John Taylor and Henry Walker, part 4: publishers

by Nick

[Note: since writing this my views on some aspects of this pamphlet exchange have evolved: if you are also researching this issue and want to get in touch please do.]

So far I have looked at authors, texts and readers involved in John Taylor and Henry Walker’s pamphlet war. In this post I will look at publishers.

Walker’s texts were self-published. We know that in 1641, as well as working as an ironmonger Walker was moonlighting by running a book shop in Gracechurch Street.

Taylor’s pamphlets seem to have been published by a partnership of three booksellers called Thomas Banks, Francis Coules and Thomas Bates. All three were based in the Old Bailey, where they collaborated on a variety of cheap forms of print including ballads, short satirical pieces accompanied by woodcuts, and from 1642, newsbooks.

Bates and his fellow cheap pamphlet  partners did not publish according to strict ideological guidelines. They were happy to publish Taylor’s satires of puritan sects alongside sermons clearly pitched at an Independent audience. In fact, Bates and Banks also published at least one of Walker’s works: a fake petition from the inhabitants of Chester. Earlier in 1641, Walker and Bates had been two of the printers and booksellers hauled in front of the House of Lords for illegal printing. They were both part of a network of publishers flirting with illegal printing during the late 1630s and early 1640s.

So, for the publishers of Taylor’s side of the exchange, then, the pamphlet war was by no means a pitched battle between implacable opponents. Both Taylor and Walker would have been well-known to the three publishers.

And in fact Taylor and Walker themselves would probably also have been well-known to each other. Walker’s recycling of material from Taylor’s earlier poems shows a deep knowledge of Taylor’s writing, and his pamphlets also show knowledge about intimate gossip from Taylor’s private life. Taylor, meanwhile, went on to write an eight page pamphlet about Walker’s life history in 1642, which contained such a high level of detail that it suggests he was well-acquainted with Walker’s career. Like their flyting predecessors the Scottish poets Montgomerie and Hume, both of whom were court poets and well-known to each other, Taylor and Walker may have been closer than is supposed.

So, behind what appeared to be a ferocious pamphlet war, booksellers and authors were linked by mutual networks of sociability and profession. Political and religious ideologies were not the only filter through which relationships and ideas formed within the world of 1640s print culture. Commercial and social networks could be just as important, and could cut across more ideological connections.

If we look at the geography of the dispute, it confirms this impression.

Yellow = Old Bailey: shops of Francis Coules, Thomas Banks and Thomas Bates

Blue = Newgate Market: location where Henry Walker served apprenticeship

Green = Gracechurch Street: site of Walker’s bookshop

Red = St. Saviour’s parish, Southwark: home of John Taylor

Map adapted from Wenceslaus Hollar, Westminster and London (c.1658), British Museum, Pennington 1000.II,  AN48017001. © Trustees of the British Museum.

Unlike most booksellers, the partners were all based outside the City walls in the Old Bailey, in an attempt to avoid the reach of the Stationers’ Company. Taylor lived across the river in Southwark, but to judge from the volume of his pamphlets published by the partners, he was clearly a frequent visitor to the Old Bailey. Walker, too, had close geographical links to the partners. Although his own bookshop lay to the east of the Old Bailey in Gracechurch Street, before going into the book trade he had been an apprentice to an ironmonger in Newgate market. This was just round the corner from the Old Bailey, and it is likely that the book shops there would have been well known to Walker. In 1641, Walker himself printed a transcript of a theological debate he had with a Jesuit in Bates’s shop at the Old Bailey.

In addition to demonstrating links between Walker and the cheap pamphlet partners, this incident also shows that their bookshops were not just centres of commerce. They were also centres of communication. The title pages of pamphlets illustrated with woodcuts would have been on display to attract customers. Once there, they would also have been able to listen to or participate in other forms of communication. Walker’s debate with the Jesuit was one such form. Another was sermons: the partners’ shops were all in the parish of St Sepulchre, a parish with a long tradition of radical lecturers.

For authors and readers, such bookshops were an important centre for participation in the public sphere. For booksellers, on the other hand, creating such a public, politicised space would have had obvious commercial benefits in terms of attracting custom.

In my final post I will look at whether Bates, Coules and Banks might have had an interest in engineering or prolonging the dispute between Taylor and Walker.