John Stow (also Stowe; 1524/25 – 5 April 1605) was an English
historian and antiquarian, best known for his Survey of London (1598;
second edition 1603).
2.1 Survey of London
3 Later years and death
5.2 Further reading
6 External links
John Stow was born in about 1525 in the City parish of St Michael,
Cornhill, then at the heart of London's metropolis. His father, Thomas
Stow, was a tallow chandler. Thomas Stow is recorded as paying rent of
6s 8d per year for the family dwelling, and as a youth Stow would
fetch milk every morning from a farm on the land nearby to the east
owned by the Minoresses of the Convent of St. Clare.
Stow did not take up his father's trade of tallow chandlery, instead
becoming an apprentice, and in 1547 a freeman, of the Merchant
Taylors' Company, by which stage he had set up business in premises
Aldgate Well, close to
Leadenhall Street and Fenchurch
In about 1560 he started upon his major work, the Survey of London.
His antiquarian interests attracted suspicion from the ecclesiastical
authorities as a person "with many dangerous and superstitious books
in his possession", and in February 1569 his house was searched. An
inventory was made of all the books at his home, especially those "in
defence of papistry", but he was able to satisfy his interrogators as
to the soundness of his Protestantism. A second attempt to
incriminate him was made in 1570 also without success.
In about 1570 he moved to the parish of
St Andrew Undershaft
St Andrew Undershaft in the
Ward of Lime Street, where he lived in comfortable surroundings until
his death in 1605.
Stow made keen acquaintance of the leading antiquarians of his time,
including William Camden, before in 1561 producing his first work, The
woorkes of Geffrey Chaucer, newly printed with divers additions whiche
were never in printe before. This was followed in 1565 by his Summarie
of Englyshe Chronicles which was reprinted several times, with slight
variations, during his lifetime. Grenville's Library is believed to
have had a first-edition of Stow's Summarie and the British Library
holds copies of his editions of 1567, 1573, 1590, 1598 and 1604.
Stow's 1567 edition makes mention in its frontispiece of a rival
publication by Richard Grafton, a dispute which later magnified.
In 1580, Stow published his Annales, or a Generale Chronicle of
England from Brute until the present yeare of Christ 1580; reprinted
in 1592, 1601 and 1605, the last being continued to 26 March 1605,
or within ten days of his death. Editions "amended" by Edmund Howes
appeared in 1615 and 1631.
Archbishop Matthew Parker's patronage, Stow was persuaded to
produce a version of Flores historiarum by "Matthew of Westminster"
published in 1567, then the Chronicle of
Matthew Paris in 1571, and
the Historia brevis of
Thomas Walsingham in 1574. In the Chronicle of
England 1590 Stow writes: "To The Honorable Sir John Hart, Lord Maior.
The Chronicle written before that nothing is perfect the first time,
and that it is incident to mankinde to erre and slip sometimes, but
the point of fanta[s]tical fooles to preserve and continue in their
At the request of
Archbishop Parker he compiled a "farre larger
volume", a history of Britain, but circumstances were unfavourable to
its publication and the manuscript was lost. Additions to the
previously published works of
Chaucer were twice made through Stow's
"own painful labours" in the edition of 1561, referred to above, and
also in 1597. A number of Stow's manuscripts are in the Harley
Collection in the British Library. Some are in Lambeth Palace Library
(MS 306), and were published in 1880 by the Camden Society, edited by
James Gairdner, as Three Fifteenth Century Chronicles, with Historical
Memoranda by John Stowe the Antiquary, and Contemporary Notes of
Occurrences written by him.
Survey of London
The work for which Stow is best known is his Survey of London
(original spelling: A Survay of London), published in 1598, which is
of unique value for its detailed account of the buildings, social
conditions and customs of London in the time of Queen Elizabeth I. He
published a second revised edition in 1603. Following his death, a
third edition, with additions by
Anthony Munday appeared in 1618; a
fourth by Munday and
Humfrey Dyson in 1633; a fifth with interpolated
John Strype in 1720; and a sixth by the same editor in
1754. The edition of 1598 was reprinted, edited by William John Thoms,
in 1842, in 1846, and (with illustrations) in 1876. An edition based
on that of 1598, edited by Henry Morley, was published in 1889, and
has been reprinted on several occasions since.
