November 18

Mr. William Bowyer, printer of London, died upon this day in 1777in his 78th year. An extract from his will follows:

“And now I hope I may be allowed to leave somewhat for the benefit of printing. To this end I give to the master and keepers, or wardens and commonalty, of the mystery or art of a Stationer of the city of London, such a sum of money as will purchase Two Thousand Pounds, three per cent. Reduced Bank Annuities, upon trust, to pay the dividends and yearly produce Thereof, to be divided forever equally amongst three printers, compositors or pressmen, to be elected from time to time by the master, wardens, and assistants, of the said company, and who at the time of such election shall be sixty-three years old or upwards, for their respective lives, to be paid half yearly; hoping that such as shall be most deserving will be preferred. . . .

“It has long been to me a matter of concern that such numbers are put apprentices, as compositors, without any share of school-learning, who ought to have the greatest: in hopes of remedying this, I give and bequeath to the said Company of Stationers such a sum of money as will purchase One Thousand Pounds three per cent. Reduced Bank Annuities, for the use of one journeyman compositor, such as hereafter be described, with this special trust, that the master, wardens, and assistants, shall pay the dividends and produce thereof half-yearly to such compositor: the said master, wardens, and assistants, of the said company, shall nominate for this purpose a compositor who is a man of good life and conservation, who shall usually frequent some place of public worship every Sunday, unless prevented by sickness, and shall not have worked on a newspaper or magazine for four years at least before such nomination, nor shall ever afterwards while he holds this annuity, which may be for life if he continues a journeyman: he shall be able to read and construe Latin, and at least to read Greek fluently with accents; of which he shall bring a testimonial from the rector of St. Martin’s, Ludgate, for the time being: I could wish that he shall have been brought up piously and virtuously, if it be possible, at Merchant Taylor’s, or some other public school, from seven years of age until he is full seventeen, and then to serve seven years faithfully as a compositor, and work seven years more as a journeyman, as I would not have this annuity bestowed on any one under thirty-one years of age; if, after he is chosen, he should behave ill, let him be turned out, and another be chosen in his stead. . . .”

The records neglect to mention the finding of such a paragon of compositors who could successfully apply for Mr. Bowyer’s annuity.

Leave a Reply