Notes on Christopher Barker

Notes on Christopher Barker

Clair, Colin. A History of European Printing, New York : Academic Press, 1976

p 268
An outstanding figure in the printing trade toward the end of the sixteenth century was Christopher Barker, a wealthy member of the Drapre's Company and a shrewd business man who managed to acquire the most lucrative of all patents for a man with sufficient capital to exploit it - namely the Bible patent.

p 269
He became a publisher around 1569 abd took his device the tigers's head, badge of the Walsingham family, with which he was closely connected. Although in August 1577 Christopher Barker had been one of the stationers who signed the petition against privledges (see Landsdowne, MS, 48) this did not prevent him from obtaining a patent (Patent Roll, 19El12, Pat. 8) which granted him the office of Royal printer of all statutes, books, bills, Acts of Parlaiament, proclomations, injunctions, Bibles, and New Testaments... Also of all service books to be used in churches, and all other volumes ordered to be printed by the Queen or Parliament. He had already shown his business acrumen in obtaining a privledge for printing the Geneva Bible, of which he and his assigns and deputies had borught out more than fifty editions between 1576 and 1600.

p 278 is doubtful if he was ever a working printer, any more than was Christopher Barker. They held their patents by purchase and were employers of labour to exploit that patent.


Handover, P. M. Printing in London : from 1476 to modern times : competitive practice and technical invention in the trade of book and Bible printing, periodical production, jobbing &c. Cambridge : Harvard University Press, 1960.

z 152 .l8 h3 1960
p 34
Christopher Barker, the Queen's Printer, had the Bible, the book of Common Prayer, Acts of Parliament and Royal Proclamations. All these men were powerful in the [Stationer's] Company... Their privileges brought them power.

p 37
In theory, the Anglican primer was distinct from the Book of Common Prayer, though Seres - in the spirit typical of Elizabethan publishing - began to insert bits of the morning and evening service so that, according to the Queen's Printer, sales of the Book of Common Prayer were diminished.

p 38
Among the privileged printers was the Queen's Printer, who is described in Chapter III. His patent included the Bible, the Book of Common Prayer, Statutes and Proclamations, as well as smaller properties.
Thus nearly all the books likely to be in everyday use throughout the kingdom were the monopolies of a few men.

p 43 notes
Christopher Barker I's account of the privileges is printed in Arber, i, 14-16
E Arber, Transcripts of the Registers of the Company of Stationers, 1554-1640 (London, 1875-1894, 5 vols.)

p 49
The almanacs were a sounder proposition, and this little copy quickly proved to be what the Queen's Printer had called it in 1582, 'a pretty commodity to an honest man's living.' (6) (6) Christopher Barker's report of December 1582, printer in Arber, i, 114.

Chapter III - The Bible Patent p73 - 97
If a current edition of the Authorized Version of the Bible is examined one of three imprints will be found: the King's or Queen's Printers, or either of the University Presses at Oxford and Cambridge. No other publishing house in England may issue a complete text of the Authorized Version. The same rule applies to the Book of Common Prayer.
The Bible and the Book of Common Prayer are all that remain of the once numerous properties that belonged to the royal printers. The heyday of the royal patent was in the eighteenth century, when, in addition to the Bible and the Book of Common Prayer, the King's or Queen's Printers issued Statutes, Proclamations, Injunctions and Acts of Parliament, and were also, probably by virtue of the patent, Printers to the House of Lords. At this period the competition in Bible printing from the Universities was insignificant. But both Universities possessed charters that gave them an overriding license to print all books, including those that came within the patent of the royal printers.

The patent of the royal printers only slowly developed as an exclusive right to various properties. Under Henry VII, the first known King's Printer, William Faques, was a purveyor, similar to Royal Warrant holders today. He was given proclamations and statute books to print, but granted no rights in them (1) Faques' successor, Richard Pynson, was printer to Henry VIII, that royal author, and so Pynson printed royal the book, the Assertion of the Seven Sacraments (1521), which won Henry his title as Defender of the Faith. In the time of Pynson's successor Thomas Berthelet, injunctions were required to regulate the new national Church (2) It was not until the time of Christopher Barker in 1577 that all these properties, together with Bibles, Testaments and the Book of Common Prayer, were formally included in a patent giving exclusive rights.

