Barker, Robert (d.1645) (DNB00)

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BARKER, ROBERT (d. 1645), king's printer, son of Christopher Barker [q. v.], was made free of the Stationers' Company, per patrimonium, 25 June 1589, and was admitted to the livery on 1 July 1592. He began to take apprentices on 26 March 1593, and during the life of his father carried on business with his deputies, George Bishop and Ralph Newbery, with whom in 1592–3 he brought out the Latin bible edited by Fr. Junius. It is not known where he lived or had his office, but most probably it was in the same house as his father. The court of assistants of the Stationers' Company recognised, 3 Jan. 1599–1600, the letters patent of Queen Elizabeth of 8 Aug. 1589, granting him the reversion for life, after his father's death, of the office of queen's printer, with right of printing English bibles, books of common prayer, statutes, and proclamations. The first bible which bears his separate imprint is a quarto of the Genevan version brought out in 1600. In 1603 he had a special license ‘to print all statutes and libels for life,’ and in the following year, in reversion after John Norton, one ‘to print all books in Latin, Greek, and Hebrew, Trimelius' Latin Bible, and all charts and maps.’ In 1609 and 1610 several large sums were paid him for printing, books, binding, parchment, and papers, supplied to parliament.

The most important publication we owe to him was the first edition of the authorised version of the English bible of 1611, sometimes known as King James's, printed by virtue of the patent. Two issues, both handsome folios, were produced in the same year. Contrary to Lord Mansfield's well-known opinion, James never paid a penny towards this great work. Indeed, William Ball, writing in 1651, informs us that ‘I conceive the sole printing of the bible, and testament, with power of restraint in others, to be of right the propriety of one Matthew Barker, citizen and stationer of London, in regard that his father paid for the amended or corrected translation of the bible 3,500l.: by reason whereof the translated copy did of right belong to him and his assignes’ (Treatise concerning the Regulating of Printing, p. 27). The anonymous author of ‘The London Printer his Lamentation’ in 1660 accused the Barkers of having kept in their possession the original manuscript of King James's version (Harleian Misc. iii. 293).

On 10 May 1603 King James had granted in reversion to Barker's eldest son, Christopher, the office of king's printer for life, and on 11 Feb. 1617 the same was granted to Robert, his second son, after determination to Robert the elder, and to Christopher, for thirty years. The rights were assigned by the Barkers to Bonham Norton and John Bill in 1627, and the assignment was confirmed by the king. Eight years later Robert, the second son, paid 600l. for the same patent in reversion, to be held by his own younger son. The bible patent remained in the family from 1577 to 1709, or a period of 132 years. It then fell into the hands of Baskett [q. v.]

In 1631 Barker took Martin Lucas into partnership, and they obtained a search warrant for persons suspected of importing editions of the English bible, testaments, and church books, contrary to the patent. Sixty bibles, introduced by a certain Michael Sparke, were seized in consequence at Bristol. An octavo edition of the bible, full of gross errors, was printed by ‘R. Barker … and the assignes of John Bill [i.e. Lucas]’ in 1631. One startling variant was ‘thou shalt commit adultery’ for the seventh commandment (Exod. xx. 14). This has caused the volume to be known as the ‘Wicked Bible;’ it is much sought after, and is of extreme rarity. The Star Chamber fined Barker 200l., and Lucas 100l., and ordered that all copies issued should be returned in order that the faulty sheets might be cancelled. The payment of the fines was to be respited if the printers would set up a fount of Greek type. The Star Chamber was not very relentless, as the fines were respited again and again until 1640. Whether the money was ever paid is questionable. William Kilburne (Dangerous Errors in several late printed Bibles, 1659) refers to the importation of spurious editions, full of errors, with the Barkers' imprint.

He had a lease from the crown in 1603 for twenty-two years of the manor of Upton near Windsor, at a rental of 20l., increased to 40l. two years after, in consideration of a payment of 300l. In one patent he was described as of Southley or Southlee in Bedfordshire. He married twice, the first wife being Rachel, daughter of William Day, afterwards bishop of Winchester, by whom he had three daughters and five sons, Christopher, Robert, Francis, Charles, and Matthew, of whom the first, second, and last entered into the printing business. His second wife was the widow of Nicholas Cage; she died 7 Feb. 1631–2.

Towards the end of his life Barker became involved in difficulties, and on 27 Nov. 1635 he was committed into the custody of the marshal of the king's bench. On 7 March 1642 the London printers petitioned against the four oppressive monopolies, being that of the Barkers, that of law books, that of Greek, Latin, and Hebrew books, and that of broadsides. Barker remained in the King's Bench prison until his death, which took place on 10 Jan. 1644–5.

[Ames's Typogr. Antiq. (1st ed.), 357–68; ib. (ed. Herbert), ii. 1090–3; Arber's Stationers' Registers, ii. iii. iv.; Cotton's Editions of the Bible, 1852; Cat. of Books in the British Museum to 1640; Eadie's English Bible; Anderson's Annals of the English Bible; Caxton Exhibition, 1877, Catalogue; Report from the Select Committee of the House of Commons on the Queen's Printer's Patent, 1860; Dugdale's Origines Juridiciales, 1680, p. 61; Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1603–10, pp. 8, 20, 74, 574, 607, 650; ib. 1627–28, pp. 235, 249; ib. 1629–31, pp. 306, 485, 510; ib. 1634–5, pp. 175, 549; ib. 1635, p. 230; ib. 1640, pp. 84–5, 398; Nichols's Illustrations, iv. 164.]

H. R. T.