It’s the Stationers’ Company of London. Actually now the Stationers’ and Newspapermakers’ Company. Used to be in charge of all printing and publishing; went around smashing up unauthorized presses (well, that’s not an attractive habit, I admit); and has generally promoted the good of publishers and their widows and orphans since 1403.
Tim Connell, a liveryman of the company (and chairman of the Gresham Society– the lecture is one of the Gresham College free lectures that have been going on since Sir Thomas Gresham started the whole thing off in 1597) gives a wonderful lecture here on the history of London livery companies.
It’s the 1666 Great Fire that does it for me. According to Connell, the clerk of the company showed up with a wheelbarrow or something just as the fire was approaching the guildhall. He had to choose whether to save the company records– which, as this was before the Statute of Anne, included all the copyright records for the country, basically– or the company silver. He chose the records.
I’ve heard two different things about where the records went from there. Either the clerk took them home with him to his suburban house where they escaped the fire, or he put them in St. Paul’s– Old St. Paul’s– which of course got burnt up. That second story is in my head as an anecdote, but I don’t know where I got it from, so maybe it’s wrong.