Oxford’s Chancellor Archbishop William Laud consolidated the legal status of the university’s printing in the 1630s.
Laud envisaged a unified Press of world standing. Oxford would establish it on university property, govern its operations, employ its staff, determine its printed work, and benefit from its proceeds.
To that end, he petitioned Charles I for rights that would enable Oxford to compete with the Stationers’ Company and the King’s Printer, and obtained a succession of royal grants to aid it.
These were brought together in Oxford’s “Great Charter” in 1636, which gave the university the right to print “all manner of books.”
Laud also obtained the “privilege” from the Crown of printing the King James or Authorized Version of Scripture at Oxford. This “privilege” created substantial returns in the next 250 years, although initially it was held in abeyance.
The Stationers’ Company was deeply alarmed by the threat to its trade, and lost little time in establishing a “Covenant of Forbearance” with Oxford.
Under this, the Stationers paid an annual rent for the university not to exercise its full printing rights – money Oxford used to purchase new printing equipment for smaller purposes.
Laud also made progress with internal organization of the Press. Besides establishing the system of Delegates, he created the wide-ranging supervisory post of “Architypographus”: an academic who would have responsibility for every function of the business, from print shop management to proofreading.
The post was more an ideal than a workable reality, but it survived (mostly as a sinecure) in the loosely structured Press until the 18th century. In practice, Oxford’s Warehouse-Keeper dealt with sales, accounting, and the hiring and firing of print shop staff.
Laud’s plans, however, hit terrible obstacles, both personal and political. Falling foul of political intrigue, he was executed in 1645, by which time the English Civil War had broken out. Oxford became a Royalist stronghold during the conflict, and many printers in the city concentrated on producing political pamphlets or sermons.
Some outstanding mathematical and Orientalist works emerged at this time – notably, texts edited by Edward Pococke, the Regius Professor of Hebrew – but no university press on Laud’s model was possible before the Restoration of the Monarchy in 1660.
It was finally established by the Vice-Chancellor John Fell, Dean of Christ Church, Bishop of Oxford, and Secretary to the Delegates.
Fell regarded Laud as a martyr, and was determined to honour his vision of the Press. Using the provisions of the Great Charter, Fell persuaded Oxford to refuse any further payments from the Stationers and drew all printers working for the university onto one set of premises.
This business was set up in the cellars of the new Sheldonian Theatre, where Fell installed printing presses in 1668, making it the university’s first central print shop.
A type foundry was added when Fell acquired a large stock of typographical punches and matrices from the Dutch Republic – the so-called “Fell Types”. He also induced two Dutch typefounders, Harman Harmanz and Peter de Walpergen, to work in Oxford for the Press.
Finally, defying the Stationers’ demands, Fell personally leased the right to print from the university in 1672, in partnership with Thomas Yate, Principal of Brasenose, and Sir Leoline Jenkins, Principal of Jesus College.
Read on via Oxford University Press – Wikipedia