For nearly three centuries after 1577 the patent was unchanged in respect of the properties that could be printed under it, but in the course of the nineteenth century the items that related to the Government were taken away from the Queen's Printers. This was not a disaster for them : the Stationary Office had not the equipment to print these items and, not for the first time in the patent's history, the printing was left in the hands of those who were so equipped. And secondly, the Bible and the Book of Common Prayer were always the most valuable elements in the patent.

The present account of the royal patent is confined to the Bible - the most interesting of the elements because it roused the fiercest competition. To many people in this country the bible is a sacred book, perhaps even the inspired word of God, and that fact is relevant; but to its publishers the Bible is a book with certain physical features that make it different from all other books. First: the Authorized Version contains 774, 746 words. Compositors and pressmen will quickly work out what that means in terms of ens, in paper orders and matching time. Secondly: there exists a considerable and constant demand for the Bible. Thirdly: the Bible must be produced without a single misprint. And fourthly: the Bible is required in the whole range of sizes, from folio to the smallest.

One or two of these conditions may apply to other books, such as dictionaries and encyclopaedias; but no other book combines all four.

This combination of unusual features has always attracted to Bible printing the most shrewd businessmen in the trade. Bible printing is highly specialized, and in the past it was often possible for the patentees to take advantage of the inexperience of competitors. Since the beginning of the nineteenth century, however, there has been intense competition, and Oxford has emerged as the leading Bible house. END p 74

P 77
[Richard] Jugge was the first Bible printer who failed.

p 78
He [Jugge] was further embarrassed by the tactics of a shrewd outsider. Christopher Barker, a wealthy draper with powerful friends, became interested in the printing trade. He obtained a privilege for the Calvinist translation of the Bible in English, already printed abroad, but not in this country. The Geneva version was different from the Bishops' Bible, and not Jugge's 'copy' at all. Neither Jugge nor the Stationers relished Barker's success. Hurriedly, ten Stationers formed a Bible partnership, and then, actually on the same day, they and Jugge met Barker, to assert their rights in the Bishop's Bible.

An ambitious campaign was opened to outprint the Genevian version. In 1575, still the same year, five Stationers, of whom William Norton was one, set their imprint on a Bible. The had the start of Barker, whose first edition did not appear until the following year. But the grand design collapsed in 1577: in that year Jugge died, and the various agreements became void. Barker was Jugge's energetic successor as royal patentee, and his grant specifically included Bibles and Testaments 'whatsoever', as well as the Book of Common Prayer (6)

Barker's first Genevan Bible of 1576 is one of the finest pieces of English printing in the sixteenth century. The typography is not original, being faithfully based on an excellent model, the original English edition printed in Geneva, but the presswork is far above average, and care and thought have been exercised at every point. The paper is excellent, though thin. Barker followed the example of Geneva in the use of roman type - all other printers of the Bible in English preferred blackletter.

The short time for which the Bishop's Bible and the Geneva Bible had been shared must have been of value to Barker, for it gave him a chance to accumulate both equipment and experience so that by the time he took over the royal patent he was fully competent to exercise it. Considering that he came to the printing trade late in life he showed extraordinary judgment and understanding. There is no more penetrating analysis written by a publisher than his official report on the privileges, made in 1582. (7) For instance, he divined what was then scarcely apparent: that the control of the trade would pass into the hands of the booksellers. In 1582 the only real indication of this trend was that the grammar patent was held by at least four booksellers, one of whom, William Norton, was hardly less capable than Barker himself.

Barker's own son was to demonstrate the truth of his father's statements. Bible printing could not be successfully undertaken except by a man with great financial resources, and these liquid enough for him to make a heavy investment and to wait for slow returns.

Barker was preparing the report as a counter to John Wolfe's attack upon the privileges, and, understandably, there was reserve about profits. Indeed, Barker was pessimistic when he wrote on the other elements in the patent. Testaments were priced so low that costs were scarcely recovered - he did not mention that it was convenient to work them with Bibles of the same size. As to Proclamations, there were demanded at short notice and unpredictable intervals, so that the ordinary routine of the printing house had to be unprofitably disturbed to work them off. Obviously, a small 'copy' like Proclamations, often a single sheet, was awkwardly associated with the huge mass of the Bible; but Barker did not mention that he was paid for Government printing.

