St Albans Press

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The St Albans Press was the third printing press set up in England, in 1479. It was situated in the Abbey Gateway, St Albans, a part of the Benedictine Monastery of St Albans. The name of the printer is unknown, only referred to by Wynkyn de Worde in a reprinting of one of the St Albans books as 'Sometime schoolmaster'.[1] He has sometimes been identified as John Marchall, master of St Albans School; however, a passage written by Worde in 1497 implies that the printer was deceased, and Marchall is known to have lived until 1501. Recent research has produced the name John Haule as a possible candidate for the Schoolmaster Printer.[2] He presented the school with its first printed textbook, the Elegantiolae, which was the first book printed at the press, and he was a printer, probably in St Albans in 1479.

However, the historian Nicholas Orme, in his “Medieval Schools, From Roman Britain to Renaissance England”, states, “Books were also acquired by schools and institutions. One of the earliest known is a Priscian Major [the first sixteen books of Priscian's Latin grammar, the Institutiones grammaticae] given to St Albans school by John Haule, apparently before 1310." Orme was citing the register of the abbots of St Albans: “Item, Johannes Haule praedictis Scolis dedit Priscianum magnum.”[3][4][5]

Lotte Hellinga[6] has suggested that “there were several people working successively at the abbey.” Printing was done in St Albans in two distinct phases, probably by two printers or teams of printers. During the first phase, from 1479 to 1481, they printed six books in Latin for grammar school and university students, with a high standard of typesetting and printing. Then there was an interval of five years, after which printing resumed in 1486. During the second phase, they printed two books in English for a more general audience, with a lower standard of technical skill.

One possible candidate for the Schoolmaster Printer is William Waren.[7] In 1480, in a feoffment or property conveyance in Watford, about five miles away, he was called Master William Waryn, schoolmaster.[8] He was identified as William Waren, Master of Grammar and warden of the Grammar School of St Albans in a case in Common Pleas recorded from 1486 to 1489. He was the plaintiff against the Abbot of St Albans for a debt of 36 pounds. William Waren was awarded Master of Grammar at Cambridge in 1468-9. In his will, written in February and proven in March 1489/90, he requests to be buried in the nave of the Abbey church.

There was another printer active in St Albans in the 1530s.[9] In cases in Common Pleas in 1535, he is recorded as Richard Baugh, of St Albans, printer, and as Richard Baugh alias Waters, of St Albans, stationer.


There are eight known printed works which came from the press:[10]

Current usage[edit]

The Press now exists as a holding company, John Insomuch Schoolmaster Printer 1479 Ltd, incorporated 1996,[19] owned by St Albans School.


  1. ^ "A bibliography of printing : with notes and illustrations : Bigmore, E. C. (Edward Clements), 1838?-1899". Retrieved 26 January 2017.
  2. ^ Debbie White (18 January 2017). "St Albans School solves 'mystery' of whereabouts of lost centuries-old Latin book - Education - Herts Advertiser". Retrieved 26 January 2017.
  3. ^ Henry Thomas Riley, editor, Chronica Monasterii S. Albani, Registra Quorundam Abbatam Monasterii S. Albani, Qui Saeculo XVmo Floruere, Volume 2, Longman & Co. London, 1873, page 314
  4. ^ Nicholas Orme, Medieval Schools, From Roman Britain to Renaissance England, Yale University Press, New Haven, 2006, page 153
  5. ^ Charles Ashdown (1908). "The Schoolmaster Printer of St Albans" (PDF). Retrieved 26 January 2017.
  6. ^ Lotte Hellinga, “William Caxton and early printing in England”, The British Library (2010), Chapter 11, The Press at St Albans (1479-81, 1486), pages 90-99
  7. ^ Journal of the Printing Historical Society, New Series, No. 24, Summer 2016, “Printers, stationers and bookbinders in the plea rolls of the Court of Common Pleas, 1460-1540”, by Vance Mead, pages 31-32
  8. ^ "Feoffment".
  9. ^ Ibid page 16
  10. ^ "British Library - Incunabula Short Title Catalogue". 27 October 2005. Retrieved 26 January 2017.
  11. ^ Peter G. Bietenholz; Thomas Brian Deutscher (2003). Contemporaries of Erasmus: A Biographical Register of the Renaissance and Reformation. University of Toronto Press. p. 378. ISBN 978-0-8020-8577-1. Retrieved 19 April 2012.
  12. ^ Université catholique de Louvain (1835-1969) (1995). Humanistica Lovaniensia. Leuven University Press. p. 146. ISBN 978-90-6186-680-0. Retrieved 19 April 2012.
  13. ^ "British Library - Incunabula Short Title Catalogue". 27 October 2005. Retrieved 26 January 2017.
  14. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 26 July 2012. Retrieved 3 February 2022.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  15. ^ Edward Grant (29 May 1981). Much Ado About Nothing: Theories of Space and Vacuum from the Middle Ages to the Scientific Revolution. Cambridge University Press. p. 291 note 78. ISBN 978-0-521-22983-8. Retrieved 19 April 2012.
  16. ^ Jacques (de Vitry) (1890). The Exempla Or Illustrative Stories from the Sermones Vulgares of Jacques de Vitry. Ayer Publishing. p. xcviii. ISBN 978-0-8337-0715-4. Retrieved 19 April 2012.
  17. ^ "Chronicles of England". Retrieved 26 January 2017.
  18. ^ George D. Painter, William Caxton (1976), p. 188.
  19. ^ "John Insomuch Schoolmaster Printer (1479) Limited". 21 January 2015. Retrieved 26 January 2017.