John Bartlett: citizen, stationer and religious radical

In the last post I wrote about my 9 x great grandmother, Anne Byne née Wane. Anne died in March 1662 (by today’s calendar), leaving her husband Magnus, who was rector of Clayton-cum-Keymer in Sussex, with a daughter Anne (who would die a year later at the age of nineteen) and three sons, Stephen, Edward, and my 8 x great grandfather John.

Six months after Anne’s death, Magnus Byne married for a second time. Walter Charles Renshaw, in his history of the Byne family, tells us that his second wife was Sarah Bartlett, daughter of John Bartlett, Citizen and Stationer of St Faith’s in the City of London. According to Renshaw, the allegation for the marriage was dated 23rd September 1662 and it was to be solemnized at Lambeth or St Mary-le-Bow.

I’ve yet to find a record of the marriage of Magnus and Sarah. There’s no mention of it in the parish register of St Mary, Lambeth for 1662, and the records of St Mary-le-Bow appear to be incomplete for this period. Nor have I found a record of Sarah’s birth or baptism. Indeed, despite the helpful information provided by Renshaw, I struggled at first to discover anything about her father John.  However, after a few days of creative searching online, I’ve actually managed to find out a good deal about John Bartlett, and it turns out that he was a significant and controversial figure in the religious and political conflicts of early seventeenth-century England.

17th century booksellers (via

17th century booksellers (via

Renshaw tells us that John Bartlett took up his freedom of the Stationers’ Company on 26th July 1619. It appears that ‘stationer’ is a misleading description of John’s activities: he was also a printer and bookseller. Indeed, a useful outline of his life and work appears in a dictionary of printers and booksellers who were active between the years 1641 and 1667. Apparently, on finishing his apprenticeship, John Bartlett opened a shop at the sign of the Gilt Cup in Goldsmiths’ Row, Cheapside, where he remained until 1637. In 1641 he had premises at St Austin’s Gate and in 1643-44 he was in the parish of St Faith’s. In 1655 John was in new buildings on the south side of St Paul’s, while two years later he had moved to St Paul’s Churchyard. A year after this, he could be found at the sign of the Gilt Cup in Westminster Hall.

Archbishop William Laud

Archbishop William Laud

Apparently John published mostly sermons and other theological works – with a decided Puritan bias. In 1637, during the Personal Rule of Charles I, he was caught up in Archbishop William Laud’s persecution of religious dissidents and brought before Sir John Lambe ‘on a charge of having given William Prynne’s servant some of the writings of Dr Bastwick and Mr Burton to be copied’. Another source claims that Bartlett was tried in the Court of High Commission on two charges: the first for trading in ‘schismatical’ books, including works by William Prynne, John Bastwick and Henry Burton, all of them Puritan propagandists, and the second ‘for receiving the Scottish news and causing severall copies to be written thereof’. ‘Scottish news’ refers to the Covenanters’ campaign against the king’s religious laws, a struggle that aroused a good deal of support among English religious radicals.

William Prynne

William Prynne

The same wave of persecution that swept up John Bartlett dealt harshly with the authors that he published: the three named above were convicted of seditious libel and had their ears cut off and their cheeks branded. Perhaps Bartlett was fortunate to escape with the punishment that was meted out to him. He was ordered to shut up his shop, and when he did not immediately comply, he was imprisoned in the Compter or local prison in Wood Street in the City of London for three months, ‘until he had entered into bond of £100 not to use his trade in Cheapside, to quit his house within six months, and not to let it to anyone but a goldsmith under a penalty of £600.’ Apparently he was later brought before the Privy Council on the Archbishop’s warrant and sent to the Fleet Prison for six months (the second person that I’ve discovered in my family tree who spent time there).

John Pym

John Pym

John Bartlett fared better in later years, when the Puritan cause was in the ascendant. In 1641 the ‘Long Parliament’, led by John Pym, passed a bill of attainder against one of King Charles’ closest advisers, Thomas Wentworth, Earl Of Strafford, a process that ended in the latter’s execution on 12th May.  On the previous day, this order was published:

It is this day ordered in ye Comons House of parliament that mr hollis give order tht the Argumt it made in Wesminster hall touching matter of Law in the case of the Earle of Strafford, And that Pym give the like order that his speeches at the beginning & ending of ye tryall of the said Earle of Strafford be likewise printed  And ye printer before he disperse any copies is to bring a copie of ye case to mr Sollicitor & Mr Pym & a copie of mr hollis’s Argument & Mr Pyms Speeches … And order is to be taken that the speech which is printed … under mr Glynnes name may be suppressed, & the printer punished.  And ye Mr and wardens of ye Company of Stationers are required to attend the house to imploy their best Endeavors accordingly.