It was, however, such careful omissions that showed Barker's business acumen, and enables him to be one of the most successful patentees. No criticism was made during his tenure. As to Bibles, he kept the country supplied with accurate texts, his presswork was admirable, and the typography agreeable. No complaints were made of his prices, and he died in 1599, wealthy and respected.

Before his death the patent had already been secured for his son Robert. This one lacked the foresight if the father; but he was thoroughly trained and for some years printed in association wit two of his father's friends, whose experience must have been valuable. For a time all went well. Robert Barker was highly regarded by his fellow Stationers, and in both 1605 and 1606, as a comparatively young man, he was Master of the Company.

p96 Notes
(6) Christopher Barker I's patent is printed in Hansard's Typographia (London, 1825)
(7) Christopher Barker's account of the privileges is printed in Arber i, 114-16


Taken from the Datchet website:

Christopher Barker (died 1599)
Christopher came from Marr near Doncaster to London and became a Freeman of the rich and powerful Draper's Company, one of the City of London Guilds. The Drapers were involved, as financial backers, in promoting Puritan religious ideas and were very anxious to have English bibles freely available. He moved to the Stationers' Company, as did many other Drapers, and seems to have been a bookseller in 1569. By 1578 he had acquired the patent, from its previous holders, to print the Queen's books in Latin, Hebrew and Greek, all Bibles, the Book of Common Prayer, Statutes of the Realm and Royal Proclamations. This form of copyright had existed from the time of Henry VIII, but at first only applying to statutes and proclamations.

By 1583 Christopher owned five printing presses and was based at St Paul's Churchyard in the City of London, but we would probably describe him as the publisher rather than the printer; he put up the money, ran the business and fought off all challenges to his monopolies. He is unlikely to have set up type or worked the presses himself, but could have been responsible for what we would call the design of the print, decorations and bindings. The office also gave him full access to the master printers who had become a new craft elite and allowed him to take on more apprentices than anyone else.

In Tudor times many London merchants bought country estates at convenient distances from the City, since real status still depended on possession of land. Datchet was both an easy day's ride from London and close to the royal court at Windsor.

In 1583 Christopher Barker bought the estate of Southlea which had previously been owned by St Helen's Priory in Bishopsgate but was seized by Henry VIII at the dissolution of the monasteries. There was never a religious house at Southlea. It was a farm belonging to the Priory, sending rents back to London.

Christopher and his son Robert also bought huge amounts of other property in and around Datchet, including Upton Court House.

The Barkers' house no longer exists, but was near the present Southlea Farm. The house had been rebuilt since their time and only these 18th century garden walls and gateway still remain.

From another page on the Datchet website:

Christopher & Robert Barker; Datchet's Royal Printers
'Robert Barker, Printer to the King's Most Excellent Majesty' - what a fine and honourable title this sounds, but the reality behind it was of Tudor and Stuart political and financial dealings on a grand scale, both in London and in Datchet. The story begins, not with Robert, but with his father Christopher Barker who acquired the office of Queen's printer in 1577. The title was not a privilege bestowed graciously as a royal favour, but a business patent or licence bought from the previous holder. It provided a virtual monopoly in the production of the most profitable printed books, although the situation was very confused and caused conflict between other patent-holders and business partners who felt their rights were being infringed. Everyone was chiefly intent on making money, although the printers were also involved in the religious concerns of the Elizabethan period, in particular making the Protestant English Bible available to as many people as possible.

In 1582 Christopher Barker listed the patents he held for himself: the Old and New Testaments, all Statutes of the Realm, the Book of Common Prayer, all Royal Proclamations and Erasmus's Book of Homilies, from which parish priests read their sermons. In 1583 he is known to have owned five printing presses in London and claimed that the capital expense of these presses, typefaces and skilled workmen required a guaranteed market for his books that only the monopoly could provide.

We have Christopher's complaints about infringements of his rights in his own words, one of which concerns another printer who held the patent to print the Psalter:

How I am hindered by this Psalter ! It happeneth thus, that where I sell one Book of Common Prayer, which few or none do buy except the minister, he (the other printer) furnisheth whole parishes throughout the Realm, which are commonly sold an hundred for one of mine.

