Bladen, William (c.1585–1663), printer and bookseller, was born in England, son of Thomas Bladen, yeoman of Derbyshire; nothing is known of his mother. In 1602 he became an apprentice in the London Stationers’ company, being freed on 7 May 1610. Thereafter he worked in the company. He may have gone to Dublin as early as 1626 to assist its factor there, Arthur Johnson, the company then having a patent giving it a royal monopoly over the printing and sale of books in Ireland. On 22 April 1631 he was made a freeman of Dublin, and the same year he succeeded Johnson as the company factor. During the 1630s he was also engaged in importing books from Chester for sale in Ireland. He served as sheriff of Dublin from October 1637 to October 1638.
The London company, finding its Irish venture to be unprofitable, sold its stock and printing press to him for £2,600 in October 1639. About this time, he was admitted to the livery of the company; this elevation to senior rank probably stemmed from his purchase of the company's Irish stock. However, the company's patent was still in force, allowing the company to dictate what he could print. The patent finally expired about the end of 1641; from November 1641 his publications were anonymous, then from mid 1642 he put his own name on state publications, styling himself ‘the king's printer in Ireland’. The record of his grant has been lost, so the nature of his authority as royal printer is uncertain. It appears that he had a monopoly only over government publications.
The confusion over his role is partly explained by the chaos that engulfed Ireland and England during 1641–2. In Ireland a massive catholic uprising left most of the country in rebel hands and Dublin more or less under siege. During this crisis Bladen emerged to play a bigger role in municipal affairs, mainly because the large number of catholic aldermen were now considered suspect. In 1642 he wrote a number of reports on events in Ireland which were published in London and in which he sharply attacked the wealthy protestant residents of Dublin for fleeing to England and leaving those of relatively modest means (such as himself) to shoulder the burden of maintaining the large numbers of protestant refugees who flooded into the city from all over the country. He became alderman of Dublin in April 1642 and served as mayor of the city for a year from October 1647. Meanwhile, due to the ongoing turmoil, he never paid the London company the agreed sum of £2,600 for its Irish stock. By 1642 he had paid only £974 and did not make any further payments. As a result, the Londoners continued to claim ownership over the Irish stock during the 1640s, although there was little they could do to enforce this claim.
He appears to have supported the republican regime that established itself in England and Ireland during the 1650s. From 1651 he attended the Independent congregation of Samuel Winter (qv) in Dublin, which was seen as the less radical of the two Independent congregations established in the city. During the 1640s his monopoly had been challenged by publications by the catholic confederates and by the protestants in Cork. In the 1650s the protectorate government gradually set about re-establishing his monopoly. This support came at a price: from April 1657 he could not publish anything until the clerk of the Irish council had read and approved it.
After the restoration of the monarchy (1660), the king appointed John Crooke (qv) as his printer in Ireland. However, Crooke did not establish his printing press in Dublin until July 1661, allowing Bladen to continue to act as unofficial printer. Even after July 1661 his closeness to Sir George Lane (qv), clerk of the Irish privy council, allowed him to benefit from special government orders enabling him to print official documents – much to Crooke's disgust. Presumably his association with Lane dated to the mid 1640s when both men had worked in the royalist administration of the protestant enclave around Dublin headed by James Butler (qv), marquess of Ormond. Providing further evidence that Bladen retained some credit with the returning old guard, his son Thomas served as chaplain to Ormond from 1662. In April 1663 he petitioned the government for £1,000 in arrears due to him for the publication of state documents, and for his restoration as the royal printer. He claimed that he spent a great deal of money on his printing press and was now impoverished due to the withholding of the arrears. He died in July and was buried in St Werburgh's churchyard on 1 August. The political turmoil that characterised his entire tenure as state printer limited the scope of his publications. Between 1640 and 1660 he published only twenty works that were not official publications, news, or political propaganda. However, he was also responsible for Ireland's first newspaper, An Account of the Chief Ocurences [sic] of Ireland, Together with some Particulars from England, which first appeared 22 February 1659/60.
He married Elinor Young; they are known to have had two sons. The younger, William, worked as a stationer in Dublin and printed in London news pamphlets concerning events in Ireland in 1642, including several letters from his father. The elder, Thomas, became a clergyman flexible enough to be acceptable both to the pre- and post-1660 regimes and was appointed dean of Ardfert in 1665. He also continued to oversee his father's printing press in opposition to that of Crooke's. After repeated complaints to the government, the Crooke family succeeded in having the Bladen printing press suppressed in 1673.