The formal history of the book trade in Britain in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries is dominated by its complex relationships with the wider world of politics and statecraft. The recognition of the power of the printed word, and of the need both to exploit and to restrain it, dictated the policies of successive regimes from the reign of Henry VIII to that of William III. Even the Stationers’ Company, however, never became simply an instrument of the state, and the trade as a whole certainly was not. In focusing on institutional and legal developments, we should not forget that for most booksellers and printers this was indeed just a trade, a business from which they made their livings. Much about the book trade is unknown and may be unknowable. Even the apparently comprehensive lists of those engaged in the trade – seemingly so impressive in extent and in their underlying scholarship – conceal as much as they reveal. We know the names of masters but, generally speaking, nothing of journeymen. In London (although not in most provincial towns) we have lists of apprentices, but no idea of what most of these people did when their apprenticeship was over. We have lists of titles entered in the Stationers’ Register, and yet there are thousands of books which were published without any entry or any known penalty. To understand how a publishing industry emerged from this trade, we need to go beneath the surface and to try to understand a little more of how it worked in practice.