Diameter: 5.100 cm
M&ME 1928,3-15,1 (Seal-die Catalogue 158)
Room 46: Europe 1400-1800
Seal-die of the Muscovy Company
Probably made in England, mid-16th century
Found in Hackney, London
With the date of its charter to trade with Russia, 1555
England in 1500 was heavily reliant on continental Europe for the import of luxury goods. Merchants of the Hanseatic League, a group of powerful cities which controlled much of the North Sea and Baltic trade, enjoyed favourable trading privileges in England. Operating from warehouses along the River Thames in London, they provided a link to markets as far afield as Russia and the Baltic countries. The increased export of finished cloth from England in the first half of the sixteenth century stimulated a search for additional markets, and saw the rise of new trading companies, protected by Royal charter.
In 1551 Sebastian Cabot (1476-1557), the renowned explorer, was appointed Governor of the Company of Merchant Adventurers, set up to search for a passage to the Orient by way of the north east. He returned to England from Russia in 1554, and was largely responsible for the opening up of a considerable trade with Moscow. Philip and Mary granted a charter in 1555 to a joint-stock company, the Muscovy Merchants, to trade exclusively with Russia. The Eastland Company, founded in 1579 by Queen Elizabeth I was granted its charter to trade in the Baltic region.
A.B. Tonnochy, Catalogue of British seal dies (London, The British Museum Press, 1952)