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Bookselling at Paul’s Churchyard

As the title page of the first Quarto of Richard III shows us, the printed version of Shakespeare’s play was sold by Andrew Wise, dwelling in Paules Church-yard, at the Signe of the Angell, 1597. Viewing the title pages of many plays by Shakespeare and his contemporaries, one is likely to find similar inscriptions. By 1597, St. Paul’s was used not only as a church; in fact, one might say it was used not even primarily as a church. It had become the bookshop of London.
Parts of the cathedral and its surrounding areas had been used as markets since the fourteenth century. By the beginning of the sixteenth century, St. Paul’s Churchyard was the chief centre of the book trade, not only for London, but for the whole country (Mumby 45). Booksellers on Paternoster Row became a source of competition in the latter half of the century, eventually winning the prominent position in London bookselling, but Paul’s maintained its supremacy well into the seventeenth century.
The bookshops at Paul’s were populated largely by foreign booksellers in the sixteenth century. England did not have its own printing press until the 1490s, and in 1484 Richard III had passed an Act of exemption to foreign printers, encouraging them to bring their trade to London. The central settling point for these booksellers was Paul’s.
Foreign competition angered the members of the English printing organization, the Stationers’ Company, which did not obtain its charter until 1557 (Mumby 47). Through a series of government interventions, control was shifted from the foreign printers to the Stationers’ Company during the course of the century. By Shakespeare’s day, power was firmly within their hands. Before a Shakespeare play could appear in the shops at Paul’s, it had to be approved and registered in the Stationers’ Register.


  • Citation

    Mumby, Frank Arthur. Publishing and Bookselling. 5th ed. London: Jonathan Cape, 1974. Print.

    This item is cited in the following documents:

Cite this page

MLA citation

Carlone, Dominic. Bookselling at Paul’s Churchyard. The Map of Early Modern London, Edition 7.0, edited by Janelle Jenstad, U of Victoria, 05 May 2022, mapoflondon.uvic.ca/edition/7.0/BOOK2.htm.

Chicago citation

Carlone, Dominic. Bookselling at Paul’s Churchyard. The Map of Early Modern London, Edition 7.0. Ed. Janelle Jenstad. Victoria: University of Victoria. Accessed May 05, 2022. mapoflondon.uvic.ca/edition/7.0/BOOK2.htm.

APA citation

Carlone, D. 2022. Bookselling at Paul’s Churchyard. In J. Jenstad (Ed), The Map of Early Modern London (Edition 7.0). Victoria: University of Victoria. Retrieved from https://mapoflondon.uvic.ca/editions/7.0/BOOK2.htm.

RIS file (for RefMan, RefWorks, EndNote etc.)

Provider: University of Victoria
Database: The Map of Early Modern London
Content: text/plain; charset="utf-8"

A1  - Carlone, Dominic
ED  - Jenstad, Janelle
T1  - Bookselling at Paul’s Churchyard
T2  - The Map of Early Modern London
ET  - 7.0
PY  - 2022
DA  - 2022/05/05
CY  - Victoria
PB  - University of Victoria
LA  - English
UR  - https://mapoflondon.uvic.ca/edition/7.0/BOOK2.htm
UR  - https://mapoflondon.uvic.ca/edition/7.0/xml/standalone/BOOK2.xml
ER  - 

TEI citation

<bibl type="mla"><author><name ref="#CARL1"><surname>Carlone</surname>, <forename>Dominic</forename></name></author>. <title level="a">Bookselling at Paul’s Churchyard</title>. <title level="m">The Map of Early Modern London</title>, Edition <edition>7.0</edition>, edited by <editor><name ref="#JENS1"><forename>Janelle</forename> <surname>Jenstad</surname></name></editor>, <publisher>U of Victoria</publisher>, <date when="2022-05-05">05 May 2022</date>, <ref target="https://mapoflondon.uvic.ca/edition/7.0/BOOK2.htm">mapoflondon.uvic.ca/edition/7.0/BOOK2.htm</ref>.</bibl>

Disambiguation for St. Paul’s

MoEML has a number of pages relating to St. Paul’s and its environs. St. Paul’s Churchyard is adjacent to St. Paul’s Cathedral. Paul’s Cross Churchyard is the northeast quadrant of the St. Paul’s Churchyard. Gossip at Paul’s Walking describes an activity within St. Paul’s Cathedral and Bookselling in Paul’s Churchyard describes an activity within St. Paul’s Churchyard. Dean John Donne was Dean of St. Paul’s. St. Paul’s Cross was within St. Paul’s Churchyard. Paul’s School was the school where the boy choristers were educated. St. Augustine’s Gate and St. Paul’s Gate (northern) are the east and northeast entrances into St. Paul’s Churchyard.