Meeting Henry Hills: Printer To The King's Most Excellent Majesty


  • Violet Caswell Boston College



What does it mean to study a book? In the early modern period, the printed book became an essential catalyst for the dissemination of information, ideas, and culture. Especially in times of conflict, the realm of the printed word provided an important space in which the dissatisfied could make their voices heard or in which rulers could quell the rumblings of rebellion. It seems obvious that to study a book is to read a book, to seek out the voice of its author.

Yet books are more than the mere words they contain. Librarians, archivists, and conservators take pains to preserve early and rare books because they are important physical objects with their own unique and often surprising stories. Behind each book is a host of individuals: patrons and printers, authors and apprentices. 

The following essay began with an examination of the John J. Burns Library's 1686 copy of The Life of St. Ignatius, Founder of the Society of Jesus. It relates the story of Henry Hills, the wily craftsman who managed to retain his position as official printer to the crown throughout the extraordinarly different reigns of Charles II, Oliver Cromwell, James II, and Queen Anne. 

Author Biography

Violet Caswell, Boston College

Violet Caswell is a senior at Boston College majoring in history and minoring in theology and international studies. She is interested in religious history, faith elements in conflict, and public history. Currently, she is working on a Scholar of the College thesis about Dighton Rock, a forgotten piece of her hometown’s history. After graduation, she hopes to attend graduate school and pursue a career in archival studies. She would like to thank the wonderful Dr. Virginia Reinburg for encouraging her to publish in Elements.  




How to Cite

Caswell, V. (2016). Meeting Henry Hills: Printer To The King’s Most Excellent Majesty. Elements, 12(2).