Friday, October 14, 2016

Quaker Alphabet Blog 2015-2016 - R for Tace Sowle Raylton

Tace Sowle was born in around 1665, the fourth daughter of Andrew (1628-1695) and Jane Sowle (died 1711), both printers in London.

Women printers pictured in the Quaker Tapestry panel 'Publishers of Truth'
Although businesses such as printing were officially carried on only by men, in practice women took a full share in the work, particularly if they were the widows of printers or came from a printing family. Tace's father Andrew had himself been apprenticed for seven years from 1646 to a woman, Ruth Raworth. Tace was more than just a bookseller but, as a fellow printer said of her, 'understood her trade very well, being a good compositor herself.' She carried on her father's business when he began to lose his sight and probably had full control of it from 1691.

In 1706 Tace married Thomas Raylton, who although then registered as a hosier, soon became a printer too. There is no record of any children of the marriage. From this time until Thomas died of asthma in 1723 Tace and Thomas traded under the name of Tace's mother as 'Assigns of J. Sowle'.

Tace considerably increased the number of Quaker books published by the firm and eventually became virtually the official Quaker printer. She sometimes had more of an eye to business than some Friends appreciated, often printing more copies of a book than she had been asked for if she thought that there was a demand, until her paymasters, Six Weeks Meeting, ordered her to stop. In 1734 she was asked to join the Womens Meeting of London, possibly so that they could draw on her proven business acumen. 

Tace's signature on an indenture 1696
Printing was very much a family business and one of Tace's sisters, Elizabeth, married William Bradford, the first Quaker printer in America. After Thomas's death Tace Sowle Raylton published under her own name until 1738 when she took on her nephew, Luke Hinde, as a partner. He inherited the business and carried it on, still publishing Quaker books, after Tace died in 1749, the oldest printer in London, at the age of eighty four.

Tace was named after her paternal grandmother and her name comes from the Latin taceo - I am silent. We have no writings of her own but her skill made it certain that other Quaker writers were heard.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Quaker Alphabet Blog 2015-2016 - Q for Quaker Faith and Practice

Britain Yearly Meeting is in the process of considering whether the time is right to embark on a full-scale revision of its current book of Faith and Practice, issued in 1994. The 'church government' sections have been continuously updated since then to reflect changes in practice decided by the Yearly Meeting in session but the chapters and extracts have remained the same. As a rule of thumb the book is revised once a generation so perhaps the time is now right but there was no unity when Britain YM considered the matter.

A committee has been set up to consider how a revision might take place and they suggested that as a first step Friends might try to become more familiar with the book they already have. They also suggested a calendar of readings arranged by subject area rather than from start to finish - in fact the Introduction is timetabled last! It was hoped that individuals and groups would follow through the calendar - beginning in October 2015 and going through to April 2017 - so that we could come to a more informed decision when asked to do so.

We are now a year into the process and I have been part of a small group from my local meeting following the calendar and sharing our reactions with each other. Although we have not been asked to do a revision ourselves it is easy to slip into a critical mode sometimes. In general we have found the more formal, didactic sections on what is expected of office-holders and how things should be done more opaque and less easy to understand and relate to. Some of the extracts too seem out of touch with our modern concerns.

For me the best part of the exercise has been reading parts of the book that I have not read before and discovering extracts that speak to me directly. One of the surprises has been that the age of the quotation often bears no relationship to how up to date they feel. Two of my group's favourite authors turn out to be William Penn and Isaac Penington!

I look forward to continuing the reading process and discovering more hidden trasures as well as finding out more about the friends who are reading and discovering with me. If there is one thing I have learned myself it is that if we do not read the book and share it with others no revision will be of any use to Britain Yearly Meeting in the future.