Wyer, Robert (DNB00)

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WYER, ROBERT (fl. 1530–1556), printer, belonged to a family some members of which were settled at Wendover in Buckinghamshire (Pat. Roll, 33 Hen. VIII, pt. vii.) John Wyer, who died in 1552, held at Wendover a house called ‘The Maidenhead’ and half an acre of land there. His will makes no mention of Robert. Edward Wyer of Wendover, grandson of this John, bought of the printer, Richard Tottel, in 1579 ‘the Three Cranes in the Vintry,’ London (Chancery Proceedings, 21 Eliz. No. 49). It is possible that John of Wendover was identical with a contemporary printer of the name, who issued in 1550, at the sign of ‘St. John the Evangelist in Fleet Street, in St. Bride's Churchyard, over against the Conduit,’ Bale's ‘Paraphrase of the Book of Revelation.’ The house occupied by John Wyer the printer had formerly been in the possession of a printer named John Butler, and to Butler John Wyer may have served an apprenticeship; he is not known to have published any other book than that by Bale. Robert Wyer was probably a near relative.

According to Herbert, Robert Wyer began life as a servant to Richard Fawkes, a printer and publisher, who lived in Durham Rents, close by Durham House, in the Strand (Ames, ed. Dibdin, iii. 356). When Robert Wyer's apprenticeship ended he apparently worked with Richard Pynson [q. v.] One of Pynson's popular publications, ‘Solomon and Marcolphus,’ was described as being on sale at the sign of ‘St. John the Evangelist at Charing Cross,’ in premises that formed part of the rentals of Norwich House, near the site of the present Villiers Street. To these premises Robert Wyer succeeded about the date of Pynson's death in 1529. Wyer's press was certainly established there in 1530. It is possible that he bought Pynson's plant. The house was very near the office of Richard Fawkes, alleged to be his old master, with whom he seems, when in business on his own account, to have maintained close relations. Fawkes printed for him an astronomical treatise attributed to Aristotle, entitled ‘De Cursione Lune’ (n. d.); after 1536 Wyer reprinted two editions of the work at his own press, under the title of ‘Nature of the dayes of the weke.’ In 1536 the property of which Wyer's premises formed part passed from the bishop of Norwich to Charles Brandon, duke of Suffolk, who held it till his death in 1545. Accordingly, after 1536 Wyer in his publications described his address as ‘the Duke of Suffolk's rents,’ instead of ‘the Bishop of Norwich's rents.’ He continued at work in the same premises till 1556, when he was succeeded by Nicholas Wyer, doubtless a relative, who in 1560 was himself succeeded by Thomas Colwell.

Seven distinct founts of type were employed in Wyer's printing-office. His device was a picture of St. John the Evangelist, bareheaded and dressed in a long robe, seated under a tree on an island surrounded by water, and writing on a scroll spread over his right knee; at his right hand an eagle with outstretched wings holds an inkwell in its beak; in the background is a city with towers and spires; below, the printer's name, ‘Robert Wyer,’ is prominently displayed. In some specimens of the device the eagle is omitted. A set of small woodcuts which Wyer constantly introduced into his works were copied from blocks used by Antoine Verard, the French printer, in a 1490 edition of ‘Horæ.’ Some good initial letters frequently employed by Wyer closely resembled those in common use by Wynkyn de Worde. Most of his books he both printed and published, although a few were printed by him for others to publish, and one or two were printed by others for him to publish; among those booksellers or publishers who availed themselves of the services of his press were Richard Kele, Richard Banckes, Henry Dabbe, and John Goodall.

One of Wyer's most elaborate books was a translation of Christine de Pisan's ‘C. Hystoryes of Troye,’ n.d. (after 1536). It is copiously illustrated with woodcuts. The translation was possibly the work of Wyer himself. Other interesting publications were: Andrew Borde's ‘Boke for to lerne a man to be wyse,’ n.d. (after 1536); Erasmus's ‘Epistle on the Sacrament’ (n.d.), his ‘Governance of goode helthe’ (two undated editions), and his ‘Exhortation,’ n.d. (before 1536); Lord Berners's ‘Castell of Love,’ ‘imprynted by me, Robert Wyer, for Richard Kele,’ n.d. [1542?]; Moulton's ‘Glasse of Helthe’ (three undated editions).

One hundred books are described by the bibliographer Herbert in his edition of Ames's ‘Typographical Antiquities’ as having come from Wyer's press. Fifty are in the British Museum, and others are in the Bodleian Library, the Cambridge University Library, and the Lambeth Library; but several have not been traced of late years. Only eleven of Wyer's publications are dated. The earliest dated book, Richard Whytford's ‘Golden Pystle,’ appeared in 1531. Fourteen of Wyer's publications mention Wyer's dwelling as ‘in the Bishop of Norwich's rents,’ which implies that they were undertaken before 1536, when the place received the new designation of ‘the Duke of Suffolk's rents;’ that form of address figures on thirteen of Wyer's books, which must accordingly be dated after 1536.

[A very full and admirable account of Wyer appears in ‘Robert Wyer, Printer and Bookseller,’ a paper read before the Bibliographical Society on 21 Jan. 1895 by Henry R. Plomer, privately printed in volume form for the Bibliographical Society in 1897, with facsimiles of types and devices. See also Ames's Typographical Antiquities, ed. Herbert and Dibdin.]

S. L.