How to get the poop on printers

March 2, 2010 § 2 Comments

Feeling all atwitter. Was reading Irina’s Pym post again, with special attention to her questions about the printer, purpose, and audience of the pamphlet “Articles of High Treason, And other high Misdemeanors.” (The traitors being the Five Members who’d flown from Westminster when Charles came after them with armed men. Would be interesting to know if the pamphlet was printed before or after Charles’s risky move.) I’d heard the National Dictionary of Biography (National = British) might be a good resource for researching printers, but our library doesn’t have a subscription to the current edition.

But it turns out the Internet Archive ( has digitized the first edition (1885 through 1900). And gorblimey if I didn’t find Irina’s “ROBERT BARKER, Printer to the Kings most Excellent Majestie.” Well, his father, anyway, and mention of him. The information was very interesting… (Irina, go look him up right now!)

So use this resource to find out about the printer of a pamphlet you’re interested in. Go to, then click on the volume you want (there are 63). You’ll be connected to the Internet Archive. Caution: the search engine for the volume I looked at didn’t work, so don’t take any message of “no results” seriously.

By the way, the head editor of the Dictionary of National Biography was Leslie Stephen, Virginia Woolf’s father. Remember To the Lighthouse and Mr. Ramsay’s worry that although he’d made it from A to Q (or some other letter, can’t remember)–which was farther than most men got–he feared he didn’t have the intellectual wherewithal to be among the giant brains who got to R? When you see how much work Stephen poured into the DNB, the description of Mr. Ramsay becomes more resonant.

Cheers, Jane


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§ 2 Responses to How to get the poop on printers

  • Nick says:

    Another excellent (and free!) resource for tracking down printers is H.R. Plomer’s various dictionaries of printers and printers’ apprentices:

    – A dictionary of the booksellers and printers who were at work in England, Scotland and Ireland from 1641 to 1667 (1907) –

    – A dictionary of the printers and booksellers who were at work in England, Scotland and Ireland from 1668 to 1725 (1922) –

    They are particularly helpful for tracking down cases where the printer or the bookseller has only put their initials on the title page.

    • Dear Nick,

      You’re a peach! Thanks so much for these terrific tips. I had supposed the best we could do was the old edition of the National Biography. For our next meeting, the girls are reading your “Reading Pamphlets” (with the examples you link to) and “Milton and Licensing” posts. Haven’t had time to read your Lord Chandos article, but very much looking forward to it.

      Thanks, too, for the message about your own interesting history.


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