A critical edition, based on that of 1603 and edited in two volumes by
C. L. Kingsford, was published in 1908, and republished with
additional notes in 1927. This remains the standard scholarly edition.
A more popular single-volume edition was published in Everyman's
Library, with an introduction by H. B. Wheatley, in 1912 (revised
edition 1956), and has been frequently reprinted.
Church of St Andrew Undershaft
Later years and death
Stow's literary efforts did not prove very remunerative, but he
accepted his relative poverty with cheerful spirit:
Ben Jonson relates
once walking with him when Stow jocularly asked two mendicant cripples
"what they would have to take him to their order". From 1579 he was in
receipt of a pension of £4 per annum from the Merchant Taylors'
Company; and in 1590 he petitioned the
Court of Aldermen
Court of Aldermen for admission
to the Freedom of the City of London, in order to reduce his
expenses. In about the 1590s,
William Camden commissioned Stow to
transcribe six autograph notebooks of John Leland in exchange for a
life annuity of £8: this was probably (in part) a charitable gesture
towards an old but impoverished friend. In March 1604 King James I
authorised Stow and his associates to collect "amongst our loving
subjects their voluntary contributions and 'kind gratuities'", and
himself began "the largesse for the example of others". Whilst such
royal approval was welcome it reaped dividend too slowly for Stow to
enjoy any substantial benefit during his lifetime.
Stow died on 5 April 1605, and was buried in the Church of St Andrew
Undershaft on the corner of
Leadenhall Street and St. Mary Axe.
An 18th-century engraving of Stow's monument
Stow's widow commissioned a mural monument to him in the church, made
of Derbyshire marble and alabaster. The work has been tentatively
attributed to Nicholas Johnson. It includes an effigy
of Stow, which was originally coloured: he is represented seated at a
desk, writing in a book (probably the revision of his Annals, which he
brought down to only ten days before his death), and flanked by other
books. Above him is the motto, based on a phrase of Pliny the Younger,
Aut scribenda agere, aut legenda scribere ("[Blessed is he to whom it
is given] either to do things that are worth writing about, or to
write things that are worth reading about"). The figure holds a real
quill pen, in a manner similar to the effigy of William Shakespeare at
Stratford-upon-Avon: the latter monument has been attributed, on
equally tentative grounds, to Nicholas Johnson's brother, Gerard.
In acknowledgement of Stow's continuing reputation as the founding
father of London history, the quill held by his effigy has been
periodically renewed. The renewal is mentioned as taking place
"annually" in 1828; and, although the custom may later have fallen
into abeyance, it was revived following the monument's restoration by
Merchant Taylors' Company
Merchant Taylors' Company in 1905. In 1924, the ceremony was
incorporated into a special church service, with an address by a
London historian; and this service continued to be held annually every
April until 1991, including the years of the Second World
War. No services could be held in 1992 or 1993 because of
damage to the church caused by the Baltic Exchange bomb of 1992. The
service was revived in 1994, but since 1996 has been held only once
every three years. The services are jointly sponsored by the
Merchant Taylors' Company
Merchant Taylors' Company and the London & Middlesex
Archaeological Society, and the quill supplied by the London &
Middlesex Archaeological Society. The exchange of the quill is
undertaken by the
Lord Mayor of London
Lord Mayor of London or the Master Merchant Taylor
^ Wilson 1991.
^ Stow, John. The Annales of England, "The race of the Kings of
Brytaine after the received opinion since Brute, &c" G. Bishop and
T. Adams (London), 1605.
^ Parry 1987.
^ a b Beer 2004.
^ Harris, Oliver (2005). "'Motheaten, Mouldye, and Rotten': the early
custodial history and dissemination of John Leland's manuscript
remains". Bodleian Library Record. 18: 460–501 (475–6).
^ Taylor 1974.
^ Esdaile, Katharine A. (1946). English Church Monuments 1510–1840.
London: B. T. Batsford. p. 115.
^ Bradley, Simon; Pevsner, Nikolaus (1997). London 1: the City of
London. The Buildings of England. London: Penguin Books. p. 193.
^ Katherine Duncan-Jones, "Afterword: Stow's remains", in Gadd and
Gillespie 2004, pp. 157–63.
^ The two monuments are compared in Duncan-Jones 2004.
^ Taylor 1974, p. 321.