Although the business remained in London, Christopher Barker bought a country house at Datchet in 1583, a move typical of the newly rich Tudor merchants and craftsmen. This was Southlea, now Southlea Farm (also known as St Helen's), an estate which had been released on to the property market by Henry VIII's dissolution of the monasteries about fifty years previously. It is very often said that it was the site of a monastery, but actually it was only a grange farm owned by the nunnery of St Helen's in Bishopsgate, sending produce and profits back to London. There was never a religious community here, and the walls which still stand are garden walls rebuilt in the 18th century.* Unfortunately the Barker's house has not survived, although it was probably just north of the remaining walls toward the farm buildings, where Southlea House stood until it burnt down.

On Christmas day in the same year as his move here, Christopher donated a large Bible and a Book of Common Prayer to St Mary's Church - if only the church still had them! We know that they were given, and that the Bible does survive somewhere, because in 1975 a great expert on early printing sent a photocopy of the book's inscribed title page to the then vicar, Revd John Bone. This expert was interested in places connected with the Barkers and had found the Datchet gift Bible in a friend's collection, but we have no more information than that.

When Christopher died in 1599 his son Robert erected a tomb to him in the chancel of the church, of which the black marble inscription on the north chancel wall is all that is left. It is here that Robert described (in Latin) how his father, 'found English printing as rough as brickwork and leaving it as smooth as marble'. A more cynical recent view is that Christopher's contribution was rather more in terms of quantity than quality. It had already been arranged that Robert was to succeed his father as Printer to the Queen, and the privilege had been paid for. After Queen Elizabeth's death in 1603 Robert became Printer to King James I.

Other Notes:

The Gentleman's Magazine and Historical Review by Sylvanus Urban, Gent. M DCCC LX. July to December Inclusive; Being Volume IX. Of a New Series, And the Two-Hundred-and-Ninth since the Commencement (209); London: John Henry and James Parker, 1860; Pg. 538

Christopher Barker died in 1599, and after 1588 the business was carried on by his deputies. Robert Barker, his son, who was a prisoner in the King’s Bench from 1635, died there in 1645. Probably, Nicholas Goff the elder, and Nicholas Goff the younger, although neither of them are mentioned by Ames, were deputies or assigns of Christopher or of Robert Barker, and I should be glad of any information on that point.

Among the books printed by Christopher Barker, in the list given by Mr. Ames, I find the following printed at Bacon-house: -“Acts of Parliament, in 23rd Elizabeth, 1581; ‘Christian Mediations,’ by Theodore Beza, imprinted in Bacon-house, 1582; Acts of Parliament, 27th Elizabeth, 1585, imprinted in Bacon-house, near Foster-lane.”


Margery d/o Christopher Barker, printer to Queen Elizabeth I of England

In 1578 Christopher Barker, Robert's father, acquired the title 'Printer to Her Majesty the Queen', paying for the privilege which we would call a monopoly, and his son Robert inherited it in 1600. Such titles were bought and sold, inherited and quarrelled over as lucrative trading restrictions; what was at stake was money and power rather than philanthropy or royal goodwill. Robert Barker's greatest achievement was the printing of the King James Bible in 1611, which he claimed to have funded himself to the sum of £3000. From the 1580s Christopher and Robert acquired huge amounts of property in Datchet, contributing to Robert's final disgrace by over-reaching of resources. This is the story of colourful characters with great talent who did nothing by halves.

At his father's death, Robert already held a partnership in the royal printing presses and  in 1600 the Stationers Company recognised his right to his father's office of Royal Printer. (Christopher would have paid a large sum for this privilege to pass the title on, and Robert similarly bought the right to pass it on to his eldest son.)

References and Sources

Lupton, Lewis; several volumes in his long series on the History of the Bible, Olive Tree Press, 1970-1990

Plomer H.R.(ed); Dictionary of Printers & Booksellers 1557-1640, pub 1977

Arber, E: A Transcript of the Registers of the Company of Stationers of London, pub 1875

Blagden, Cyprian: History of the Stationers' Company 1403-1959

Christopher & Robert Barker; Datchet's Royal Printers

Neither Christopher nor Robert was content with owning just the Southlea estate. From the time of their arrival here, the documents record their purchase of almost all local properties which became available, spending money without constraint to expand their landholdings. In 1605 Robert bought the lease of Upton Court (just beyond the Datchet boundary and now occupied by the Observer newspaper offices), quarrelling bitterly with its previous owner over the terms of sale. He also bought the lease of the extensive Datchet lands belonging to St George's Chapel and paid a huge sum to buy out the interests of the next lessee to whom it had already been promised. The lease of Eton College's lands and valuable Thames fisheries in Datchet were also added to his Datchet possessions; he could not become the Lord of the Manor but it looks as if he was intent on being the next best thing.

