Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Low, Sampson

LOW, SAMPSON (1797–1886), publisher, born in London in November 1797, was son of Sampson Low, printer and publisher, of Berwick Street, Soho, who died in 1800. He served a short apprenticeship with Lionel Booth, the proprietor of a circulating library, and, after a few years spent in the house of Longman & Co., began business in 1819 at 42 Lamb's Conduit Street, as a bookseller and stationer, with a circulating library attached. His reading-room was the resort of many literary men, lawyers, and politicians. Till 1837 ‘Bent's Literary Advertiser’ was the only trade journal connected with book-selling; at this period the publishers became dissatisfied with the manner in which it was conducted, and established a periodical of their own called ‘The Publishers' Circular,’ and entrusted the management to Low. The first number appeared on 2 Oct. 1837. The manager gradually introduced many changes and improvements, and in 1867 the ‘Circular’ became Low's sole property. The periodical, which was published fortnightly, supplied a list of new books, and from these lists an an- nual catalogue was made up, the first appearing in 1839. Upon these annual catalogues Low based his ‘British Catalogue,’ the first volume of which, containing titles under authors' names of all books issued between 1837 and 1852, was published in 1853; it was continued as the ‘English Catalogue,’ of which vol. i. (1835–63) appeared in 1864; vol. ii. (1863–72) in 1873; vol. iii. (1872–1880) in 1882. Subject indexes were issued in 1858, covering from 1837 to 1857; and in 1876 (covering from 1856 to 1876). Low was also manager of a society for the protection of retail booksellers against undersellers until the dissolution of the society in 1852. In 1848 he, in conjunction with his eldest son, opened a publishing office at the corner of Red Lion Court, Fleet Street. In 1852 they removed to 47 (and later to 14) Ludgate Hill, where, with the aid of David Bogue, an American department was opened. In 1856 Mr. Edward Marston became a partner, and Bogue retired. The firm removed in 1867 to 188 Fleet Street, in 1887 to St. Dunstan's House, Fetter Lane.

Low found time for aiding many philanthropic undertakings. With his son he was mainly instrumental in establishing in 1843 the Royal Society for the Protection of Life from Fire, and gave it careful attendance till 1867, when it was taken over by the Metropolitan Board of Works. From its foundation in 1837 he took the deepest interest in the Booksellers' Provident Institution, serving on the committee and acting as a vice-president. About 1844 he made the acquaintance of Fletcher Harper of New York, and became his literary agent and correspondent, and one of the chief American booksellers in London. He retired from business in 1875, and died at 41 Mecklenburgh Square on 16 April 1886, being buried in Highgate cemetery on 22 April. His wife, Mary, died 26 May 1881, in her eighty-fourth year. Of his sons, Sampson Low, jun., born in London on 6 July 1822, although a great invalid, took a considerable share in the business. He compiled a work entitled ‘The Charities of London, comprehending the Benevolent, Educational, and Religious Institutions, their Origin and Design, Progress, and Present Position,’ 1850, of which corrected editions appeared in 1854, 1862, 1863, and 1870. He died at 41 Mecklenburgh Square 5 March 1871 (Publishers' Circular. 16 March 1871, p. 175). Low's second son, William Henry Low, after the death of his brother, took an active share in the publishing business; he died 25 Sept. 1881.

Sampson Low the elder was the author, compiler, and editor of the following works: 1. ‘Low's Comparative Register of the House of Commons 1827 to 1841,’ 1841. 2. ‘Low's Comparative and Historical Register of the House of Commons 1841 to 1847,’ 1847. 3. ‘Index to Current Literature, comprising a Reference to every Book in the English Language as published, and to original Literary Articles,’ 1859–60 (eight numbers only). 4. ‘Low's Literary Almanack and Illustrated Souvenir for 1873,’ 1873.

[Publishers' Circular, 16 May 1879, No. 100, 1 June 1881 p. 435, 1 Oct. 1881 p. 763, 1 May 1866 pp. 431–3, with portrait; Bookseller, 3 May 1886, pp. 418–20; Times, 21 April 1886, p. 9.]

G. C. B.