New printers: Reyner Wolfe
It is still widely believed that Reyner Wolfe was born in Strasbourg, became a printer there, and settled in England at the invitation of Archbishop Cranmer – but all three ‘facts’ are unfounded guesses. His denization patent declares that he was born in ‘Dretunhe’ (Druten), Gelderland; there is no evidence that he printed anywhere before setting up a press in London in 1542, and he was already known in England as ‘reygnard wolf bokseller off poules chyrche yard’ by April 1530, nearly three years before Cranmer became an archbishop.
After noting that Wolfe was made a denizen in January 1533, Duff adds that ‘Another Reginald Wolff from the dominion of the Emperor was denizened 8th February 1542’. But the patent he cites is not that of another Wolfe: it is a new patent for the same Wolfe. In 1540 Parliament had passed an act limiting the rights of aliens, which began by observing that the acts of 1484, 1523, and 1529 were being ‘infringed, frustrated and defrauded…by the craftie sutis inventions and practises of…straungiers lately made denisens in great nombre’, whose patents claim to make them ‘as free as Englishemen naturally borne’ notwithstanding any acts or statutes to the contrary. From Michaelmas 1540 the act eliminated the exempt status of alien artificers in Oxford, Cambridge, and St Martin le Grand. All leases of houses or shops held by undenizened aliens were to be void, and no more such leases were to be granted. All denizens were in future bound by the former acts, whether or not their patents suggested otherwise, and all new patents were to make that explicit unless the king chose to grant any special liberty or privilege, in which case the details must be ‘plainely holy and particulerly expressed specified and declared by special wordis’. Wolfe's new patent adds two passages not present in 1533. The second explains that he is to pay the same custom and subsidy on his merchandise as other aliens pay, and is obliged to obey all statutes, acts, and provisions laid down by Parliament – but in the first he is explicitly exempted from paying more than Henry's native subjects for any toll or tax levied on his goods or lands or on his person – that is, fifteenths and tenths, lay subsidies, and poll tax.