TO THE HONOVRABLE HOVSE OF Commons assembled in Parliament.
An Abstract of the generall grieuances of the poore Free-men and Iourney-men Printers oppressed, and kept in seruile bondage all their liues by the vnlawfull ordinances of the Master and Wardens of the Company, which they fortifie only by a Warrant dormant.

With their most Humble Petition,

FFOM the beginning of Printing his Maiesties progenitors by their prerogatiue Royall did priuiledge such persons as they pleased soly to Print some peculiar bookes, leauing the rest in generall to the Printers.

And for this Art of Printing was the key that opened the doore of knowledge and learning (which is the ho­nour and support of all States and Kingdomes) his Maiesties progenitors were pleased to incorporate a selected number, and to indow them with a large Charter and many great priuiledges which was graciously intended for the generall good of the whole company, but by the innouations brought in by the Masters and their ordinances, the benefit is conuerted to them in particular, and the petitioners vtterly ruined thereby.

The lawes of the kingdome authorise all persons, that haue serued an Apprentiship according to the statute, law­fully to set vp and vse that trade to which they haue serued. But the petitioners are depriued of that benefit (which all honest and loyall subiects inioy) by ordinances of the Masters of their company. And made perpetuall bondmen to serue some few of the rich all their liues vpon such condissions, and for such hire, and at such times, as the Masters thinke fit: for their trade of Printing (but as seruants) they must not vse, so as they take all possibiltie of Aduance­ment (be they neuer so exquisite in their qualitie) from the petitioners, and make them vncapable of maintenance for them their wiues and posterities.

The Masters obtained a decree 28. Eliz. prohibiting the petitioners to set vp any presse or presses wherewith to print vpon paine of sixe moneths imprisonment without Bayle or mainprise, and his presses and other instruments to be defaced.

The decree was obtained vnder colour of granting the petitioners diuers bookes in priuiledge to bee printed for their benefit, and diners ordinances for the petitioners continuall and full imployments, and other orders profita­ble for them. But the decree obtained, they obserued none of their contracts: those being instituted without pe­nalty. But all that tended to the petitioners preiudice, and their Masters particular profits, were inioyned vnder great and grieuous punishments.

Whereas his Maiestie was graciously pleased to grant in priuiledge the printing of diuers bookes vnto the peti­tioners the poore Printers (they by their ordinances haue disposed them wholly to their owne particular benefit, the petitioners hauing no share or benefit of his Maiesties most gracious and free bountie, intended chiefely to the poore petitioners. And with the profit of his Maiesties gift, they haue purchased and drawne into their hands di­uers other priuiledged bookes, conuerting them likewise to their owne ends.

In like maner vnder a false pretence of relieuing the poore, they haue obtained almost al into their hands, what ei­ther his Maiestie: or his progenitors euer granted in priuiledge, of which the Petitioners and poore sort of Printers expecting benefit, reape indemnity and preiudice, and his Maiesties Subiects in general are abused by their exactions.

For they keeping multiplicity of Apprentisies, (who after their Apprentiships, like the Petitioners, become for euer more seruile then before) Print Bookes most by their Apprentises, whereby the Petitioners haue not halfe im­ployment sufficient to worke as seruants; But the Petitioners are in worse case, then when the priuiledges were in strangers hands, which had no prentises. Besides the Masters of the Company haue raised the prizes of Bookes, Print in worse Paper, and with dimne and bad Letters.

The Stationers to whom these priuiledges were neuer intended by his Maiesties most Gracious Gift, or the Grant of his Progenitors, are the chiefe Ingrossers of these Priuiledged Coppies, with some few Printers. And further, the Stationers by an agreement among themselues will retale no new Copies, vnlesse they be of their owne. For be it neuer so Religious, Learned, or profitable, if it be a Printers, either by purchase, or by free gift, they will not sell the same: but the Printer must loose his labour, his Paper and expence, if he will not sell them at their rate: by which meanes the Stationer hath all the profit both by Printing and Booke-selling.

If the Petitioners infringe any part of the former Decree, or any of their owne Ordinances, or but seeme to que­stion their right in the benefits Graciously giuen them by his Maiestie, or complaine of their vnconscionable and lawlesse proceedings, they by vertue of a Warrant Dormant, presently breake the Petitioners houses, imprison their bodies, seize their goods, and deface their Presses and Printing Instruments, without legall proceeding or euiction by information. And by this meanes dispose of all things amongst themselues, so a few are raised to great and infinite estates, and all the Petitioners thereby made absolute beggers.

Reasons why the Petitioners should be relieued in this high and most Honourable Court.

The Decree and their Ordinances barre them all reliefe in any Court of Iustice, or any other Court of Equity, but this onely.

The Decree and their Ordinances are absolutely contrary to the Lawes of this Kingdome, and against the Lawes of God and Nations.

The Masters haue in nothing performed their Contracts made at the obtaining the Decree.

The Petitioners are depriued of that freedome that all other loyall subiects inioy, and they ought to haue.

His Maiesties bounty extended to charitable vses, but is conuerted to their priuate endes and benefits.

The Petitioners most humble request is:

That the Decree may be dissolued.

That the Petitioners may inioy that liberty and priuiledge that euery honest and loyall subiect ought to inioy.

That they may haue equall share of what his Maiestie Graciously gaue for their charitable vses.

And such other priuiledges distributed amongst the whole Company as of right belongs, wrongfully by them now vsurped.

The Petitioners shall beseech the Iudge of all Iudges, to Crowne you all with eternall Honour.

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