Huguenots of Blackfriars, London – during Shakespeare’s time Pt II
I mentioned in my last podcast Richard Field and Thomas Vautrollier, and I would like to expand in this second part on the working life of Richard Field, even though he was not of Huguenot decent, as it does demonstrate the collaborative nature in various trades of natives and non-natives.
The old medieval and Shakespearean London is no longer visible but there are clues as to where these artisans lived and worked.
A blue plaque commemorates the lost priory
Richard, in 1579, at the age of 17, was apprenticed to George Bishop, one of the more prominent printers/publishers in London, for the normal term of seven years. But it had been agreed that Richard would spend the first six of these years working as apprentice to Thomas Vautrollier, a French refugee printer with an excellent record of printing a diverse range of books, many of which were in foreign languages.
On February 2, 1587, Field was made free of the Stationer's Company (the Guild of which printers and publishers were members). ln July of that year, Thomas Vautrollier died. Thomas’ widow Jacqueline carried on the business for a few months, then in February 1588 she married Richard Field. Aged just 26 Richard suddenly held the business reigns of his former master’s thriving business and inherited not only all of Vautrollier's type and devices (which he continued to use), but the publishing rights to Vautrollier's books as well.
Significantly Richard newly acquired ownership, through marriage, of these rights would have necessarily included at least one copy of each of Vautrollier’s books, from which later editions could be printed as needed and during the ensuing years Richard Field did publish a number of editions of many of the books, he inherited from Vautrollier.
“Blackfriars Map,” Medieval London, accessed July 13, 2023, https://medievallondon.ace.fordham.edu/items/show/170.
When we look at the books Field either published himself or had inherited from Vautrollier, we find an extraordinary list of either assuredly or potentially Shakespeare sources. An example of this would be Timothy Bright's Treatise of Melancholy, printed by Vautrollier in 1586. This particular work is widely accepted as an important background source for Hamlet.
However, there were other famous Huguenots who settled in the environs of Blackfriars, if you would like to learn more…….do subscribe to ensure you receive notifications each time a blog is posted. Thank you.
The Huguenot Society Proceedings: Issue 1, 1958-59, Vol XX No 62
Thomas Vautrollier, printer and bookseller Pages 12-24.
A. E. M. KIRWOOD, RICHARD FIELD, Printer, 1589–1624,
The Library, Volume s4-XII, Issue 1, June 1931, Pages 1–39,