Censorship, Popular Publication, and the Pulp Press

  • Jerome Friedman


When William Caxton, the first English printer, set up his press in 1476, nobody could have predicted printing would become so popular so quickly.1 Few people could read, paper production was complicated and costly, and printing equipment was expensive. Nevertheless, the printing press found avid supporters. The monarchy used the new art to advance its own cause and meet the needs of a growing government bureaucracy through the publication of proclamations, ordinances, decrees, and law codes. The church had legitimate publishing needs of its own, including new ecclesiastical ordinances, catechisms, confessions, and articles of faith, all of which the church saw as essential in the Reformation religious conflict.


Printing Press Popular Literature Bible Story Religious Piety Popular Publication 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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  1. 1.
    For the history of English printing, please consult the following: William M. Clyde, The Struggle for Freedom of the Press From Caxton to Cromwell (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1934; reprinted New York: Burt Franklin, 1970); Elizabeth Eisenstein, The Printing Press as an Agent of Change (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1979); Eisenstein, The Printing Revolution in Early Modern Europe (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1983); C. R. Gillett, Burned Books: Neglected Chapters in British History and Literature (New York: Columbia University Press, 1932); W. W. Greg, Some Aspects and Problems of London Publishing Between 1550 and 1650 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1956); P. M. Handover, Printing in London from 1476 to Modern Times (London: Allen & Unwin, 1960); Leona Rostenberg, Literary, Political, Scientific and Legal Publishing, Printing and Bookselling in England, 1551–1700 (New York: Franklin, 1965); F. S. Siebert, Freedom of the Press in England, 1476–1776 (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1952); H. S. Bennett, English Books and Readers, 1475–1557, 2nd ed. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1969); Bennett, English Books and Readers, 1558–1603, Being a Study of the History of the Book Trade in the Reign of Elizabeth I (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1965); Bennett, English Books and Readers, 1603–1640, Being a Study of the History of the Book Trade in the Reign of James I and Charles I (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1965); P. M. Handover, Printing in London from 1476 to Modern Times (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1960); Christopher Small, The Printed Word: An Instrument of Popularity (Aberdeen, SD: Aberdeen University Press, 1982); Roger Chantier, ed., The Culture of Print and the Uses of Print in Early Modern Europe, tranlated by Lydia Cochran (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1989).Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    See D. M. Loades, “The Theory and Practice of Censorship in Sixteenth-Century England,” Transactions of the Royal Historical Society, 5th series, 14 (1974): 141–157; Annabel Patterson, Censorship and Interpretation: The Condition of Writing and Reading in Early Modern England (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1985); Oliver Thomson, Mass Persuasion in History: An Historical Analysis of the Development of Propaganda Techniques (New York: Crane & Russak, 1977).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. 3.
    See Cyprian Blagden, The Stationers Company: A History, 1407–1959 (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1960) and Edward Arber, ed. A Transcript of the Registers of the Company of Stationers in London, 1554–1640, 5 vols. (London, 1875–94; reprinted Gloucester, MA: P. Smith, 1967).Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Sandra Clark, The Elizabethan Pamphleteers: Popular Moralistic Pamphlets, 1580–1640 (Rutherford, NJ: Associated Universities Press, 1983), p. 26.Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    Joseph Frank, The Beginnings of the English Newspapers, 1620–1660 (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1961), p. 162.Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    Concerning the early newspaper, see Siebert, Freedom of the Press in England, Geoffrey A. Cranfield, The Press and Society: From Caxton to Northcliffe (London: Longman, 1978); Richmond P. Bond, ed., Studies in the Early English Periodical (Chapel Hill: University Of North Carolina Press, 1957); F. Dahl, Dutch Corantos, 1618–1650 (The Hague: Koninklijke, 1946); Joseph Frank, The Beginnings of the English Newspaper, 1620–1660 (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1961); Peter Fraser, The Intelligence of Secretaries of State and Their Monopoly of Licensed News, 1600–1688 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1956); Matthias A. Shaaber, Some Forerunners of the Newspaper in England (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1929).Google Scholar
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    Frederick W. Bateson, ed., Cambridge Bibliography of English Literature, 5 vols. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1940–1957), vol. 1, pp. 736–763. The most available source of English newspapers is the 300 reels of the University Microfilm Thomason Collection. See G. K. Fortesque, ed., Catalogue of the Pamphlets, Newspapers, and Manuscripts Relating to the Civil War, the Commonwealth and Restoration Collected by George Thomason, 1640–1661, vol. 2, part II (London: British Museum, 1908), pp. 371–440. Other useful guides and lists are the following: D. C. Collins, A Handlist of News Pamphlets, 1590–1610 (London: SW Essex Technical College, 1943); Fortesque, Catalogue, pp. 447–767; J. L. Harner, English Renaissance Prose Fiction, 1500–1660 (London: G. Prior, 1978); James T. Henke, Gutter Life and Language in the Early Street Literature of England: A Glossary of Terms and Topics, Chiefly of the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries (West Cornwall, CT: Locust Hill Press, 1988).Google Scholar
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    Margerie Plant, English Book Trade: An Economic History of the Making and Selling of Books (London: Allen & Unwin, 1965, 1974).Google Scholar
  9. 12.
