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GRAFTON, RICHARD (d. 1572?), chronicler and printer, was a prosperous London merchant and a member of the Grocers' Company. In 1537 his zeal for the reformed religion led him to arrange for the printing of the Bible in English. Coverdale's translation had been first printed abroad in 1535. In 1537 Grafton, in association with a fellow-merchant, Edward Whitchurch, caused a modification of Coverdale's translation to be printed, probably by Jacob van Meteren, at Antwerp. The title-page assigned the translation to Thomas Matthews, who signed the dedication to Henry VIII, and it is usually known as Matthews's Bible. But Matthews was the pseudonym of John Rogers, the editor. No printer's name nor place is given in the book itself. On 13 Aug. 1537 Grafton sent a copy to Archbishop Cranmer, and on 28 Aug. he presented six others to Cromwell. He thanked Cromwell for having moved the king to license the work, and pressed for a new license under the privy seal to prevent others underselling him. He had fifteen hundred copies to dispose of. His signature ran 'Richard Grafton, grocer.' The encouragement he received was so great that in May 1538 he proceeded to Paris to reprint the English Bible at the press of Francois Regnault. Coverdale, and probably Whitchurch, accompanied him. In November 1538 Coverdale's corrected English translation of the New Testament, with the Latin text, was 'prynted in Paris by Fraunces Regnault … for Richard Grafton and Edward Whitchurch, cytezens of London,' with a dedication to Cromwell. This is the earliest book bearing Grafton's name. But Grafton and Whitchurch chiefly concentrated their attention on the folio Bible, known as 'the Great Bible.' A license to print the book in Paris had been obtained at Henry VIII's request from Francis I. Bonner, then English ambassador in Paris, gave Grafton every assistance. Coverdale was assiduous in correcting the proofs. When the work was almost completed the officers of the inquisition raised a charge of heresy. An order was issued by the French government, 13 Dec. 1538, stopping the work and forfeiting the presses and type. Grafton escaped hastily to England. Many printed sheets were destroyed by the French authorities, but the presses and the types were afterwards purchased by Cromwell and brought to England. There the work was completed and published in 1539. Grafton and Whitchurch appear as the printers, but no place is mentioned. A London haberdasher named Anthony Marler shared with them the pecuniary risk. The price was fixed at 10s. a copy unbound, and 12s. bound. The engraved title-page is ascribed to Holbein. A royal proclamation ordered every parish to purchase a copy before the Feast of All Hallows 1540. A second edition, with a 'prologe' by Cranmer, appeared in April 1540. Half the edition seems printed by Grafton, and bears his name as printer. Whitchurch printed the other half. The third, fourth, and fifth editions (July 1540, November 1540, and May 1541) in the British Museum bear Whitchurch's imprint only. Some copies of the sixth and seventh editions (November and December 1541) were issued by Grafton alone. Grafton printed the Great Bible for the last time in 4to in 1553. A New Testament in English after Erasmus's text appeared in 1540 with the imprint of both Grafton and Whitchurch, but the Psalter in both Latin and English was printed in the same year in London by Grafton alone. 'The Prymer' in both English and Latin (1540) was 'printed in the House late the Graye Freers by Rychard Grafton and Edward Whytchurch.' Grafton's earliest official publication was a proclamation printed jointly with Whitchurch, dated 6 May 1541, directing the 'Great Bible' 'to be read in every church.' A proclamation (24 July 1541) commanding certain sacred feasts to be kept as holy days also bears the imprint of Grafton and Whitchurch. In 1542 Grafton printed such secular literature as an account of Charles V's campaign in Barbary, 'The Order of the Great Turckes Court,' and Erasmus's 'Apophthegms.'

Soon after Cromwell's fall Grafton is said to have suffered six weeks' imprisonment for having printed a 'ballade' in Cromwell's praise; but the story is told by Burnet and Strype without precise details. He is also said to have been summoned before the council for resisting the Act of Six Articles; but he soon regained the royal favour. On 28 Jan. 1543-4 Grafton and Whitchurch received jointly an exclusive patent for printing church service books (Rymer, Fœdera, xiv. 766). In the colophon of a primer printed 29 May 1545 Grafton was described as 'printer to the Prince's Grace,' i.e. to Prince Edward. On 28 May (37 Hen. VIII) he and Whitchurch received jointly an exclusive right to print primers in Latin and English. On 8 May 1546 Grafton printed, as sole printer to the prince's grace, 'The Gospelles and Epistles of all the Sundaies and Sainctes Dayes that ar red in the Churche all the whole yere' (Notes and Queries, 6th ser. xii. 108). Grafton remained Prince Edward's printer till his accession as Edward VI. On 22 April 1547 he was granted the sole right of printing the statutes and acts of parliament, and he was known as king's printer throughout the reign.

Grafton was the printer of the first Book of Common Prayer in 1549, and of the edition of 1552. In 1552 and 1553 he printed 'Actes of Parliament,' and his general books include Patten's 'Diary of the Expedition into Scotland,' 1548; John Marbeck's 'Concordance,' 1550, a fine folio; 'Vita et Obitus Henrici et Caroli Brandoni,' 1551; Thomas Wilson's 'Rule of Reason,' 1552 and 1553; 'Caius of the Sweat,' 1552; and Wilson's 'Arte of Rhetorique,' 1553, 4to. According to Norton's preface to Grafton's 'Chronicle,' Grafton aided the king in his charitable foundations, and devoted to them much of his private property. His printing office was, as early as 1540, within the precincts of the dissolved Grey Friars, afterwards Christ's Hospital. In 1560 Grafton is described by Machyn as 'chief master' of Christ's Hospital. It has been therefore suggested that Grafton resided there in an official capacity.

