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The Collation

Bound to Serve: Apprenticeship Indentures at the Folger

Indenture of apprenticeship for John Holden
Indenture of apprenticeship for John Holden

In 1616, the apprentice Robert Dering received the following letter from his master Thomas Style.

Letter from Thomas Style to Robert Dering

Letter from Thomas Style to Robert Dering

Dering was bound overseas with one Mr. Culpepper, and in his letter, Style offers his apprentice several pieces of salient advice and stern admonition.1 Dering must be “delygent” to “learne the lanngwedge” (of his post abroad), to “spend not [his] time eydlye,” and to “mend and better [his] wryttinge” so that he “maye com to be Iimployed in [Style’s] affarres.”

  1. The Hamnet record notes that “the references to William Culpepper, associated with the Eastland Company, suggest that Dering was bound for a Baltic destination.”
  2. For a discussion of emendations and blanks in Folger documents, please see Derek Dunne’s Collation post: For a recent discussion of the fulfillment—or lack thereof—of the full term of indenture contracts, please see Chris Minns and Patrick Wallis, “Rules and reality: quantifying the practice of apprenticeship in early modern England,” The Economic History Review 65.2 (2012).
  3. For a recent discussion of the use of indentures in binding female apprentices, please see Laura Gowing’s “Girls on Forms: Apprenticing Young Women in Seventeenth-Century London,” Journal of British Studies 55.3 (2016).
  4. For a fuller discussion of the practice of apprenticing poor children, see Steve Hindle, On the Parish?: The Micro-Politics of Poor Relief in Rural England, c. 1550-1750 (Oxford: OUP, 2004), esp. 191-226.

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