John Nichols (printer)

John Nichols (printer)

John Nichols (2 February 1745 - 26 November 1826) was an English printer and author.

Early life and apprenticeship

He was born in Islington, London to Edward Nichols and Anne Wilmot. On 22 June, 1766 he married Anne Cradock daughter of William Cradock. Anne gave birth to three children: Anne (born 1767), Sarah (born 1769), and William Bowyer (born 1775 and died a year later). His wife Anne also died in 1776. He married a second time to Martha Green in 1778. Martha gave birth to eight children. Nichols was apprenticed in 1757 to "the learned printer," William Bowyer, whom he eventually succeeded. On the death of his friend and master in 1777 he published a brief memoir, which afterwards grew into the "Anecdotes of William Bowyer and his Literary Friends" (1782).

Literary career

In 1788, he became editor of the "Gentleman's Magazine" and remained so till his death. In that periodical, and in his numerous volumes of "Anecdotes" and "Illustrations", he made invaluable contributions to the personal history of English men of letters in the 18th century.

As his materials accumulated he compiled a sort of anecdotal literary history of the century, based on a large collection of important letters. "The Literary Anecdotes of the 18th Century" (1812-1815), into which the original work was expanded, forms only a small part of Nichols's production.

Considered one of his most important works, Nichols' monumental "History and Antiquities of the County of Leicester", was among the finest or at least the most ambitious antiquarian county histories, a massive compendium of historical notes, Mss and engraved plates printed by subscription after an exhaustive survey of the county, and published in four volumes from 1795-1815.* []

It was followed by the "Illustrations of the Literary History of the 18th Century, consisting of Authentic Memoirs and Original Letters of Eminent Persons", which was begun in 1817 and completed by his son John Bowyer Nichols (1770-1865) in 1858. The "Anecdotes" and the "Illustrations" are mines of valuable information on the authors, printers and booksellers of the time.

Nichols and the printing of the Domesday Book (1767-1783)

Nichols co-operated with Abraham Farley in the production of the 1783 edition of Domesday Book , which he called in his "Literary Anecdotes" “the most invaluable as well as most antient Record in this or any other kingdom”. [J. Nichols, "Literary Anecdotes of the eighteenth century, Vol. III", (London: Nichols, son, and betley, 1812), p.261] Between Farley’s appointment as co-editor of the project in 1770 and the final publication of the Domesday Book in two volumes in 1783, Nichols assisted Farley in printing and proof-reading the text, and also designed the special typeface that was to be used. This was a source of lasting pride to him; he would later say “on the correctness and the beauty of this important Work I am content to stake my typographical credit”. [Ibid., pp. 264-265]

The types created by Nichols for the Domesday project were destroyed, alongside much else of value, in a fire at his office in February 1808. ["Domesday Book: seu libris censualis, vocait Domesday Book, indices. Accessit dissertatio generalis de ratione huiusce libri" ed. by Sir Henry Ellis, (London: printed by Command, 1816), p. cvi]

Other works

* "A Collection of Royal and Noble Wills" (1780)
* "Select Collection of Miscellaneous Poems" (1782), with subsequent additions, in which he was helped by Joseph Warton and by Bishops Percy and Lowth
* "Bibliotheca Topographica Britannica" (1780-1790)
* "The Progresses and Public Processions of Queen Elizabeth" (1788), with Richard Gough

Nichols was a fellow of the Society of Antiquaries, a trustee of many city institutions, and in 1804 he was master of the Stationers' Company.

John Bowyer Nichols and John Gough Nichols

John Bowyer Nichols continued his father's various undertakings, and wrote, with other works, "A Brief Account of the Guildhall of the City of London" (1819).

John Gough Nichols (1806-1873), John Bowyer Nichols' eldest son, was also a printer and a distinguished antiquary, who edited "The Gentleman's Magazine" from 1851 to 1856, and the "Herald" and "Genealogist" from 1863 to 1874, and was one of the founders of the Camden Society.


A full "Memoir of John Nichols" by Alexander Chalmers is contained in the "Illustrations", and a bibliography in the "Anecdotes" (vol. vi.) is supplemented in the later work. See also R. C. Nichols, "Memoirs of J. G. Nichols" (1874).


External links

* [ Nichols Archive Project]
* [ Leicestershire Survey]
*worldcat id|id=lccn-n80-32806
*Oxford Dictionary of National Biography entry []

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