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Thomas DOCKWRAY, Master Stationer

His Will of 1559 describes Thomas Dockwray as a Notary Public, Citizen, Stationer and Proctor of the Arches. (See his Will Transcription elsewhere in this site.)

Firstly his legal attributes, Notary Public and Proctor of the Arches.

"Proctor of the Arches". The Court of the Arches in London, was the most important provincial court of the Archbishop of Canterbury.The Court has a long connection with the church of St Mary le Bow in Cheapside in the City of London. Proctors in this court were the equivalent of the attornies in the common law courts and also the solicitors in the Court of Chancery. That is, proctors were a junior branch of the legal profession in the Court, responsible for the procedural stages of the cases and the preparation of documents, the Advocates (doctors of Canon and Civil Law) were the equivalent of barristers. At the time Thomas was active in London there were between ten and twenty proctors. Four are mentioned in the will: Mr Warmyngton, Mr Harryson, Mr Byggs and Willm Babham. If Thomas was a graduate of Cambridge University he would be exceptional since most proctors learned the job by apprenticeship only. He was also a Notary Public and as such was authorised to draw up documents, take oaths and give advice on laws. Proctors quite often worked as notaries. In his Will he gave his "notarye signe of silver" to his "servannte " Thomas Wheler. Surely not a domestic servant but very probably a notary or apprentice he employed.

Thomas Dockwray worked in the ecclesiastic courts during dangerous times when the religion of England changed back and forwards from Catholic to Protestant under successive monarchs: Henry VIII, Bloody Mary and Elizabeth I.

"Citizen". That is a Freeman of the City of London. Men were required to become Citizens before, or at the time of, joining a craft guild to practice their trade or profession. To acquire citizenship they had to serve their time as an apprentice. Citizenship could also be inherited. Unfortunately the Freedom records for his time have not survived so we do not know whether Thomas was an apprentice Proctor or Stationer.

"Stationer". In the 16th century a stationer was not merely a purveyor of pens, paper and pencils but was also a publisher/printer of pamphlets, plays and poetry, as well as other forms of literature. Stationers were also Booksellers, not only of their own work, but also the work of other printers and publishers. Some gave up printing /publishing altogether to concentrate on the more profitable selling of books. Thomas Dockray was said to be one of the most notable stationers of the 16th century who neither printed nor published books. In his will he bequethed to Bartholomew Hagatt "fowre(four) of my best bokes of precedents wryten and fowre of my best bokes of lawe printed at his choice". The question arises, were these books from his personal library, or from his stock in trade as a bookseller. It is interesting to know that in 1556, shortly after Thomas Dockwray became Master, the Stationers' Company set up a Register for copyright or ownership purposes and debatably for censorship reasons. Stationers were responsible for what they published and it was an offence under Guild rules not to register their publications. Publishing heresy was a treasonable offence during the punative reign (1553 to 1558) of Mary and later under the bloodier one (she was longer at it) of Elizabeth. As a Canon lawyer Thomas Dockwray may have been the right person to supervise if not create a legal framework for the suppression of seditious literature and at the same time look after the interests of stationers generally.

At all events, the fact that Thomas Dockwray was the first Master, something of enormous significance in the City of London, shows he was regarded at the time as an important person by both Government and his peers in the City. His Will indicates he was a very wealthy man.

Extract from "A CENTURY of the ENGLISH BOOK TRADE" by E.GORDON DUFF (re-issued by THE BIBLIOGRAPHICAL SOCIETY 1948) "Being Short Notices of all Printers, Stationers, Book-Binders and others"

"DOCKWRAY (Thomas), stationer and first Master of the new Stationers' Company, was by profession a notary. He was a strong Catholic, and as early as 1533 was employed by Bishop Stokesley in his crusade against English religious books printed abroad. In August of that year Vaughan wrote to Cromwell, "The bishop of London has had a servant in Antwerp this fortnight. If you send for Henry Pepwall a stationer in Paul's Churchyard who was often with him, he will tell you his business. The bishop of London's servant is one Dockwraye, a notary public." (L and P of Henry VIII, vol.iv.,p.407.)

In 1559 he was living in St. Paul's Churchyard. At the time of the incorporation of the Stationers' Company in 1557 he was Master, but did not long survive, dying on June 23rd 1559. His will, a lengthy document, leaves bequests to Anne his wife, his brothers, sisters and nephews, and also a considerable sum to charity. He was buried in St. Faith's Church, and his epitaph has been preserved by Dugdale. ("History of St Paul's", p.122)."

Text researched & written by Ben Dockray

 



Additional notes by Anne Nichols

 

Thomas Dockwray was the first Master of the Stationers' Company after incorporation in 1557. He was a notary by profession and was a Proctor of the Court of Arches. In 1552 he had also been appointed the first Proctor of the City of London, with a yearly retainers of 13s.4d. In 1533 he was employed by the Bishop of London, Bishop Stokesly, in his crusade against English religious books being printed abroad. In 1559 he was living in St Paul's Churchyard, where he died on June 23rd, 1559. His will included bequests to his wife Anne, his brother, sisters and nephews and also a considerable sum to charity. He was buried in St Faith's Church under St Paul's, and his epitaph was preserved by Dugdale. After he died, the Stationers' Company records show a receipt from his widow for 20s, which was a bequest from him to the Company, and a spoon of silver. This was kept in a chest with other valuables, but has not survived.

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