On the accession of Lady Jane Grey, Grafton printed her proclamation, and described himself in the colophon as 'reginæ typographus.' For this act he was deprived by Queen Mary of the office of royal printer. After suffering a few weeks' imprisonment he made his peace with Mary, but his office was bestowed on John Cawood [q. v.], and he seems to have practically retired from business. He was elected M.P. for London in 1553-4 and 1556-7, and in 1562-3 sat in parliament as M.P. for Coventry. He was warden of the Grocers' Company in 1555 and 1556, and was a master of Bridewell Hospital in 1559 and 1560. In 1561 he was one of the overseers for the repair of St. Paul's Cathedral. Strype asserted that he fell into indigence in his old age; but his third son, Richard, who had a confirmation of arms made to him in 1584, was a barrister-at-law in good circumstances, Grafton seems to have died about 1572. His wife died in 1560, and was buried with much ceremony (Machyn's Diary, 236).

In 1543 Grafton began his career as a chronicler by printing for the first time Hardyng's 'Chronicle.' The printer added a dedication in verse to Thomas, duke of Norfolk, a preface in verse, and a continuation in prose from the beginning of Edward IV's reign, where Hardyng stopped, to the year of publication. Stow, a severe critic of all Grafton's original writing, declared in his 'Summarie,' 1570, that Grafton's Hardyng differed entirely from a manuscript copy of Hardyng in his possession. Grafton replied, not very satisfactorily, in his 'Abridgement,' 1570, that Hardyng had doubtless written more chronicles than one. Grafton was in any case responsible for most of the volume, which is throughout a very meagre record. A more important service was rendered by the printer in 1548, when he reissued Hall's 'Union of the Two Noble and Illustre Families of Lancastre and Yorke.' This valuable work was first printed by Berthelet in 1542; there the chronicle ceased in 1532. Hall died in 1547, and in the next year Grafton brought out his edition, carrying the record down to the death of Henry VIII. Stow charged Grafton with mangling Hall's chronicle, and Grafton replied that he was a friend of Hall and only changed his obscure phrases for clear language. A very fine woodcut of Henry VIII in council appears on the back of fol. cclxiii, and has been attributed to Holbein. Grafton reissued Hall with a new preface in 1550.

After he had retired from business as a printer Grafton first avowed himself an original author in his 'Abridgement of the Chronicles of England,' printed by Tottel in 1562, and reissued in 1563, 1564, 1570, and 1572. This was dedicated to Lord Robert Dudley, and Grafton in the dedicatory address (dated 1562) explains that he was moved to compile the book because he had seen a very inaccurate work bearing the same title already in circulation. This censure was doubtless aimed at Stow's 'Summarie of English Chronicles,' also dedicated to Dudley. The earliest edition of Stow's 'Summarie' now extant is dated 1565; but there was doubtless an earlier version. In 1565 Grafton issued (with the printer, John Kingston) his 'Manuell of the Chronicles of England,' dedicated to the 'Stationers'Company.' Grafton offered the book as a gift to the company, on condition that they republished it from time to time with the necessary additions to bring it up to date, and refused their license to any similar publication. In the preface he explains that this book is an abridgment of his earlier volume which had been impudently plagiarised. Stow replied at length in a new edition of his 'Summarie of Chronicles,' 1570, and sought to convict Grafton of gross ignorance, and of garbling Hardyng and Hall. Grafton vindicated himself in the preface to a new edition of his original work, 1570.

In 1568 Grafton first published his 'Chronicle at large and meere Historye of the Affayres of Englande,' a compilation from Hall and others, in two volumes. A second edition appeared in 1569, printed by Henry Denham for R. Tottle and H. Toye. A eulogy by T[homas] N[orton] is prefixed, in which Grafton's patriotic labours as a printer of the Bible are dwelt upon at length. The dedication is addressed by Grafton to Cecil. Archbishop Parker encouraged Grafton in the undertaking (Parker Corresp. p. 295). Buchanan attacked (Grafton bitterly for his exaggerations and slanders in his 'Hist. Scot.' cap. viii., and, writing to Randolph 6 Aug. 1572, complained that Knox, in his 'History of Reformation,' used Grafton's work too freely (Wright, Queen Elizabeth, i. 429); but the criticism seems ill-deserved. Grafton writes simply. His chief fault is his lack of original information. Grafton's 'Chronicle' was reprinted by Sir Henry Ellis in 1809. A useful 'Brief Treatise conteinyng many Proper Tables,' including a calendar compiled by Grafton, was first issued by Tottel in 1571, and was appended to the 1572 edition of his 'Abridgement.' It was reprinted separately in 1576, 1579, 1582, 1592, and ('augmented this present yeare') 1611.

The portrait of Grafton that appears in Ames's 'Typographical Antiquities,' and is reprinted by Herbert and Dibdin, seems to be quite unauthentic. The device which appears in most of his books is formed of a tun with a grafted fruit tree growing through it. His motto is 'Suscipite insitvm verbvm Iaco. I.'

[Ames's Typogr. Antiq. ed. Dibdin and Herbert, iii. 422-82; Dore's Old Bibles, 2nd ed. 1888; F. Fry's Great Bible, 1865; Brit. Mus. Cat. of Books before 1640; Bigmore and Wyman's Bibliography of Printing; Parker Correspondence (Parker Soc); Wriothesley's Chron. (Camd. Soc), ii. 52, 84; Foxe's Acts and Monuments; Strype's Cranmer and Annals of the Reformation; Machyn's Diary (Camd. Soc.); Anderson's Annals of the English Bible; Burnet's Hist. of the Reformation.]

S. L. L.