    Concerning Muddiman, see P. Frazer, The Intelligence of the Secretaries of State and Their Monopoly of Licensed News, 1660–1688 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1956); J. G. Muddiman, The King’s Journalist, 1659–1689 (London: Bodley Head, 1923).Google Scholar
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    R. S. Scofield, “The Measurement of Literacy in Pre-Industrial England,” in J. Gooch, ed., Literacy in Traditional Societies (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1968), p. 311–325; Kenneth A. Lockridge, Literacy in Colonial New England (New York: Norton, 1974).Google Scholar
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    See, for instance, Michael Van Cleave Alexander, The Growth of English Education 1348–1648: A Social and Cultural History (University Park: Penn State Press, 1990); Joan H. Moran, The Growth of English Schooling, 1340–1548 (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1985); David Cressy, Literacy and the Social Order: Reading and Writing in Tudor and Stuart England (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1980); R. A. Houston, Literacy in Early Modern Europe, 1500–1800 (London: Longman, 1988); W. A. L. Vincent, The State and School Education.Google Scholar
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    See Keith Wrightson and David Levine, Poverty and Piety in an English Village: Terling, 1525–1700 (New York: Academic Press, 1979), p. 150.Google Scholar
  14. 17.
    Thomas Nashe, Works, ed. R. B. McKerrow and F. P. Wilson, (Oxford: B. Blackwell, 1958), p. 23, cited in Bernard Capp, “Popular Literature,” in Barry Reay, ed, Popular Culture in Seventeenth Century England (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1985), p. 203; See also Stephen S. Hilliard, The Singularity of Thomas Nashe (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1986); Peter Clark, “The Alehouse and the Alternative Society,” in D. Penning and K. Thomas, eds., Puritans and Revolutionaries (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1978), pp. 47–72. Also see H. A. Moncton, A History of the English Public House (London: Bodley Head, 1969).Google Scholar
  15. 18.
    Concerning the radical publisher Giles Calvert, see Altha E. Terry, Giles Calvert: Mid-17th Century English Bookseller and Publisher (New York: Columbia University Press, 1937). Lawrence Clarkson described how he was introduced to Abiezer Coppe, the leader of London’s Ranter community, through Giles Calvert at an alehouse where the radical preacher Mary Lake held forth. See Clarkson’s Lost Sheep Found (London, 1660), p. 25. An exact facsimile reprint was published by the Scolar Press in Ilkley, Yorkshire, in 1974. On the hawkers of books in general, the best available is Felix Folio, The Hawkers and Street Dealers of the North of England Manufacturing Districts: Their Dealings, Dodgings, and Doings, 2nd ed. (Manchester: Abel Haywood, 1858). Also, R. B. McKerrow, ed., Dictionary of Printers and Booksellers, 1557–1640 (London: Bibliographical Society, 1910); H. R. Plomer, ed., Dictionary of Printers and Booksellers, 1557–1775 (London: Bibliographical Society, 1977).Google Scholar
  16. 20.
