Sunday, May 10, 2009

The Stationers’ Company and the Virginia Company

The 1609 push for investors, sponsors, and financial “adventurers” brought in participation from aristocrats, businessmen, and even the trade guilds. The Worshipful Company of Stationers, on May 10, 1609, invested 125 pounds towards the efforts of the Virginia Plantation. Their buy-in entitled them to a proportionate share of any profits ("scale") from the agricultural output of the plantations and any discovered precious metals, etc. The wording also implies that they would own a share of any plundered commodities as well.

This close link between the Stationers and the Virginia Company adds to our understanding of the hand-in-hand relationship between the two entities. In 1609 the Virginia
Company needed the participation of the publishers to produce the required propaganda pamphlets. The Stationers were also securing a foothold into the New World, which would, no doubt, soon be a growing market for books, in addition to earning returns on risk. We also may have here a path of interaction by which an early proof of Shakespeare’s Sonnets, either emerging from the Stationers' vaults or men of the Virginia Company, may have changed hands. As we will see in an upcoming entry, Men of the Virginia Company included William Herbert Earl of Pembroke and Henry Wriothesley Earl of Southampton, two of the leading contenders for the mysterious “Mr. WH.” General Horatio Vere was also a prominent member of the Virginia Company. The signer of the document below, Richard Atkinson, was the Clerk of the Virginia Company in 1609.

From the Stationers’ records:

"Here followeth the copy of the bill of Adventure under Scale, to the Stationers Company.

"Whereas the Master and keepers or Wardens and Comonalty of the Mysterie or Art of Stacioner of the city of London have paid in ready money to Sir Thomas Smythe Knight, Treasurer for Virginia the sum of one Hundred & twenty ffive pounds for their adventure towards the said Voyage. It is agreed that for the same they the said Master and keepers or Wardens and their successors (for the time being) shall have ratably according to their
adventures their full part of all such lands, tenements and hereditaments as shall from time to time be there recovered, planted and inhabited: And of all such mines & minerals of Gold Silver & other metalls or treasure, pearls, precious stones or any other Kind of Wares or merchandise, comodities or proffitte whatsoever which shall be obtained or gotten in the said Voyage according to the porcion of money by them imployed to that use
in as ample manner as any other adventurer therein shall receive for the like sum."
Written this 10th daye of Maye 1609. Richard Atkinson"

- RSB

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