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.

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