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The Collation

Finding women in the printing shop

Today is Ada Lovelace Day, a day that celebrates not only the achievements of Ada Lovelace—the 19th-century mathematician and computing pioneer—but the achievements of all women in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and maths. It’s a chance not only to encourage women to enter STEM fields, but to acknowledge the sometimes forgotten of women’s past achievements in these fields.

For a few years now, those of us interested in the hand-press period have used Ada Lovelace Day as an opportunity to celebrate early women printers. 1 This year, I thought I’d describe an exercise I’ve done with students that not only introduces them to some basic book trade research techniques but surprises them with the appearance of women in those records.

title page of Jocelin's The Mother's Legacie

title page of Elizabeth Jocelin’s The Mothers Legacie, here in its third impression

  1. See my 2011 post on early modern women printersNick Poyntz’s post on Jane Coe, and Joseph Adelman’s recent post on “Telling the Story of Women Printers.”
  2. We don’t know! They could have been printed during the years between 1625 and 1632 and all copies could have been lost (or not yet recorded), a not uncommon loss rate for the period. It’s also possible that Allot renumbered the series when he started printing it in 1632 as a way of inflating its popularity.
  3. You might notice that the date in the Register is listed as “12 Januarij 1623 [i.e. 1624]”—since in this period in England, calendar years didn’t change until March 25, what the stationers recorded as happening in January 1623 corresponds to our date of January 1624, and Arber’s transcription helpfully provides both dates.


Hi, Sarah – Great piece! Isn’t the Stationers’ Register a wonder? So much great history hidden in it and you did a splendid job of untangling this one fascinating story. I would be very interested in discussing the role of women in the book trades of 17th century London with you. I am embarking on a project to create a website on the topic of women in the book trades during the handpress period and am seriously considering using 17th century England as a prototype. I am looking forward to your next blog entry. All the best, Karen

Karen Nipps — October 19, 2014


What a great project! I’m far from an expert on women in the book trades–you should really reach out to Helen Smith on that–but I’d love to learn more about what you’re doing (and I think I owe you an email anyway!).

Sarah Werner — October 23, 2014


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