Women Printers

There’s plenty of evidence of women in the printing business in the 17th Century. However, it’s unclear whether they were actually working in the printing house, or what we might today term ‘publishers’. Illicit printers such as Joan Darby had their pamphlets printed in the low Countries and then smuggled in. Moxon tells us that one of the ‘rules of the chapel’ was a no-women rule. However, in the Civil War years, is it impossible to imagine that radical women might have worked alongside their male fellows in the struggle? I’d love to know.

Magdalene College Libraries

To celebrate International Women’s Day 2016 on the blog, we are showcasing the work of female printers of the 17th century in the Pepys Library.

In early modern England, the printing industry was not altogether a male preserve: between 1550 and 1650, it is estimated that 130 women in Britain were working actively in the printing trade. It was common for women printers to work alongside men in the printing houses of convents or with family members and spouses, and it was usual for them to marry within the trade. Amongst the books in Magdalene’s historic libraries, one can find the names of women printers on the imprints of title pages.  Some are referred to by their marital status, such as ‘Widow Sayle’ ‘Widow of J. Blageart’ and the ‘widowe of Richarde Iugge’, others, by their full names such as Alice Norton, Elizabeth Purslowe, Mary Clark and Hannah Allen.


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