Robert Barker's family life was equally ostentatious; by his first wife Rachel (commemorated on the marble plaque in the church) he had eleven children, ten of whom survived, and then by his second wife he had seven more who also survived into adulthood. His eldest son, Christopher, followed him as a printer but a Barker dynasty was not founded in Datchet as one might expect. Only one of his sons outlived him and by the next generation none of the children seem to have lived locally.

The greatest work of Robert's life was printing the new Hampton Court translation of the Bible ordered by King James I, which we know as the Authorised Version. In 1610 he paid the huge sum of £3,500 for ownership of the manuscript and the beautiful first edition was published in 1611, followed by a fifteen more editions in different sizes and typefaces by 1613 - a truly major printing feat. Recently, St Mary's bought a 1614 edition in a small size, probably intended for use in the home.

Printing at this speed and volume inevitably meant that mistakes would appear in the typesetting, but at this period they were generally tolerated. Until, that is, a mistake was made which was so glaring that it may have been deliberate sabotage; in a 1631 edition the word 'not' was omitted from the seventh commandment, which then read 'Thou shalt commit adultery'. Immediately dubbed 'The Wicked Bible', all copies were ordered to be destroyed and a fine was imposed on Robert Barker and his partners by Charles I's Star Chamber, though it seems not to have been paid. There were plenty of people in London with an interest in destroying Barker, including his business partner and son-in-law Bonham Norton with whom he was engaged in acrimonious lawsuits about possession of the title of King's Printer. The London printers also greatly resented Barker and his monopolies, which had been extended to include all books in Greek, Latin and Hebrew as well as charts and maps; there can have been little left that others were able to print. It may not have been too difficult to bribe a typesetter to omit a word, but of course this is sheer speculation.

Robert Barker was in deep financial trouble apart from the fine imposed on him. His estates in Datchet were mortgaged to Bonham Norton by 1620, and in 1634 he mortgaged his half of the post of Printer to the King to long-standing rivals for the job. His final downfall came in 1635 when he was committed to debtor's prison, where he remained until his death in 1645.

There are many gaps in the information we have about his life, but it seems that he was over-ambitious, perhaps even megalomaniac, in all his business, financial and family affairs. He was certainly a flamboyant character, who did nothing by halves and who seems to have lacked prudence and caution. He may also have been paranoid, as suggested by his constant lawsuits, quarrels and protection of his rights. Both Christopher and Robert are among Datchet's most fascinating characters, playing significant roles in the life of the country as well as the village.

(The story of Robert Barker's Bridge House Trust can be found here as a Link article)

* The story about the site of a monastery was perpetuated by the 19th century OS maps, which mark it as 'Monastery' and 'Monastery Walls'. The surveyors are likely to have been told about St Helen's by local people and accepted the information as correct, but there is absolutely no evidence of the place being considered as the site of a religious house before the date of these maps. It sounds as if an enthusiastic local antiquarian was making sure his opinion was enshrined for the future - the present author should take note and beware !

The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).

Volume IV. Prose and Poetry: Sir Thomas North to Michael Drayton.

XVIII. The Book-Trade, 1557–1625.

§ 19. William Ponsonby; Christopher and Robert Barker.

The most influential man in the trade, in the latter part of the sixteenth century, was Christopher Barker, the queen’s printer, who has already been mentioned. His presses were largely occupied with the printing of Bibles and official work, and, on his death in 1599, he was succeeded in the office of royal printer by his son Robert, whose name is associated with the issue of the royal version (the Authorised Version) of the Bible in 1611.

