Another example of Irvin Matus' gross misrepresentations is the case of the author George Wither in his quarrel with the stationers about the printing of The Hymns of the Church for which he received a letter patent (privilege) from James I. But he was allowed by the king not only to publish this, his own work, but to publish it alongside the Psalms, for which James I (not the Archbishopof Canterbury as stated in Greg's quote below) had granted a patent to the Stationers' Company. Hence, James I.'s grant was an infrigement of the Stationers's Company's patent.


George Wither wrote in his Schollers Purgatory -

"Yea, by the Lawes and Orders of their Corporation, they can and do setle upon the particular members thereof a p[e]rpetuall interest in such Bookes as are Registered by them at their Hall, in their several Names: and are secured in taking the full benefit of those books, better than any Author can be by virtue of the Kings Grant, notwithstanding their first Coppies were purloyned from the true owner, or imprinted without his leave."

Pollard is cautious about Wither's statement: "In whatever sense this assertion was true at the time when Wither made it, it was true also when Milton was able to make a formal contract securing him a share in the profits of more editions of Paradise Lost than were printed during his life, and when Dryden was able to support himself by his pen." Indeed, had the situation described by Wither prevailed such a contract would not have been necessary, as Lyman Ray Patterson has pointed out (see article, part I, in The Oxfordian).

The Matus sound is quite different: "While it may seem Whither's claim that the stationer's right was even stronger than an author's right "by virtue of the King's grant" is merely the hyperbole of an outraged author, there is evidence that it is not much of an exaggeration."

Not much of an exaggeration?

Nowhere does Matus mention that the litigation was not about Wither's own Hymns of the Church but  of the privilege to print them alongside the Psalms, for which the right of publishing had previously been granted to the Stationers's Company.

Suffice it to quote Walter W. Greg (Some Aspects and Problems of London Publishing between 1550 and 1650. Oxford: At the Clarendon Press, 1956, p. 75) :"Now admittedly Wither is not an impartial witness. He was smarting unter defeat by the Stationers' Company, which had successfully fought what Pollard called 'an iniquitous grant', whereby, to an innocent patent was added the unreasonable proviso that it should be bound up and sold with all copies of the Psalms in Metre, the lucrative rights in which belonged to the Company by a grant of Archbishop Whitgift. But that does not entitle us to brush aside his testimony as Pollard would have us do. It may be, it is in some ways, exaggerated, but his attack would be pointless if it ran counter to known and verifiable fact. According to Wither the typical stationer, 'If he get any written copy into his power likely to be vendible, he will publish it; and it shall be contrived and named according to his own pleasure, which is the reason so many good books come forth imperfect and with foolish titles..."

Greg's statement seems to vindicate to a certain extent Matus's contention. However, it is bluntly contradicted... by W. W. Greg in the same work where he comes to speak of the ordinance of 1588 (see article on authorial rights): "This is, so far as I know, the only recognition of the right of an author to any say in the printing of his work to be found in an order of the Company, though there is other evidence that in practice he had, or might in some cases have, control over later editions of his works, might appoint a new publisher for them, and claim to be  consulted in case of assignment." (p. 16)

Indeed, there is plenty of evidence.

And Matus's comments on this issue must simply not be taken seriously.

© R. Detobel