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Early Women Printers

Elizabeth Flesher

Elizabeth Flesher is a little known 17th-century English law book printer who operated out of a shop in London.

She inherited a share in the business and opted to be personally involved in the printing. Elizabeth is listed next to "H. Twyford" as a fellow "assignes," or loosely, heirs, of Richard Atkyns, 17th-century printer and book historian.

The example of her press’s work held by Tarlton is a printing of John Fortescue’s De laudibus legum Angliæ, with notes by John Selden.

Fortescue’s influential treatise on English law was written for the instruction of the young Prince Edward and first published in 1543.

De laudibus contains the first statement of what would become known as ‘Blackstone’s formulation,’ a foundational tenant of Anglo-American law:

"One would much rather that twenty guilty persons should escape the punishment of death, than that one innocent person should be condemned, and suffer capitally."  

Fortescue, John, Sir. De laudibus legum Angliæ / written by Sir John Fortescue ... hereto are added the two Sums of Sir Ralph de Hengham ... commonly called Hengham magna, & Hengham parva. With notes both on Fortescue and Hengham, by that famous and learned antiquarie John Selden, esquire. London : Printed by John Streater, Eliz. Flesher and H. Twyford, assignes of Rich. Atkyns and Edward Atkyns, esquires, 1672.

Blackstone's Commentaries on the Laws of England; edited by Wayne Morrison. 4 vols. Published: London: Routledge–Cavendish; London, England: 2001.