Real Lives: Alice Daye: mother of the English book trade

Historian feature

By Wendy Barnes, published 2nd January 2020

Our series ‘Real Lives’ seeks to put the story of the ordinary person into our great historical narrative. We are all part of the rich fabric of the communities in which we live and we are affected to greater and lesser degrees by the big events that happen on a daily basis. Sometimes we might even play a part in the big events, although our names are not recorded, while on other occasions we are witnesses to events and times which we would now consider remarkable. Sometimes our regular lives are the perfect illustration of how people live at any given time – but all our lives matter and we want to celebrate some of those lives here. If you have any people that you think might also fit this category and would like to write about them, please do contact: 

In this article Wendy Barnes explores the story of Alice Daye and her fascinating connection to the early publishing and printing trade in England, and the origin of the term ‘Nosy Parker’ is also revealed!

The church in which Alice Daye buried her husband, John, in 1584 has changed very little in 500 years. Deep in the Suffolk countryside, beside the headwater of the River Stour, it is still proudly loyal to its Saxon origins, impervious to the fashions and furbelows of the intervening centuries. A modest resting place for the man who could claim to be the founder of publishing and the book trade in England. Alice marked his internment with a brass memorial which captures his achievements and, if she wrote it herself, evidences a well-educated woman in its reflection of the punning, allusive style of Elizabethan poems...

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