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HER Number:MDV3923
Name:Printing House at Tavistock Abbey


Printing house set up by the monks of Tavistock Abbey, circa 1525. Only two extant works, including the first book to be printed in Devon. Exact location unknown.


Grid Reference:SX 481 743
Map Sheet:SX47SE
Admin AreaDevon
Civil ParishTavistock
DistrictWest Devon
Ecclesiastical ParishTAVISTOCK

Protected Status

Other References/Statuses

  • Old DCC SMR Ref: SX47SE/1/3

Monument Type(s) and Dates

  • PRINTING WORKS (XVI - 1501 AD to 1600 AD (Between))

Full description

Worth, R. N., 1879, Notes on the History of Printing in Devon, 499-500 (Article in Serial). SDV350134.

The monks of the Benedictine Abbey of Tavistock set up the eighth printing house in England circa 1525. Only two extant works. The Abbey was dissolved in 1539 and the fate of the press is unknown. Rev. J. Williams of Exeter mentioned some printing tools in his will of 1567 which may have come from the abbey.

R. B. M., 1920-1921, Tavistock Boethius, 53-54 (Article in Serial). SDV350138.

Possibly up to nine copies of the first book printed in Devon were in existence at the time of writing. Copies in the library of Exeter College, Oxford, and in the Bodleian Library were inspected by the author, and their present condition is described.

Lady Radford, 1928, Address of the President: Early Printing in Devon, 59-73 (Article in Serial). SDV350135.

A press was founded in Tavistock in 1525 in the monastic house of Tavistock Abbey. The first printer was Thomas Rychard, monk of the abbey, of whose life some details are given. The first book to be published has come to be known as the Tavistock Boethius, an edition of Boethius 'Book of Consolation'. Probably only seven copies of it have survived and only one, now in the Bodleian Library, Oxford, still retains a portion of of its original binding. In 1528 Thomas Rychard became prior of St Mary's Priory, Totnes, and was superseded by another monk, John Williams probably, for the publication in 1534 of 'The Statutes of the Stannary', a book which recognised and regulated the working of tin on Dartmoor. Only one copy of this is believed to exist, and that resides in the library ofEexeter College, Oxford.

Lady Radford, 1930, Notes on the Tinners of Devon and Their Laws, 232 (Article in Serial). SDV350136.

Author refers to first printed book relating to the stannaries in Devon.

Greeves, T. A. P., 1987, The Great Courts or Parliaments of Devon Tinners 1474-1786, 153 (Article in Serial). SDV350137.

Within a year of the Great Court of 1533, the newly established printing press at Tavistock Abbey (the first in the county) published a book containing the statutes of the Great Courts of 1510, 1532 and 1533, plus a copy of the Charter of Edward I.

Freeman, M. + Wans, J., 1996, Tavistock Abbey: Alternative Interpretations, 29; figure 2 (Article in Serial). SDV249301.

A letter of 1828 mentioned that the printing house of the Abbey was contiguous to the school being 'spacious, with a stream of water running through the offices'. This suggests that it was housed in the 'Prayle'.

Sources / Further Reading

SDV249301Article in Serial: Freeman, M. + Wans, J.. 1996. Tavistock Abbey: Alternative Interpretations. Transactions of the Devonshire Association. 128. A5 Paperback. 29; figure 2.
SDV350134Article in Serial: Worth, R. N.. 1879. Notes on the History of Printing in Devon. Transactions of the Devonshire Association. 11. Unknown. 499-500.
SDV350135Article in Serial: Lady Radford. 1928. Address of the President: Early Printing in Devon. Transactions of the Devonshire Association. 62. A5 Hardback. 59-73.
SDV350136Article in Serial: Lady Radford. 1930. Notes on the Tinners of Devon and Their Laws. Transactions of the Devonshire Association. 62. A5 Hardback. 232.
SDV350137Article in Serial: Greeves, T. A. P.. 1987. The Great Courts or Parliaments of Devon Tinners 1474-1786. Transactions of the Devonshire Association. 119. A5 Paperback. 153.
SDV350138Article in Serial: R. B. M.. 1920-1921. Tavistock Boethius. Devon and Cornwall Notes and Queries. 11. Unknown. 53-54.

Associated Monuments

MDV3919Part of: Tavistock Abbey (Monument)

Associated Finds: none recorded

Associated Events: none recorded

Date Last Edited:Sep 18 2012 8:29AM