^ Clark, John (January 2015). "
John Stow and the mystery of the quill
pen" (PDF). London and Middlesex Archaeological Society Newsletter.
No. 143. pp. 4–5.
^ Esdaile 1946, p. 115.
^ Many of the addresses delivered at the services are published in the
annual Transactions of the London and Middlesex Archaeological
^ Clark 2015.
^ Paterson, Mike (6 April 2011). "
John Stow Memorial Service – 6
April 2011". London Historians' Blog. Retrieved 13 November
Stow, John (1927). Kingsford, Charles Lethbridge, ed. A Survey of
London (revised ed.). Oxford: Clarendon Press. (2 vols.)
[Kingsford's "Introduction" includes a substantial life of Stow.]
Beer, Barrett L. (1998). Tudor England Observed: the world of John
Stow. Stroud: Sutton Publishing. ISBN 0-7509-1943-4.
Beer, Barrett L. (2004). "Stow [Stowe], John (1524/5–1605)". Oxford
Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University
Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/26611. (subscription required)
Bonahue, Edward T. (1998). "Citizen history: Stow's Survey of London".
Studies in English Literature. 38: 61–85. doi:10.2307/451081.
Clark, John (1997). "
John Stow and the legendary history of London"
(PDF). Transactions of the London and Middlesex Archaeological
Society. 48: 153–5.
Collinson, Patrick (2001). "
John Stow and nostalgic antiquarianism".
In Merritt, J. F. Imagining Early Modern London: perceptions and
portrayals of the city from Stow to Strype, 1598–1720. Cambridge:
Cambridge University Press. pp. 27–51.
Devereux, E. J. (1990). "Empty tuns and unfruitful grafts: Richard
Grafton's historical publications". Sixteenth Century Journal. 21 (1):
Gadd, Ian; Gillespie, Alexandra, eds. (2004).
John Stow (1525–1605)
and the making of the English past: studies in early modern culture
and the history of the book. London: British Library.
Hall, William Keith (1991). "A topography of time: historical
narration in John Stow's Survey of London". Studies in Philology. 88
Parry, G. J. R. (1987). "John Stow's unpublished "Historie of this
Iland": amity and enmity amongst sixteenth-century scholars". English
Historical Review. 102: 633–47.
Pearl, Valerie (1979). "John Stow" (PDF). Transactions of the London
and Middlesex Archaeological Society. 30: 130–34.
Rowse, A. L. (1971). "
John Stow as an historian: a commemoration
address" (PDF). Transactions of the London and Middlesex
Archaeological Society. 23 (1): 15–18.
Rubinstein, Stanley (1968). "John Stow". Historians of London: an
account of the many surveys, histories, perambulations, maps and
engravings made about the city and its environs, and of the dedicated
Londoners who made them. London: Peter Owen.
Taylor, A. J. (1974). "
John Stow and his monument" (PDF). Transactions
of the London and Middlesex Archaeological Society. 25:
Trevor-Roper, Hugh (1975). "John Stow" (PDF). Transactions of the
London and Middlesex Archaeological Society. 26: 337–42.
Wilson, Janet (1991). "A catalogue of the "unlawful" books found in
John Stow's study on 21 February 1568/9". Recusant History. 20:
This article incorporates text from a publication now in
the public domain: Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Stow, John".
Encyclopædia Britannica. 25 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.
Wikisource has original works written by or about:
John Stow at Project Gutenberg
Works by or about
John Stow at Internet Archive
Annals of England to 1603. OpenLibrary.org
Three fifteenth-century chronicles: the
Camden Society edition of
three fifteenth-century chronicles of London, which contains extensive
historical notes made on the manuscripts by Stow.
Three fifteenth-century chronicles, with historical memoranda by John
Stow Cornell University Library Historical Monographs Collection.
Reprinted by Cornell University Library Digital Collections
The Survey of London, Everyman edition with modernised spelling
A Survey of London, Reprinted from the text of 1603 (British History
Stow, John, A Summarie of the Chronicles of England, London (1598),
A Survey of the Cities of London and Westminster, Borough of Southwark
and parts adjacent,
John Stow (ed. Robert Seymour, 1735)
Curriers' Historical Essay Prize @ www.maneyonline.com
ISNI: 0000 0001 2119 4623
BNF: cb12471469w (data)