    Concerning London during this period, see A. L. Beier and Roger Finlay, eds., London 1500–1700, The Making of a Metropolis (London: Longman, 1986). The demographic changes taking place at this time are described in E. A. Wrigley and P. S. Schofield, The Population History of England, 1541–1871 (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1981); Leonard Cantor, The Changing English Countryside, 1400–1700 (New York: Methuen, 1987); Peter Clark and Paul Slack, Crisis and Order in English Towns, 1500–1700: Essays in Urban History (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1972).Google Scholar
  17. 21.
    See H. Herd, The March of Journalism (London: Allen and Unwin, 1952), p. 21.Google Scholar
  18. 22.
    The Faithfull Scout, no. 188, July 14–21, 1654, p. 1492. On London’s importance, see H. V. Routh, “London and the Development of Popular Literature,” Cambridge History of English Literature 7 (1911): 316–63. London would continue to dominate news reporting until the emergence of provincial presses in about 1700. Even then, these regional presses remained very dependent upon London. See G. A. Cranfield, The Development of the Provincial Newspaper (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1962).Google Scholar
  19. 23.
    For a very short but comprehensive overview of seventeenth-century popular literature, see Bernard Capp’s chapter on the subject in Barry Reay, ed., Popular Culture in Seventeenth Century England. For more in-depth analyses, please consult the following: George Boas, Vox Populi (Baltimore: John Hopkins University Press, 1969); Leo Lowenthal, Literature, Popular Culture and Society (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1961); Charles C. Mish, Short Fiction of the Seventeenth Century (New York: New York University Press, 1963); Victor E. Neuberg, Popular Literature: A History and a Guide (London: Penguin Books, 1977); H. E. Rollins, A Pepysian Garland (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1922); Leslie Shepard, The History of Street Literature (Newton Abbot: David & Charles, 1973); Spufford, Small Books and Pleasant Histories’, Roger Thompson, ed., Samuel Pepys’ Penny Merriments (London: Constable Press, 1976); Thompson, Unfit for Modest Ears (London: Macmillan, 1979); Thompson, “Popular Reading and Humour in Restoration England,” Journal of Popular Culture (1976); L. B. Wright, Middle-Class Culture in Elizabethan England (Chapel Hill: University Of North Carolina Press, 1935); F. P. Wilson, “The English Jestbooks of the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries,” Huntington Library Quarterly 2 (1938–9); R. Thompson, “Popular Reading and Humor in Restoration England,” Journal of Popular Culture 9 (1976); John Wardroper, ed., Jest Upon Jest: A Selection from the Jestbooks and Collections of Merry Tales Published from the Reign of Richard III to George III (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1970); Sandra Clark, The Elizabethan Pamphleteers: Popular Moralistic Pamphlets, 1580–1640 (Rutherford, NJ: Farleigh Dickinson University Press, 1983); Frederick O. Waage, Thomas Dekker’s Pamphlets, 1603–1609, and Jacobin Popular Literature (Salzburg, Austria: Institute for English Literature, 1977); Tessa Watt, Cheap Print and Popular Piety 1550–1640 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991).Google Scholar
  20. 24.
    C. Blagden, “The Distribution of Almanacs in the Second Half of the Seventeenth Century,” Studies in Bibliography 10 (1958); Bernard S. Capp, English Almanacs, 1500–1800: Astrology and the Popular Press (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1979), p. 44; Gene Boll, me, Les Almanacs Populaires au 17e et 18e Siècles (Paris: Mouton, 1969); D. C. Allen The Star-Crossed Renaissance (Durham, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 1941), chapter 5; E. F. Bosanquet, “English Seventeenth-Century Almanacs,” The Library, 4th ser., 10 (1929–1930): 361–97; Carroll Camden, “Elizabethan Almanacs and Prognostication,” Transactions of the Bibliographical Society, 2nd ser., 17 (London, 1932).Google Scholar
  21. 25.