Christopher Barker. Printer to Queen Elizabeth I once resident at Upton Court Printer of The largest and most awesome Geneva Bible ever printed The 1583 Noble Geneva Bible, pictured. According to British law, in England, the printing of the Authorised or King James Version of the Bible (KJV) is the monopoly of the Royal Printer, by virtue of a patent first granted to Christopher Barker in 1577. The Genevan or Breeches Bible was imprinted at London by the Deputies of Christopher Barker, Printer to The Queenes most excellent Maiestie. Edited by religious refugees in Geneva during the reign of Bloody Mary, this was the Bible of the Puritans. The use of the term breeches in Genesis iii, where the Authorised Version has aprons, gives this version its name. An edition of the Bishops Bible bearing the date 1585 in the Baptist Bible College collection lists the printer s name, Christopher Barker, and the fact that he was printer to the Queen accompanied by the words cum gratia et privilegio with grace and privilege.

According to British law, in England, the printing of the Authorized or King James Version of the Bible (KJV) is the monopoly of the Royal Printer, by virtue of a patent first granted to Christopher Barker in 1577. Only the University Presses of Cambridge and Oxford are permitted by royal charter to override this monopoly; one other publisher, Scottish, is an accepted printer of these materials. (By its royal charter of 1534, the University of Cambridge had acquired the perpetual right to appoint three printers who could print "all manner of books." The right preexisted Barker's patent, and was taken to cover Bibles, so Cambridge printed a Geneva Bible in 1591 and its first KJV in 1629. Out of fairness Oxford acquired a similar charter in 1636, and in the 1670s printed Bibles.)

So the first A.V. Bibles published in England were the work of the Royal Printer (in the early 17th century, that would have been Robert Barker, Printer to the King's Most Excellent Majesty, according to the title page of the 1611 edition of the A.V.).

William Fulke, The text of the New Testament of Iesus Christ, translated out of the vulgar Latine by the papists of the traiterous seminarie at Rhemes, with arguments of bookes, chapters, and annotations, pretending to discouer the corruptions of diuers translations, and to cleare the controuersies of these dayes. Whereunto is added the translation out of the original Greeke, commonly used in the Church of England, with a confutation of all such arguments, glosses, and annotations, as conteine manifest impietie, of heresie, treason and slander, against the Catholike Church of God, and the true teachers thereof, or the translations used in the Church of England: both by auctoritie of the Holy Scriptures, and by the testimonie of the ancient fathers. London : Imprinted by the deputies of Christopher Barker, printer to the Queenes most Excellent Maiestie., 1589. Fulke’s refutation was reprinted twice in 1601 and in separate editions, in 1618, and 1633, all after his death. In this volume, the Roman Catholic Rheims New Testament (1582) and the Church of England’s Bishops’ Bible (1568) are printed in parallel columns along with the arguments, marginal notes, and annotations of the Rheims New Testament, and William Fulke’s refutations of them.

The printer C. (Christopher) Barker was originally a draper who in his middle age turned his attention to printing. With the receipt of a patent as the printer to Queen Elizabeth, he became one of the most powerful and important members of the Company of Stationers, having the sole rights to print the Bible, the Book of Common Prayer, the Statutes of the Realm and all Proclamations. Upon his death on November 29, 1599, he passed his position in the Royal printing house to his son Robert Barker and his deputies George Bishop and Ralph Newbery. Plomer 19-20. The printer Robert Barker was the eldest son of Christopher Barker, the first printer to Queen Elizabeth. After numerous financial and legal difficulties with his partners, he ended his career committed as a debtor to the King’s bench Prison where he died after ten years’ imprisonment in 1645.

Bible No. 130 is a Geneva Bible printed by Christopher Barker, London, in 1599. Roman type is used throughout; leaves rather than the pages are numbered; the Table of Contents lists the Books of the Apocrypha, but the books themselves are not included. an unusual point is that the new Testament is given in the rare version of L. Tomson. the New Testament is followed by "The Booke of Psalmes : Collected in English Meeter, by Thomas Sternhold, John Hopkins, and others." This volume not only has the quaintly illustrated title-pages typical of the Geneva Bible, but is illustrated through in the most lively way. Evidently the reading of the Bible was intended to be a pleasure, as well as an act of piety.

