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Bringing the History of Publishing across the Pond

Jacob Rawlins's membership in a London-based publishing organization creates opportunities for connection and scholarship.

In July, Associate Professor Jacob Rawlins (Editing and Publishing) took a step into publishing history. Rawlins became a member of the Worshipful Company of Stationers and Newspaper Makers (also called the Stationers’ Company), an organization with an extensive history in publishing and copyright—such as being responsible for printing the Oxford English Dictionary and the King James Version of the Bible.

The Stationers’ Company is “one of the oldest organizations for printers and publishers in the world,” Rawlins says. Its story starts in 1203 in the markets of London where groups of scribes, booksellers, and other members of the printing trade worked. “These were the groups who would copy manuscripts and documents for people. They had a station in the market, so they were called stationers.” (Interestingly, the term stationery is derived from stationer.) The organization was formally organized with a charter in the 1490s when publishing came to England. And for over two hundred years, the Stationers’ Company managed all printing and copyright throughout England, Scotland, and Wales.

Since the 1920s, the organization’s role in the industry has evolved. It now focuses on connecting and supporting publishing professionals in the United Kingdom and abroad. Rawlins was first introduced to the company in 2019 when he was teaching ELANG 524 (now ELING 524): History of the Book during a study abroad in London. Later when Rawlins taught the class again on campus, one of his students asked him if he was a member of the company. That question inspired Rawlins to apply. “I contacted them and had to go through an extensive process. You have to meet with current members and get them to recommend you for membership and then go through an application and interview process. Then [the company’s] governing board meets and votes on your membership.” Rawlins was inducted into the guild in a formal ceremony on July 5, 2022.

Rawlins’s membership in the organization marks an exciting new chapter in his research and teaching in the field of editing and publishing. He will now be able to utilize a vast archive of original materials in the company’s library as well as personally introduce his study abroad students to a bellwether in the history of printing. “We can take our students to the Stationers’ Hall, teach classes inside the hall, and also have the archivists show them some of these original manuscripts,” Rawlins says. This opportunity allows Rawlins and his students to enrich their studies and expand their connections in the publishing industry.

To learn more about the Stationers’ Company, look at its website here.