    David C. Fowler, A Literary History of the Popular Ballad (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1968); C. Gerould, The Ballad of Tradition (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1957); Francis J. Child, ed., The English and Scottish Popular Ballads (New York: Cooper Square, 1965); Hyder E. Rollins, An Analytical Index to the Ballad Entries (1557–1709) in the Register of the Company of Stationers in London (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1924); Rollins, “The Black-Letter Broadside Ballad,” Publications of the Modern Language Association 34 (1919); Rollins, Cavalier and Puritan, Ballads and Broadsides … 1640–1660 (New York: New York University Press, 1923); C. M. Simpson, The British Broadside Ballad and Its Music (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1966); Natascha Wörzbach, The Rise of the English Street Ballads, trans. Gayna Walls (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990).Google Scholar
  22. 26.
    Gene Bollême, ed., La Bibliothèque Bleue (Paris: Gallimard Julliard, 1971); Spufford, Small Books and Pleasant Histories.Google Scholar
  23. 27.
    See the Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1917-) for each: Thomas Deloney, V:777; Martin’s Parker, XV:262–254; John Taylor, XIX:431–438. Also Rollins, Black-Letter Broadside, pp. 296–306; W. Hunt, The Puritan Moment (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1983); McKerrow, ed., Dictionary of Printers and Booksellers, 1557–1640;, Plomer, ed., Dictionary of Printers and Booksellers, 1557–1775.Google Scholar
  24. 30.
    Spufford, Small Books and Pleasant Histories, pp. 72–75, 225–37, 245–49. Also, The Life of Long Meg of Westminster (1620) in Mish, Short Fiction; F. O. Mann, The Works of Thomas Deloney (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1912), pp. 1–272.Google Scholar
  25. 31.
    The Penitent Murderer, p. 9. The other pamphlets published about this murder are Blood Washed Away By Tears of Repentance; Heavens Cry Against Murder; A Full and the Truest Narrative of the Most Horrid, Barbarous and Unparalleled Murder. All of the above can be located in the Thomason Collection. Several contemporary pamphlets about murders have been collected by Joseph H. Marshburn and Alan R. Velie in Blood and Knavery (Rutherford, NJ: Farleigh Dickinson University Press, 1973) and Joseph H. Marshburn, Murder and Witchcraft in England, 1550–1640 (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1971). For secondary sources dealing with murder, please consult the following: J. A. Sharp, “Domestic Homicide in Early Modern England,” The Historical Journal 24 (1981): 29–48; James B. Given, Society and Homicide in 13th Century England (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1977); Clare Gittings, Death, Burial and the Individual in Early Modern England (London: Croon Helm, 1984). Concerning crime at this time, the reader might turn to the following: J. S. Cockburn, ed., Crime in England, 1550–1800 (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1977); J. A. Sharp, Crime in Seventeenth-Century England (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1983); Sharp, Crime in Early Modern England 1500–1750 (London: Longman, 1984); Michael Weisser, Crime and Punishment in Early Modern Europe (Atlantic Heights, NJ: Humanities Press, 1979); Leanore Lublein, “The Context of Murder in English Domestic Plays, 1590–1610,” Studies in English Literature 23 (Spring 1983): 181–96.Google Scholar
  26. 32.
    See, for instance, Mitchell Stephens, “Sensationalism and Moralizing in Sixteenth- and Seventeenth-Century Newsbooks and News Ballads,” Journalism History 12 (Autumn/Winter 1985); Sandra Clark, The Elizabethan Pamphleteers: Popular Moralistic Pamphlets, 1580–1640 (Rutherford, NJ: Farleigh Dickinson University Press, 1983); Tessa Watt, Cheap Print and Popular Piety, 1550–1640 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991); Benjamin Boyles, The Polemic Character, 1640–1660: A Chapter in English Literary History (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1955).Google Scholar
  27. 33.
    S. Gardiner, ed., The Constitutional Documents of the Puritan Revolution 1625–1660 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1906), p. 139.Google Scholar

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© Jerome Friedman 1993

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  • Jerome Friedman

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