The best preserved Geneva Bible in our collection is that bearing the number 130a. The entire book is intact, and considerable other material, such as services of Communion, Baptism, and Psalms for morning and evening prayer, are included. So is the popular rhymed version of the Psalms adapted for congregational singing by Sternhold and Hopkins. This was the version brought to New England by all the successive colonies except Plymouth, which used a version prepared for the exiled churches in Holland by Henry Ainsworth, "teacher" of the English congregation in Amsterdam. Pilgrim Hall has a copy of these Ainsworth Psalms, published in Amsterdam in 1612.

The Old Testament of No. 130a was published by Robert Barker in 1608; the New Testament in 1610. The leaves rather than the pages are numbered; the Apocrypha is included. The tooled leather binding is probably original. The whole volume, except the marginal notes, is in black letter, once more contradicting the statement that the Geneva Bible was always set in Roman type.

The Bibles in Pilgrim Hall show that different editions of the Geneva Bible varied considerably in detail; that the material bound together also varied, either by the owner’s choice or the caprice of the bookseller; and that the firm of Barker in London printed both King James and Geneva Bibles, sometimes using the same decorative material for both.

An edition of the Bishops' Bible bearing the date 1585 in the Baptist Bible College collection lists the printer's name, Christopher Barker, and the fact that he was printer to the Queen's most excellent majesty, accompanied by the words "cum gratia et privilegio" — "with grace and privilege."

Gustavus Paine, in The Men Behind the King James Version, discusses the printing and copyright of the KJV —

There was no competition for the job of printing the new Bible. It went to Robert Barker, the royal printer who also published it. His father, Christopher Barker, had received from Queen Elizabeth the sole right to print English Bibles, books of common prayer, statutes, and proclamations. On the death of Christopher Barker in 1599 the queen had given to his son, Robert Barker, the office of Queen's Printer for life with the same monopoly. The Barkers and their heirs were to keep their right to publish the King James Bible for a hundred years.

The heirs of Robert Barker went on printing [the KJV] as sole owners of the right for a hundred years (pgs. 134, 182).

Henry Richard Tedder, in his biographical sketch of Robert Barker in The Compact Edition of the Dictionary of National Biography, gives further information about Robert Barker, his Bible copyright, and the printing of the King James Version —

[T]he letters patent of Queen Elizabeth [I] of 8 Aug., 1589, grant[ed] him the reversion for life, after his father's death, of the office of Queen's printer, with right of printing English [B]ibles [emphasis added], books of common prayer, statutes, and proclamations...

The most important publication we owe to him was the first edition of the authorized version of the English Bible of 1611, sometimes known as King James, printed by virtue of the patent. Two issues, both handsome folios, were produced in the same year (pgs. 94, 1127-1128). Tedder further relates how Robert Barker paid the printing costs for these two folio editions of the KJV — "[he] paid for the amended or corrected translation of the Bible 3,500 [pounds]: by reason whereof the translated copy did of right belong to him and his assigns," and that in 1660, an anonymous author "accused the Barkers of having kept in their possession the original manuscript of King James Version" (pg. 94, 1128).

For more than 100 years the Barkers held the exclusive copyright to all English Bibles, as Tedder informs us — "The Bible patent remained in the family from 1577 to 1709, or 132 years" (pg. 94, 1128).

But the copyright on the KJV did not expire after 100 years, when the Barker's copyright passed into other hands. Philip Schaff, in Companion to the Greek Testament and English Version, wrote of later matters respecting the copyright of the KJV. He noted that "No English Bible was printed in America until after the Revolution, in 1782... Before that time the English copyright prevented the reprint" (pg. 329, note 1).

The 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica explains that In England, the act of copyrighting books started right after the Reformation: 

"In England.... After the Reformation the greater part of the rights of censorship passed to the Crown, which at the same time assumed the power of granting by letters patent the right of printing or selling books as a monopoly. The grant, if made to the author himself, was an equivalent of copyright; if made to a person other than the author, it seems to have always been subject to the authors copyright as it existed at common law...Under Mary printing was confined to members of the Stationers Company, founded by royal charter in 1556. Under Elizabeth the Star Chamber assumed the right to confine printing to London, Oxford and Cambridge, to limit the number of printers and presses, to prohibit all publications issued without proper license, and to enter houses to search for unlicensed presses and publications (Order of 1585, Strypes Whitgift, app. 94). The search for unlicensed presses or publications was entrusted to an officer called the messenger of the press. In 5637 was issued an order of the Star Chamber forbidding the import ation of books printed abroad to the scandal of religion or the" [Read about PRESS LAWS in the 1911 Encyclopdia]

