Anthony Milton’s “Licensing, Censorship, and Religious Orthodoxy in Early Stuart England” (1998). I might review it later. I read it a while ago and really enjoyed it. Clegg discusses it quite extensively in her final chapter, and the article really helps to illustrate both one of the more clever uses of censorship as well as the overlaps in authority inherent in early modern societies.

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A little more of the who and why of news

So I followed up a footnote in Alastair Bellany’s The Politics of Court Scandal in Early Modern England, a reference which I later discovered was also in Joad Raymond’s Invention of the Newspaper.  In 1637, John Taylor published a list of where the carriers from a number of cities and areas stayed while in London.  He republished it, with some minor corrections and additions (at least as I can see from a brief skimming) in 1642.  The first one was called The Carriers Cosmographie and the second A Brief Director.  I’m not yet entirely certain what to make of these pamphlets, but they very much interest me.  Assuming that it is the same John Taylor, one can see how he got into newsmongering; he knew where to get news from around the country.  However, it is the fact that he, a publisher, and a printer carried out the project that I find most intriguing.  The first post began in 1635, so it would seem that these pamphlets were geared either to those who wanted their letters carried more quickly or specifically wanted to avoid the post.  I’m not sure how secure these carriers were, but since the post was monitored, they certainly would have been more discreet than the official post.  Anyway, I can spend more time on that later; I just thought it was interesting.

I also had another thought today.  I’ve still been mulling over explanations for the explosion of printing in 1640-2.  I took another look at the great chart that Cressy has in England on Edge of numbers of publications per year.  In Politicians and Pamphleteers, Jason Peacey discusses how and why politicians resorted to print, often in clandestine ways.  Well, there were large spikes in publications in late 1640-2, 1646-7, and 1658-1660.  These periods have in common intense politicking and uncertainty.  I would argue that these spikes were the result of politicians trying to win political battles.  I don’t think it is a rise in demand or that censorship was that much less effective in these periods than the rest of the 1640s and 50s.  I have to assume that people would be as interested in the peace as in whether or not someone had won the war, or whether or not the war would be in their backyards soon.  If anything, I would guess that there was more demand for news of actual battles.  Politicking went on in the winters, but newsbooks tended to fail without military news to report (at least according to Anthony Cotton’s dissertation, “London Newsbooks in the Civil War”).  At the very least, there would not be such a widely varying demand.  I think it would be better to think of the print explosions in the 1640s and 1650s not so much as a result of the breakdown of censorship, but of its active circumvention by political elites: a push rather than a pull.  The more stable periods in between the spikes represent the regular “demand.”  I’d be happy to hear other peoples’ thoughts on the matter.


Filed under Long Parliament, Print Culture

“Please sir, get out of your chair”

Another one of those days that I feel like I did a lot and then had very little to show for it at the end of the day.  However, I will at least be able to vote in November; I took care of my absentee ballot registration.

More to the point, I did get to transcribing one and a half of Mabbott’s newsletters.  I still have a bunch of photos of the newsletters in Hull that I haven’t gotten to yet.  However, I was pleasantly surprised to realize that I was reading one where Mabbott described Cromwell’s expulsion of the Rump!  My favorite part was when he says that Lenthall was “modestly” pulled out of his chair by another MP.  I also thought to doublecheck Woolrych’s Commonwealth to Protectorate and found that he quoted the same newsletter, but sent to William Clarke rather than the Hull corporation.  He notes the similarity, giving credit to Blair Worden for bringing it to his attention.  Anyway, I checked out the newsletter in the Clarke Papers (which I found online by doing a search for “Clarke Papers 3.”  I love the internet.)  I found that the endings of both were actually quite different, even if most of the letter was the same.  I’ll have to take some time to figure out why these were different.  The information was not such that the Hull fathers and an army secretary needed to be told separate things.

I also came up with an idea for a paper on published sermons, but I’m not sure if I’ll ever have the time to go through with it.  I can content myself with knowing that someone has probably already done it.

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Filed under Long Parliament, Mabbott, Print Culture, William Clarke

Back from Buffalo

I got back from Buffalo last night.  It was a fun trip for the most part.  I got to see Niagara Falls for the first time, and found out that a private island on the St. Laurence River is cheaper than a house in California.

So far, no interest on that Mazarinade wiki.  I hope someone finds it useful anyway.  I started TAing for a Latin American history course today, which was rather busy because I unexpectedly found out that I was leading 2 sections this evening.  I pulled it off with my usual tact and grace (please realize that that is ironic).

I may be joining the UCSB branch of the Making Publics project.  You can find more info on that here:  It’s based out of McGill University in Canada.  They’re looking more into publishing and reading networks this year, so I figured that my work was right up their alley.  My project doesn’t quite address the “publics” as a concept, but I think that that’s okay as long as I am addressing at least part of their question.

I was hoping to get some work on Mabbott done today, but instead I spent it running around doing TA-related tasks.  Tomorrow I think I’ll do some work on the ballad project (  Maybe this weekend will have time for Mabbott?

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I finally got a wiki set up for English translation mazarinades.  You can find it here.  I’ve entered in three so far.  Anyone who has a translation, complete or otherwise, is invited to enter it in!  Keep in mind, my translations are far from perfect.

