Page images

we cannot but feel surprised at their ever-varying policy-at the unsettled notions, which then prevailed as to the modes, by the pursuit of which the interests of the country would be best consulted.

At one time Bruges, Antwerp, or Calais is made the sole Staple to receive all our exports, and at which all the imposts are to be discharged*—at another, we have no foreign place of Staple, but it is fixed at different towns of the realm named in the laws of the day.t At one time the Staple is annulled both at home and abroad I-at another, our home towns and Calais are simultaneously made places of the Staple.s At one time, foreign merchants enjoy the export trade to the exclusion of the denizen || -at another, the denizens are allowed to export, whilst it is so forbidden to the alien. I At one time, trade is thrown open to both home and foreign merchants, and they are allowed to export to wheresoever they list**—at another the ports are closed alike to all parties.ft At one time, foreign trade seems to yield to the supposed interests of the home manufacturerff —at another, the royal coffers gape for the impost revenues, in defiance of all consideration for the prosperity of the inland trade. $$ So fickle was man, and thus did all his fond


* i Hen. 4.-2 Hen. 5. + 27 Edw. 3.-43 Edw. 3. I 2 Edw. 3.-11 Edw. 3. § 6 Hen. 6. 4 Edw. 4. || 27 Edw. 3.–14 Rich. 2. 3 Edw. 4. ** 15 Edw. 3,-43 Edw. 3—2 Edw. 3. At 2 Edw. 3.-11 Edw. 3. 11 3 Edw. 4.-11 Edw. 3. $S 14 Edw. 3.

jects for the staple trade receive its death-blow by the fall of Calais, and—lest, gentle reader, you should accuse me of staple dulness, we will now pass on to the discussion of

Merchants' Marks,

Of which it is impossible to assign a definite period as to their origin, albeit we are as certain as to their intent. As men are distinguished from each other by their peculiar names, thus may we be induced, à priori, to believe, that they would again distinguish their several properties, and productions in art, by characteristic differences. As the merchant would affix his adopted mark to his bale of goods, so in a somewhat later age (following his example) did the early printers, engravers, and painters begin also to affix their insignia to their several works of art, of which an interesting example is now lying before me - the monogram of Albert Durer to his wood-engraving of Saint Bartholomew of the date of 1523. There is great similitude between the marks of all these parties, and were a number of them, in an intermingled state, to be exhibited to the eye, a stranger to the peculiar owner could not point out the mark of the merchant from that of the printer—the mark of the printer from that of the painter. They are, for the most part, of uncouth forms, adopted at the caprice of each individual, and not seldom consist of rude monograms of the initials of those, to whom they



severally pertain. In the mark of the mer: chant especially we often see his misshapen monogrammatic initials connected with the Cross, or with the Sacred Pennon ; and I cannot but

say, that I recognise here a figurative meaning. I cannot divest my mind of the idea, that

. the pious merchant here means to designate, that his mercantile transactions are entered into with honest integrity--that he trades beneath the Cross—that he is enlisted under the Banner of his Saviour-that he enters on his commercial dealings with the good faith of the Christian. I also think, that the celebrated monogram of the name of our Saviour on the Labarum (3), or standard of the Romans, borne (as well as the eagle) after the taking of Byzantium, was the prototype of the monogram adopted by the merchant of the middle age. In the earlier days of heraldry, the man of commerce did not aspire to the use of coat

The merchant's mark bore no reference to heraldry, and, I ween, that it would have been resorted to for the ready, and appropriate, recognition of mercantile goods, if the honourable distinction of arms never had arisen. It is very true, that, in a later period, the occasional owner of the merchant's mark did place it in a shield, and did thus unwisely gratify his vanity by the semblance of an armorial coat, for, in an old system of heraldry, this is the illustration beneath a shield of this description : “ Thys be no armys, but a marke as marchaunts use, for every man may take hyme a marke but not army3 without an herawde or purcy. vaunte.” Indeed, in “ The Duty and Office of



an Herald of Arms," written by Francis Thynne, Lancaster Herald, in the year 1605, is to be found this apposite passage: “He shall prohibit any merchant or any other to put their names, marks, or devices in escutcheons, or shields, which belong, and only appertain to gentlemen bearing arms, and to none others.”

These heraldic fulminations, as we may easily suppose, were of no avail to check an irregularity arising from uncontrollable ambition, but which does appear to me really of little import

From our own observation, we may learn the great prevalence of the usage, to which Blomefield gives ample testimony:

" The use of these marks (says he) was found so beneficial, that at that Time all Merchants of any Note, had their peculiar Marks, with which they marked all their Wares, and bore in Shields impaled with, or instead of Arms, witness the abundance of Merchant Marks to be found in the Houses, Windows, and Grave-stones in all Cities, and great Towns, as Norwich, Lynn, &c., by which the Memory of their Owners is still preserved, it being very obvious to all that search into the Records of those Places to find who used such a Mark, and then, if we see it on a House, we may conclude it to have been that Man's Dwelling, if on a dis-robed Grave-stone, that it was his Grave, if on a Church Window, or on any other public Building, that he was a Benefactor thereto, and nothing in it is of greater Use than ancient Deeds to make out their Marks by, for they always sealed with them."*

• History of Norfolk, Vol. 1, p. 106.

The affluent merchant of the days of yore often expended a part of that wealth, with which God blessed his commercial speculations, in building, or repairing, the edifices dedicated to his service, and his mark will thus oft be ob. served to decorate the ceiling beams, or corbels of the roof, the spandrils of the door-way, or the moulding of the window of his parochial church. It may, perchaunce, be seen, encased within a quatrefoil, as an ornament to the font. The mark of William Swayne may be observed on the beams, and in the window of the east end of the south aisle of the Church of St. Thomas, Salisbury, (4) where he founded a chantry. The spectators are there piously besought, in Latin Inscriptions, to Pray for the soul of James, the Father of William Swayne,” and to “ Pray

, for the souls of William Swayne, and Chrystian, his wife.”

Dallaway writes to the same effect as Blomefield : “ Many specimens (says he, when speaking of merchant marks) are still to be seen upon the brasses intended as memorials of wealthy citizens, and as frequently annealed on the windows, and carved on wood or stone, when they have contributed to any edifice. To arrange or class them would be no easy task. In cities or towns in which large manufactories were established many of these marks are now extant upon door-cases, and chimney-pieces, and in churches carved or painted upon glass, and inlaid in sepulchral slabs.” * On a fine altar-tomb of Purbeck stone in the

Origin and Progress of Heraldry, p. 120.

« PreviousContinue »