The Protestant author Gustavus Paine, in his book The Men Behind the King James Version, discusses the printing and copyright of the KJV —

"There was no competition for the job of printing the new Bible. It went to Robert Barker, the royal printer who also published it. His father, Christopher Barker, had received from Queen Elizabeth the sole right to print English Bibles, books of common prayer, statutes, and proclamations. On the death of Christopher Barker in 1599 the queen had given to his son, Robert Barker, the office of Queen's Printer for life with the same monopoly. The Barkers and their heirs were to keep their right to publish the King James Bible for a hundred years. The heirs of Robert Barker went on printing [the KJV] as sole owners of the right for a hundred years" (1).

The Holy Bible. Containing the Old Testament and the New. [Translated by Matthew Parker and others.] Set forth by authority. Imprinted at London by Christopher Barker, Printer to the "Queenes most excellent Maiestie." 1582. (First Edition was 1568.)" 

"Breeches"  passage from Genesis

The Breeches passage, from: The Bible: that is, the Holy Scriptures contained in the Olde and New Testament: translated according to the Ebrew and Greeke ... With most profitable annotations. London: imprinted for the deputies of Christopher Barker, 1595.

The Geneva Bible is popularly known as the "Breeches Bible" because of the rendering of the word "aprons" by "breeches" in Genesis iii.7, where Adam and Eve sew fig leaves together and make themselves "breeches". The copy here is an example of Laurence Tomson's revision of the text, printed in 1595 by the press of Christopher Barker (1529-1599), who became the Queen's printer in 1578. He was one of the most powerful members of the Company of Stationers and in his patent he obtained the sole right to print the Bible, which was also exercised by his deputies and descendants. The copy is bound with The Revelation of Saint John the Apostle and Evangelist, printed by John Windet, who was later the official printer to the City of London.

Image of Christopher Barker's printing device. Barker was the Queen's printer, granted an exclusive patent to print all official documents as well as Bibles and Testaments in 1588. Woodcut printed in Henry R Plomer's English Printing 1476-1898, London: Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubner and Co, 1900, p. 120. With permission from Oxford Brookes University Library

1558 Confirmation of Stationers' Charter

In Elizabeth's first year in office, 1558, she confirmed the Stationers' Company charter.

The office of King's Printer could be seen as conferring many advantages. Not only did it bring with it an annual stipend but it gave the office holder the exclusive right to print statutes, proclamations and other official material, as well as, in many instances, certain religious items such as Bibles and prayerbooks. The government had been quick to see the value of using the press to ensure that accurately duplicated copies of official pronouncements could be speedily prepared without being dependent on the vagaries and inaccuracies of individual scribes. As early as 1503 William Fawkes is described as "regius impressor". He was succeeded by Richard Pynson in 1508 and Thomas Berthelet received the royal patent in 1529. In the 1570s the privilege was granted to Christopher Barker in whose family it was to remain for almost a century, with the interruption of the Commonwealth. Of course a down side of the position was that, during times of war, the King's Printer might be asked to accompany the sovereign and run the risk of ending up as a prominent figure on the losing side.

One of earliest references to the use of bookmarks was in 1584 when the Queen's Printer, Christopher Barker, presented Queen Elizabeth I with a fringed silk bookmark.

Another area of stitching of this time that was short lived but must have been fairly numerous, as a good many have survived, was the stitching on bookbindings. They were mostly small, formal in design, often the work of professionals and very seldom bear any reference to the actual book inside. Most were on crimson velvet though isolated cases of other colours and materials are known. The royal momograms H, HR, and ER with insignia such as Tudor roses and coates of arms are the most usual form of decoration, beautifully laid out and executed, sometimes with seed pearls in addition to metal threads. One very beautiful example of this form of stitching is in the Bodleian Library, Oxford. It is a bible which the printer Christopher Barker had bound in an embroidered binding in 1583 for prensentation to Elizabeth I. Metal threads and seed pearls form a delightful composition of Tudor roses linked by stylised stems, leaves and birds.