Last Friday a much-anticipated package arrived at the Folger, containing a series of fifteen deeds describing the successive ownership of two adjacent properties on Fleet Street (“The King’s Highway”) in London from 1543 to 1735. Deeds can be tedious to muddle through, repetitive and full of arcane terminology. And the Folger doesn’t actively acquire deeds unless they directly relate to a collection strength,1 but when these were offered to us by a London bookseller, we couldn’t say no.
This group of deeds is remarkable for providing the exact location of Richard Tottel’s printing house, the Hand and Star, where he printed Songs and Sonnets, the first printed anthology of poetry in English (1557), now commonly referred to as Tottel’s Miscellany. The printing-house, described in Tottel’s colophons as being “at London in Fletestrete within Temple Barre at the signe of the Hand and Starre,” was previously thought to be on the north side of Fleet Street. These manuscripts reveal that it was actually located on the south side, and was carved out of two tenements that jointly abutted a wall of the Inner Temple garden (to the south), the gate of the Middle Temple (to the west), and another house (to the east).
As the deeds for these two tenements recount, in 1543, three years after Henry VIII suppressed the monastery that owned them (the Hospital of St. John of Jerusalem, which had a priory in Clerkenwell), they were granted by the king to William Lambe (Folger MS Z.c.22 (50)). Lambe quickly sold both of them to one of the two residing tenants, Thomas Holbeck and his wife Elizabeth (Z.c.22 (51)). Holbeck’s son Robert sold his share to Tottel in April 1556 (Z.c.22 (53)), although Tottel may have already been leasing them before that date.
The purchase in 1556 was timely: Tottel’s patent for common-law books was renewed on May 1, 1556. In 1557, when he had at least four apprentices and several paid journeymen working for him, he published, in addition to his regular batch of legal publications, some of his best known products: the aforementioned Songs and Sonnets, the English edition of Sir Thomas More’s Works, Surrey’s translation of Virgil’s Aeneid into blank verse, and Thomas Tusser’s bestseller, A hundred good pointes of husbandrie.
Tottel gained total freehold possession of the two tenements (which had been combined into a single tenement) and three shops (later combined into two) in 1572, when he purchased Holbeck’s widow’s share (Z.c.22 (54)—the deal was finalized in 1575). Tottel’s son William continued to reside in the tenement after his father’s death in 1593. In August 1594, the property was re-divided, and William Tottel sold the tenement to the east to John Gomershall, who had been sub-leasing it from another tenant. It is this deed that describes “the shoppe which the saied Richard Tothill or his assignes did latelie vse and occupye for vtteraunce and sale of bookes of the Lawe,” including a backyard area between the kitchen “vnto the side of one doore of the howse or Roome latelie ymployed by the saied Richard Tothill in the arte or mysterie of Printinge”:
The deeds also describe, in great detail, the evolution of this property into various other booksellers’ shops and coffeehouses in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. A June 1680 lease provides new details about the foundation of the famous Dick’s Coffee House (one of the longest-operating of all London coffee houses, from 1680 to 1885), and provides concrete evidence for the last name of the original owner, Richard Turver (rather than Turner or other variants):
Another deed reveals the previously unknown names of two of Turver’s successors—William Gale and Edward Fruterell (Z.c.22 (62)), and yet another, the exact location of two other important coffeehouses—“The Rainbow” and “Nando’s”—both previously thought to be further down the street (Z.c.22 (63)).
Two additional details—Tottel’s son leased one of the shops on the property to the bookseller John Jaggard, his father’s former apprentice (and elder brother to William Jaggard, printer of the First Folio), who sold books there, under Tottel’s sign of the Hand and Star:
And Tottel’s great-grandson, Sir William Drake of Amersham, Bucks, who inherited the property and leased part of it (including Jaggard’s shop) to the grocer Roger Dade in 1630 (Z.c.22 (60)), is represented at the Folger by a legal and financial notebook (Folger MS V.b.331) and miscellany (Folger MS V.a.263), as well as marginalia in a Folger copy of A treatise of the interest of the princes and states of Christendome, written in French by the most noble and illustrious prince, the Duke of Rohan (which corresponds to some of the entries in V.a.263). Folger MS V.b.331 even mentions the quarterly rents collected for the Fleet Street property, ca. 1636-1638 (see fols. 147, 149, 155v, 156)! For more on Drake’s reading and writing habits, see Kevin Sharpe’s essay in the Folger exhibition catalog, The Reader Revealed, and his book Reading Revolutions. (Drake manuscript miscellanies survive in other repositories as well).
So, printing history and coffee house history are a little bit richer as a result of these deeds, we know a little bit more about Sir William Drake, and there are many additional research threads that remain to be followed.
These manuscripts are so new that they have not yet been cataloged in Hamnet, although a skeletal acquisition record has been created. Eventually, each individual deed will have its own record, in addition to an overall collection level record. We’ll update this post when that has been done.
- Although we do have well over a thousand of them—in Hamnet, try a subject search for Deeds or browse “Z.c.” as a call number [↩]