Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Paterson, Samuel

PATERSON, SAMUEL (1728–1802), bookseller and auctioneer, was born 17 March 1728. His father, a woollendraper in the parish of St. Paul, Covent Garden, London, died in 1740, and young Paterson went to France. About 1748 he opened a shop opposite Durham Yard, in the Strand, and imported foreign books; at that time Paul Vaillant was the only other dealer in foreign literature in London. Paterson published a few books, among them Mrs. Charlotte Lennox's first work, ‘Poems on several Occasions,’ in 1747. He continued the business without great success until about 1753, when he commenced as auctioneer at Essex House, formerly the residence of Sir Orlando Bridgman, in Essex Street, Strand. He subsequently had a room in King Street, Covent Garden, afterwards occupied by Messrs. King, Collins, & Chapman. His stock in trade was sold off in 1768 and 1769. ‘He was the earliest auctioneer who sold books singly in lots; the first bidding for which was sixpence, the advance threepence each bidding until five shillings were offered, when it ran to sixpence’ (Smith, Nollekens and his Times, 1829, ii. 279).

Besides the catalogues of his own sales, he acted as cataloguer for other auctioneers. He was one of the first in England to produce good classified catalogues, with careful descriptions of the contents. Among the many excellent sale-catalogues due to him are those of the libraries of Sir Julius Cæsar (1757), Sylvanus Morgan (1759), Robert Nelson (1760), James Parsons (1769), James West, P.R.S. (1773), William Fletewode (1774), E. Rowe Mores (1779), Topham Beauclerk (1781), George Costard (1782), Thomas Crofts (1783), Maffeo Pinelli (1789), John Strange (1801), H. Fagel of the Hague (1802).

In 1776 he visited the continent and brought back a large collection of books described in ‘Bibliotheca Universalis Selecta, methodically digested with an index,’ 1786. For some years he was librarian at Bowood to Lord Shelburne, first marquis of Lansdowne. In November 1794 he writes of the ‘extreme agitation’ he had ‘been in for a considerable time in abstracting and indexing my lord's private papers’ (Nichols, Lit. Anecd. viii. 483).

He had an impediment in his speech, but this did not prevent him from delivering a series of lectures on Shakespeare's plays, which were attended by Steevens, Malone, and Barry. He was an honest man and an excellent bibliographer, but constantly failed in business, as he always preferred reading to selling books. ‘Perhaps we never had a bookseller who knew so much of the contents of books generally, and he was particularly well acquainted with our English poets’ (Gent. Mag. 1802, ii. 1075). Johnson wrote of him as ‘a man for whom I have long had a kindness’ (Boswell, Life, ed. Hill, iii. 90), and was godfather to Paterson's son Samuel, whom he befriended on several occasions (ib. iv. 269). His original works were not remarkable.

Paterson died in Norton Street, 29 Nov. 1802, in his seventy-fifth year. He married a Miss Hamilton about 1745; she died on 25 Nov. 1790. His eldest son, Charles, a lieutenant of marines, died at Chatham on 14 Dec. 1779, in his twentieth year. His second son was John, and the third, Samuel Paterson the younger, who was assisted by Johnson, was an artist, and exhibited a portrait at the Royal Academy in 1789 (Graves, Dictionary, 1884, p. 179). One of his daughters, Margaret, married James Pearson [q. v.], the glass-stainer.

Paterson wrote: 1. ‘Another Traveller! or Cursory Remarks and Tritical Observations made upon a Journey through part of the Netherlands in 1766, by Coryat Junior,’ London, 1767–9, 4 parts in 2 vols. sm. 8vo; ‘second edition corrected,’ London, 1769, 12mo (sentimental travels in the manner of Sterne, of very poor quality). 2. ‘Bibliotheca Anglica Curiosa: a Catalogue of several thousand printed Books and Tracts (chiefly English) collected with a view to a History of English Literature,’ London, 1771, 8vo. 3. ‘Joineriana, or the Book of Scraps,’ London, 1772, 2 vols. sm. 8vo (miscellaneous essays, anonymous). 4. ‘The Templar,’ London, 1773 (a periodical of which only fourteen numbers were published, the last in December 1773; designed as a protest against the advertising of ecclesiastical offices and places of trust under government). 5. ‘Speculations on Law and Lawyers, applicable to the Manifest Hardships, Uncertainties, and Abusive Practice of the Common Law,’ London, 1788, 8vo (on the dangers of personal arrest for debt previous to any verification).

[Obituary Notices in Gent. Mag. 1802, pt. ii. 1074, and European Mag. 1802, pt. ii. 427; see also Chalmers's Gen. Biogr. Dict. xxiv. 185–189; Dibdin's Bibliomania, 1842, p. 441; Nichols's Lit. Anecd. vols. ii. iii. iv. v. vi. vii. viii. ix.; Notes and Queries, 4th ser. i. 23; Timperley's Encylopædia, 1842, p. 812.]

H. R. T.