Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Churchill, Awnsham

CHURCHILL, AWNSHAM (d. 1728), bookseller, was connected with the family of the Churchills of Colliton, Dorsetshire, and was the son of William Churchill of Dorchester. He was apprenticed to George Sawbridge, and he and his brother John entered into business as booksellers and stationers at the sign of the Black Swan in Paternoster Row. They 'were of an universal trade,' says Dunton. 'I traded very considerably with them for several years; and must do them the justice to say that I was never concerned with any persons more exact in their accompts and more just in their payments' (Life, i. 204). They published in 1695 the edition of Camden's 'Britannia' by Bishop Gibson, who used a manuscript (now lost) of John Aubrey, which he called 'Monumenta Britannica,' lent to him by Churchill, and which was preserved by the Churchill family down to the commencement of the present century. A second edition of Gibson's Camden was issued by Awnsham alone in 1722. Their next most important publication was the well-known work with which their name is usually associated: 'A Collection of Voyages and Travels, some now first printed from original MSS., others translated out of foreign languages and now first published in English; in four volumes, with an original preface giving an account of the progress of navigation,' &c., 1704, 4 vols, folio. It was issued to subscribers in that year, and the publishers stated that they possessed materials for two more volumes. These came out in 1732, 'printed by assignment from Messrs. Churchill.' The first four volumes were reissued (new title-pages only) in 1732; a 'third edition' of the six volumes is dated 1744–6; and another by Thomas Osborne, 1752. 'A Collection from the Library of the Earl of Oxford,' London, T. Osborne, 1745 and 1747, 2 vols, folio, known as the 'Harleian Collection,' and a similar collection by John Harris (1744–8, 2 vols, folio), are usually added to Churchill's collection, making up a valuable set of reprints of voyages and travels. It is stated on the title-page of the third edition that the preliminary essay on the history of navigation is 'supposed to be written by the celebrated Mr. Locke,' and it is included in the works of the philosopher (1812). The authorship is doubtful, but Locke had much to do with getting together the materials of the collection, which is likely to have been produced at his instigation. Locke was upon friendly terms with Awnsham Churchill for many years, and left him a small legacy.

Lists of some of the books published by Messrs. Churchill may be seen in an advertisement after the preface of Camden's ‘Britannia’ (1695), and in the ‘Gentleman's Magazine’ (vol. liii. pt. ii. p. 1014). Perhaps their most extensive undertaking was the publication of the first edition of Rymer's ‘Fœdera’ (16 vols. folio, 1704–15); the seventeenth volume (1717) was issued by William Churchill, and the last three (1726–1735) by Jacob Tonson. Churchill was ‘stationer to the king’ and the leading bookseller of the day. He amassed a considerable fortune, and was able to purchase, in 1704, the manor of Higher Henbury in Dorsetshire from John Morton, and that of West Ringstead from James Huishe in 1723. He was M.P. for Dorchester between 1705 and 1710. He died unmarried on 24 April 1728, and his brother John succeeded to the estate. A library at Henbury was formed by the two brothers. William Churchill who died on 22 Feb. 1736, ‘bookseller to his majesty,’ was the son of John Churchill.

[Dunton's Life and Errors, 1818; Nichols's Illustrations, viii. 464; Nichols's Lit. Anecd. i. 79, 150, &c., iii. 713, viii. 366, ix. 662–4, 771; Gent. Mag. 1783, vol. liii. pt. ii. pp. 832, 937, 1014; H. R. Fox Bourne's Life of John Locke, 1876; Britton's Life of J. Aubrey, 1843; Orig. Letters of Locke, Sidney, and Shaftesbury, ed. T. Forster, 1830; Letters of Eminent Men addressed to R. Thoresby, 1832, vol. i.; Calendar of Treasury Papers (1702–7, 1708–14, 1714–19), 1874–83; Sir T. D. Hardy's Syllabus of the Documents in Rymer's Fœdera, 1869, vol. i. preface; for family information, arms, &c., see Hutchins's History of Dorset, 3rd ed. 1861–70, 4 vols. fol.]

H. R. T.