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Filed under Print Culture, Uncategorized

England, teaching, and Los Angeles

So I’m back in the United States.  I’m actually at the Clark Library in Los Angeles right now.  I’ve been finishing up cataloguing the pictures I took in the various archives.  It’s kind of annoying, but I’ve already figured out a bunch of stuff I missed, including something rather interesting.  One of the parliamentary clerks was having at least one of his correspondents send his newsletters directly to Mabbott, even before the clerk got his hands on them.  So I’ve found some of the newsletters and need to go take a look, since the calendar of them is rather imprecise.  I’ve also found direct evidence that Mabbott had access to at least the Commons Journal when he was writing his newsletters in the 1650s.  That could have been assumed, but it’s nice to have the supporting evidence.  Mabbott did start his career as a parliamentary clerk after all.

I’ve also got my hands on a few interesting print cases, including one with forged publisher information.  I guess it goes to show parliament’s determination to uphold its printing laws that while the perpetrators got in trouble for what they were printing, parliament seems not to have cared about the forgery.  And they were released a few days later.  Interestingly, the Commons said that while it was okay for the material to be printed, the real problem was that it only presented one side of the argument (the other side, of course).

A lot of this has to go on hold for a while because I’m trying to get a course ready for second summer session.  I decided to teach a course on the English Civil War, the Fronde, and the Catalan Revolt, and then found out how little there was in translation for the last two.  There is a reasonable amount for the Fronde, I suppose, but not many mazarinades, and almost nothing for the Catalans.

In other news, the symposium in Hull went very well, despite a sudden cold I caught the second day.  The papers were really interesting and thoughtful, and I think they showed both the progress made in this field of history as well as how many avenues there are left to explore.  What they all showed was the importance of not underestimating the power of religion as a motivator.  Of course, what else would we expect?

Although anyone reading this blog has undoubtedly already seen it, I should still point out the series of great posts over at Mercurius Politicus on the spat between John Taylor and Henry Walker.  Neither of them was particularly pleasant, so you know it has to be good.  Also, please check back regularly at my girlfriend’s blog isaacnewtonalso for updates on how her part of the UK trip went.


Filed under Henry Walker, Long Parliament, Mabbott, Print Culture, Samuel Pecke

A crazy idea

Okay, here’s a crazy idea.  I don’t have any real proof, and it’s probably just a weird coincidence.  There’s a publisher, C. W., that pops up, I think in late 1647, does a lot of work in the second half of 1648, and then more or less disappears, near as I can tell (I did some quick-and-dirty EEBO searching).  I checked Plomer (whose Dictionary of English Printers is now on Google books) and he lists no C. W.s except Charles Webb, whom he lists as active 1658-60.  Glancing on EEBO, I only found a Charles Wright, publishing in the early 1630s.  Now, it looks like William Clarke was behind one of the published versions of the king’s trial, signing it C. W.  Here’s the crazy: I think the publisher C. W. may have been William Clarke, too.

It makes some sense.  To be a publisher, all a person needed was the capital to pay for everything (ie, no printing skills).  Mabbott’s imprint had disappeared by late 1648, so the army may have needed a new way to get its info out.  That explains C. W.’s frequency in late 1648.  Also, I think the C. W. I saw from 1647 was in September, while Mabbott was temporarily sacked from his post.  C. W. seems to exlusively publish army-related news.  I tried to follow a money trail, but couldn’t find one, by looking at Clarke’s contingencies accounts, though he does pay a Mr. Paxton over £49 for paper, ink, and parchment.  That seems like a lot, but then I’m sure the New Model’s hq went through a lot of paper.   Anyway, that’s my crazy idea for the day; it probably won’t play out.  If anybody actually reads this blog, what do you think?

It’s about 30 minutes later.  I just found something published by a “C. Withrington.”  That’s probably C. W.  However, it’s not military news, and the print looks distinctly different.  I don’t know, it’s probably time to put this in the “too crazy” idea pile.


Filed under New Model, Print Culture, William Clarke

Mabbott, Skippon, and the Moderate

So now I’m starting to wonder a bit more about Mabbott and the Moderate.  I found a letter by Clarke published by Robert Austin.  I can’t figure out Austin’s connection, but his publication was not licensed.  Anyway, I looked through the rest of the stuff published and I found that Perfect Diurnall and the Moderate had the only other copies.  This plays well with my theory that Mabbott had some kind of connection to the Moderate and Samuel Pecke.  I’m thinking that it will be worthwhile to sit the two newsbooks side-by-side to see just how much intelligence they share, and perhaps cross-check that with Walker’s Perfect Occurences.

I’m still digging around in the Provost Marshal position that Mabbott supposedly wanted for himself.  As I said in my last post, I don’t think Mabbott wanted to be Provost Marshal.  I’m starting to wonder if te office was not instead a hodge-podge solution to a number of problems, as well as a Presbyterian reaction against Major General Skippon.  Skippon had had more or less the powers of the Provost Marshal and may have earned some enemies among Presbyterians from his firm control of London during the Second Civil War.  I need to look into it some more.

I like the sense of freedom I have in my research these days.  Although so much of Civil War history has been well worn, I am still finding new pieces of evidence.  I am not just checking references; I feel like an honest-to-God historian.  There is something very gratifying in it.  I suppose that this is not uncommon, but it’s great to be in a profession that allows me such freedom.

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Filed under Henry Walker, Mabbott, Print Culture, Samuel Pecke