Johnson, Joseph (DNB00)


JOHNSON, JOSEPH (1738–1809), bookseller and publisher, was the younger of two sons of a baptist farmer living at Everton, near Liverpool, where young Johnson was born on 15 Nov. 1738. He came to London in 1752, and some time afterwards was apprenticed to George Keith, bookseller, of Gracechurch Street. About 1760 he took a shop in Fish Street Hill, and was subsequently in partnership, first with a Mr. Davenport, and then with John Payne. Johnson and Payne had a house in Paternoster Row, which, with their stock, was burnt in 1770. Friends set Johnson up in a shop in St. Paul's Churchyard, where he remained, without a partner, until his death. In 1772 he issued the poems of Anna Letitia Aikin (Mrs. Barbauld), and about the same time began to publish for Dr. Priestley. He brought out many important works in medicine and surgery, and was the earliest publisher of Cowper and Erasmus Darwin. He also published for Horne Tooke, Dr. Aikin, Enfield, Fuseli, Bonnycastle, Mary Wollstonecraft, and Miss Edgeworth. In May 1788 he produced the first number of the ‘Analytical Review,’ which came to an end in 1799. He was sentenced to nine months' imprisonment and fined 50l. in 1797 for selling a pamphlet by Gilbert Wakefield. For many years before his death he was considered the father of the book trade.

Johnson died unmarried on 20 Dec. 1809, in his seventy-second year, and was buried in Fulham Church (see inscription in T. Faulkner, Account of Fulham, 1813, pp. 113–14). He had a country house at Purser's Cross, Fulham (ib. p. 321).

[Biography by J. Aikin in Gent. Mag. December 1809, pp. 1167–8, reproduced in Nichols's Lit. Anecd. iii. 461–4; C. H. Timperley's Encyclopædia, 1842, pp. 798, 836; Southey's Life of W. Cowper, passim; J. Knowles's Life of Fuseli, 1831, i. 29; J. T. Rutt's Life of Dr. Priestley, 1831, i. 183, 252, ii. 10, 414.]

H. R. T.