Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Ford, William (1771-1832)

FORD, WILLIAM (1771–1832), bookseller and bibliographer, son of John Ford, tinman, was born at Manchester in 1771, and educated at the grammar school of that town. Though intended originally for the medical profession, he went into the Manchester trade, and subsequently became a book and print seller. While in business as a manufacturer, he formed a curious and valuable library, which when he commenced as a bookseller served as the basis of the stock described in his first catalogue, dated 1805. In this catalogue were many rarities, one of which was a volume containing 'Licia, or Poems of Love,' and the original edition of Shakespeare's 'Venus and Adonis,' 1593, now in the Malone collection, Bodleian Library. The catalogue attracted the attention of bibliophiles all over the country, and brought him into correspondence with Dibdin, Malone, Heber, Bindley, and other collectors. The collection proauced upwards of 6,000l. In a letter to Dibdin, Ford wrote: 'It was my love of books, not of lucre, which first induced me to become a bookseller.' His second catalogue came out in 1807, and his third, containing more than fifteen thousand articles, in 1800-11 . Other catalogues followed, and all were esteemed for their accurate descriptions and curious bibliographical notes. He was a chief contributor to a series of papers in 'Aston's Exchange Herald,' of which twenty-four copies were reprinted in octavo, with the title, 'Bibliographiana, or Bibliographical Essays, by a Society of Gentlemen,' Manchester, 1817. Of a continuation of these papers, printed in the 'Stockport Advertiser,' only ten reprints were made up. In the same paper he wrote a useful chronology of Manchester. He was also one of the early contributors to the 'Retrospective Review.' In 1810 he met with a reverse of fortune, and his large stock was sold by auction. He resumed business soon after, but was not rewarded with the success which, in the opinion of Dibdin, his efforts and merit deserved. His last catalogue was printed at Liverpool in 1832, where he had carried on business for a few years. Books from his stock, frequently containing annotations in his handwriting, are still to be met with. He published a series of local views and portraits, some of which were etched by himself. His portrait was painted and etched by Wyatt in 1824. He died at Liverpool on 3 Oct. 1832, and was buried in St. James's cemetery.

His son John carried on the same business, and that of an auctioneer. A second son, William Henry, survived until 1882.

[Notice by J. Crossley in Manchester School Register (Chetham Soc.), ii. 79; Earwaker's Local Gleanings, 1875, i. 38, 52, 79; Palatine Notebook, i. 190 (a memoir by Ford of the Stringers, Cheshire artists), ii. 124, 269, iii. 88 (list of his portraits, &c.); Dibdin's Bibliomania, 1811, pp. 164, 629; Dibdin's Library Companion, p. 696; Dibdin's Remin. of a Literary Life, 1836, i. 317; Procter's Byegone Manchester, 1880.]

C. W. S.