Home  »  Volume XI: English THE PERIOD OF THE FRENCH REVOLUTION  »  § 2. The Censorship of L’Estrange

The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume XI. The Period of the French Revolution.

XIV. Book Production and Distribution, 1625–1800

§ 2. The Censorship of L’Estrange

With the restoration, we come to the final and most autocratic endeavour at state control of the press. The Licensing act of 1662, which “asserted in the plainest terms the king’s plenary prerogative in the matter of printing,” was virtually a revival of the Star chamber decree of 1637, with all its restrictive clauses, including the limitation of the number of master printers to twenty, besides the two university presses, but allowing an additional press at York. The secret of the effectiveness of the new act lay in the steps taken to secure its successful administration. The Stationers’ company, to which had formerly been committed the exercise of police powers, was now superseded in that function by the appointment, in 1663, of a surveyor of the imprimery and printing presses. The new official was no less a person than Roger l’Estrange. This ardent royalist possessed very pronounced and even fantastic views upon the regulation of the press, and, in a report on the manner in which the act should be administered, he had already advised enlargement and stringent enforcement of its provisions. The extensive powers conferred upon him comprised the control of all printing offices, together with powers of search, and also, with certain specified exceptions, the licensing of books to be printed, and the exclusive privilege of publishing news.