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Christopher Barker, The Queen's Printer


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Barker's Printing Devices

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University of Glasgow - Printing in England from William Caxton to Christopher Barker

An Exhibition: November 1976 - April 1977

Christopher Barker

An outstanding figure in the printing trade towards the end of the sixteenth century was Christopher Barker, a shrewd businessman who managed to acquire the most lucrative of all patents, namely the Bible patent. Born around 1529, Barker was a wealthy member of the Drapers’ Company with powerful friends at court, for he was closely connected with the Walsingham family. He is thought to have been the grand nephew of Sir Christopher Barker, a former Garter King of Arms, which would explain his wealth, since the various properties of Sir Christopher ultimately passed into the possession of his nephew, Edward Barker, thought to have been the printer’s father.

Barker became interested in the printing trade and is first heard of as a publisher in 1569. In 1576 he started on his career as a Bible printer, having obtained a privilege to print the Geneva version of the Bible in England. In 1577 he purchased from Sir Thomas Wilkes, Clerk of the Privy Council, an extensive patent which included the Old and New Testament in English, with or without notes, of any translation. The full patent granted to Barker the office of royal printer of all statutes, books, bills, Acts of Parliament, proclamations, injunctions, Bibles, and New Testaments, in the English tongue of any translation, all service books to be used in churches, and all other volumes ordered to be printed by the Queen or Parliament.

Barker’s business continued to thrive and from 1588 onwards he conducted it mainly through his deputies, George Bishop and Ralph Newbery. On the disgrace of Wilkes in 1589, Barker managed to obtain a renewal of his exclusive patent with reversion for life to his son Robert. Father and son lived in London at Bacon House in Noble Street, Aldersgate. Christopher Barker also had a house at Datchet, to which he retired after 1588, and there he died in 1599. He and his deputies had supplied the country with about seventy editions of the Scriptures between 1575 and 1599 and they were accurate and well printed. He was succceeded in the post of royal printer by his son Robert.

LA PLACE, Pierre de
A treatise of the excellencie of a Christian man, and how he may be knowen
London: imprinted by Christopher Barkar [sic], 1576
A translation of Traitté de la vocation et manière de vivre à laquelle chacun est apellé by Laurence Tomson.
Pierre de la Place was born about 1520 at Angoulème. He studied at the University of Poitiers and subsequently went to Paris where in time he became President of the Cour des Aides. In 1560 he became a Protestant and had to leave Paris because of persecution. On his return he was made overseer of the household of the Prince de Condé. A few years later he was again persecuted - his house was sacked, his library pillaged, his money sequestered and he was deprived of his office. Finally he was murdered in the massacre of St. Bartholomew, 1572. Laurence Tomson (1539-1608) was secretary to Sir Francis Walsingham. He was a graduate of Oxford, had travelled extensively and knew many languages. He translated and revised the Geneva New Testament.

BIBLE. Geneva version
The Bible that is, the Holy Scriptures conteined in the Olde and Newe Testament
London: imprinted by Christopher Barker, 1576
Christopher Barker prined two folio editions of the Geneva version of the Bible in 1576. These were the first folio editions of his version printed in England. The Geneva version was a translation made by William Whittingham, Anthony Gilby, Thomas Sampson, and perhaps others, at Geneva, where a band of English reformers had found asylum. It was the first printed, in a quarto edition, by Rowland Hall at Geneva in 1560. This first edition was printed in roman type and Barker printed his editions in roman type too, instead of the black letter usually favoured by English printers of the Bible at that time.
In this edition a large two-page plan, The forme of the Temple and citie restored, is inserted at Ezekiel. Some of the initials contain the arms and crest, or the crest alone, of Sir Francis Walsingham, Barker’s patron. This copy has the bookplate of Lt. Col. Edwin Richbell.

CHURCH OF ENGLAND. Liturgy and ritual
The booke of common prayer
London: imprinted by Christopher Barker, [1581?]
in G.x.27
The book of common prayer was first published by Edward Whitchurch in 1549. It was the first single manual of worship in a vernacular language directed to be used universally by, and common to, both priest and people. Its original simplicity, which has not been lost in the many subsequent revisions, has ensured its permanence; and deservedly so, becuase it is one of the greatest of all liturgical rationalizations, combining as it did the four main service books of pre-Reformation days, the Missal, Breviary, Manual and Pontifical, and abolishing all the different regional variations contained in the diocesan uses. From these four service books came the main structure of the Prayer Book, and with translations from other liturgical sources, they formed the contents. To these were added the Collects, which were Archbishop Cranmer’s own contribution, along with the translation into English whose simplicity and vigour are still apparent.
The Litany was compiled and published in 1544, the English version of the Epistles and Gospels followed in 1548 and the first complete Book of common prayer was issued and enjoined by the Act of Unifomity of 1549. A considerably altered text was introduced in 1522 to satisfy a more extreme Protestant point of view, and minor alterations of a Catholicizing tendency were made in 1561 and again in 1604. The last major alteration took place after the Restoration in 1662, when several hundred alterations were made.

A 1970s exhibition at the University of Glasgow is recreated online, offering digital excerpts from selected manuscripts and biographical information about Caxton, Wynkyn de Worde, William de Machlinia, Richard Pynson, Julian Notary, Peter Treveris, Robert Redman, Laurence Andrewe, Richard Grafton, Richard Jugge, Henry Bynneman, Christopher Barker, and other printers.


LA PLACE, Pierre de
A treatise of the excellencie of a Christian man, and how he may be knowen
London: imprinted by Christopher Barkar [sic], 1576