Dictionary of National Biography, 1912 supplement/Greenwood, Thomas

GREENWOOD, THOMAS (1851–1908), promoter of public libraries, son of William and Nanny Greenwood, was born at Woodley, near Stockport, Cheshire, on 9 May 1851, and educated at the village school. Benefiting by membership of a mutual improvement society conducted by William Urwick [q. v. Suppl. II.], then congregational minister of Hatherlow, Cheshire, he made excellent use of the Manchester public library and similar institutions. After serving as clerk in a local hat works he was for a short time a traveller with a Sheffield firm, and then for about three years assistant in a branch library at Sheffield. About 1871 he removed to London to join the staff of the 'Ironmonger.' In 1875 with W. Hoseason Smith he founded the firm of Smith, Greenwood & Co., afterwards Scott, Greenwood & Co., printers and publishers of trade journals and technical books. The firm at once founded the 'Hatters' Gazette,' and the 'Pottery Gazette,' an organ of the glass and china industries, and in 1879 the 'Oil and Colour Trades Journal.' Greenwood himself was the chief editor of these journals. He superintended all the publications of the firm, which included many important technical works.

His early acquaintance with public libraries and his personal gratitude to them convinced him of the need of increasing their number and improving their organisation. Thanks to his advocacy many rate-supported libraries were opened in London and elsewhere in commemoration of the jubilee of Queen Victoria. His manual on 'Public Libraries, their Organisation, Uses and Management,' appeared in 1886 and at once took standard rank. The work reached a fifth edition in 1894.

A warm admirer of Edward Edwards (1812-1886) [q. v.], a pioneer of municipal public libraries, Greenwood collected his personal relics and part of his library, and these he presented, with a handsome bookcase, to the Manchester public library, of which Edwards was the first librarian. In 1902 he wrote an interesting biography of Edwards, embodying the early history of the library movement, and he placed a granite monument over Edwards's grave at Niton, Isle of Wight.

Greenwood formed a large bibliographical library, illustrating all phases of bibliographical work and research, which he presented to the Manchester public library in 1906, making additions to it afterwards, and leaving at his death sufficient money for its maintenance. 'The Thomas Greenwood Library for Librarians' contains about 12,000 volumes. He also founded a small library at Hatherlow in honour of his old pastor William Urwick.

Formerly a fellow of the Royal Geographical Society, Greenwood travelled extensively, and in Japan in 1907 contracted an illness of which he died at Frith Knowl, Elstree, Hertfordshire, on 9 Nov. 1908. His remains after cremation at Golder's Green were interred at Hatherlow congregational church. He married Marianne, daughter of Wilham Pettet, and had a son and two daughters.

In addition to the works named he wrote:

  1. 'A Tour in the United States and Canada,' 1883.
  2. 'Eminent Naturalists,' 1886.
  3. 'Grace Montrose, an unfashionable novel,' 1886.
  4. 'Museums and Art Galleries,' 1888.
  5. 'Sunday School and Village Libraries,' 1892;
  6. 'Greenwood's Library Year Book,' 1897, 1900, 1901.

[The Times, and Manchester Guardian, 11 Nov. 1908; Oil and Colour Trades Journal, 14 Nov. 1908 (with portrait); Who's Who, 1908; W. E. A. Axon in Library Association Record, June 1907 (description of the library for librarians); personal knowledge.]

C. W. S.