The order is signed ‘H. Elsing’ (Henry Elsing was Clerk of the Commons). There is a note beneath indicating that ‘Hollis’ (possibly Denzil Holles) appointed ‘John Bartlett Stationer and none else’ to print his ‘Argument’ .

Parliament in the 17th century

Parliament in the 17th century

Later that same year Parliament, under Pym’s leadership, published what became known as the Grand Remonstrance, a list of its grievances against the king. This was one of the key events precipitating the civil war that broke out in the following year. Once again, and perhaps on account of his religious sympathies, John Bartlett seems to have been Parliament’s printer of choice for this important text. A parliamentary record for 9th July 1649 includes the following: 

Ordered, That the Committee of Revenue be required and authorized forthwith to pay unto John Bartlett, Citizen and Stationer of London, Twenty-five Pounds, for Twenty thousand Remonstrances, of the Second of May 1642, printed for the Service of the State: And that the Acquittance of the said John Bartlett shall be a sufficient Discharge for the same to the said Committee.

Bartlett petitioned Parliament again in September 1653, in the time of Cromwell’s Commonwealth, this time for compensation of losses suffered due to his imprisonment under Charles I (emphasis added):

Relief of Creditors.

Mr. Anlaby reports further Amendments to the Bill for Relief of Creditors and poor Prisoners: Which were twice read: And several of the said Amendments were put to the Question; and agreed.

Resolved, That the Allowance for the Commissioners for London be Two-Pence in the Pound.-

The humble Petition of John Bartlett, Citizen and Stationer of London, was this Day read.-

A Clause was tendered to this Bill, in these Words: viz. “And it is Enacted, That all Persons that lie in Prison, or that have done any Wrong by Colour of ShipMoney or by Order of the Council Board, in the Time of the late King, whatever there hath been recovered, that their Lands and Estates shall be liable to satisfy the Persons wronged, with all Damage and Costs, although the same, or any Part thereof, hath been conveyed away to their Children, or any others, since the Wrongs done: Which was twice read.

According to the dictionary of booksellers and printers quoted earlier, John had a son, John Bartlett junior, who followed him into the bookselling trade and also had a stall at Westminster Hall in 1657, though perhaps this was jointly managed for a time by father and son. John Bartlett senior seems to have died some time between 1657 and 1660, so he would have been dead for a few years when his daughter Sarah married Magnus Byne in 1662.

Magnus must have been fully aware of his father-in-law’s religious activities, and one can’t imagine him marrying into the family unless he shared John Bartlett’s opinions to some degree. So this new information goes some way to confirming my suspicion that my Sussex ancestors were Puritan sympathisers and likely supporters of Parliament’s cause in the Civil War.

There’s certainly evidence of radical religious sympathies in the family of one of Magnus Byne’s predecessors at Clayton, and the first husband of his first wife Anne. In 1605 John Bantnor, rector of Westmeston and father of the John Bantnor who married Anne, was presented in court ‘for that he doth not say the letany, nor ten commandments; neither does he in baptisme signe with the signe of the Crosse, but with the sign of the Covenant; neither doth he weare the surplice.’

Puritan worship (via

Puritan worship (via

As to the question of how Magnus Byne, in his village rectory in Sussex, came to meet and marry the daughter of a London stationer, the answer may lie in the number of Bartletts to be found in the Sussex registers. Although I have yet to find any definite records for Sarah or her father, there is a concentration of Bartlett baptisms in Burwash, where Magnus was born, and even closer to home in Keymer, the village that was paired with Clayton as part of the parish of which he was rector. Perhaps John Bartlett was born in Sussex but made his way to London as a young apprentice. This would anticipate the path trodden by at least two of Magnus Byne’s own sons. It seems highly likely that my 8 x great grandfather John Byne, another London citizen and stationer, gained his introduction to that trade, if not from his controversial step-grandfather, then perhaps via his son, John Bartlett junior – possibly as his apprentice?

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