Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Whittingham, Charles (1795-1876)

WHITTINGHAM, CHARLES (1795–1876), ‘the nephew,’ printer, nephew of Charles Whittingham (1767–1840) [q. v.], was born at Mitcham, Surrey, on 30 Oct. 1795. His father, Samuel, brother of the elder Charles, was a nurseryman. Young Whittingham, always known as ‘the nephew,’ was apprenticed at the age of fifteen to his uncle, who had paid for his education under the Rev. John Evans of Islington. He was made a freeman of the Company of Stationers in 1817, and the following year his uncle sent him to Paris with letters of introduction to the Didots. One result of the visit was the production on his return of Whittingham's ‘French Classics’ by the Chiswick Press. A series of ‘Pocket Novels’ was also issued under his supervision. In 1824 his uncle took him into partnership, and they printed ‘Knickerbocker's New York’ (1824), Pierce Egan's ‘Life of an Actor’ (1825), Singer's ‘Shakespeare,’ in ten volumes (1825), and many other books. The partnership was dissolved in 1828, and the younger Whittingham started a printing office at 21 Took's Court, Chancery Lane. His first work, ‘A Sunday Book,’ bears the date of 1829. He shortly afterwards made the acquaintance of Basil Montagu, through whom he knew William Pickering [q. v.], the bookseller, a lifelong friend and associate in the production of many choice volumes. They now lie side by side at Kensal Green cemetery. Among the earliest of his books were Peele's ‘Works’ (1829), ‘The Bijou, or Annual of Literature and the Arts,’ Walton's ‘Angler,’ the ‘Canterbury Tales,’ Bacon's ‘Works,’ and Holbein's ‘Dance of Death.’ In conjunction with Pickering he had many woodcut initial letters and ornaments designed or adapted. He did not attempt to rival his uncle as a printer of illustrated books, but aimed at distinction in letterpress and originality in woodcut ornaments and initials, in the employment of fine ink and hand-made paper, and in the artistic arrangement of the pages and margins. Some books illustrated by George and Robert Cruikshank came from Took's Court between 1830 and 1833. On the death of his uncle in 1840 the entire business passed into the hands of the younger Whittingham, who carried on the works at Chiswick as well as at Took's Court until 1848, and the books printed at both places bear the imprint of Chiswick Press. In 1840 he commenced block colour printing in Shaw's ‘Elizabethan Architecture’ published in 1842. Some of the finest specimens of his work are to be found in Shaw's publications. Pickering issued from his new premises at 177 Piccadilly in 1841 a prayer-book, one of the first of the many fine ornamental volumes printed for him by Whittingham. Samuel Rogers came to the Chiswick Press for the ‘Notes’ to his ‘Italy’ (1843).

The years 1843 and 1844 were of great importance in the annals of the Chiswick Press, as they marked the introduction of the old-fashioned style of book production for which Whittingham and Henry Cole were chiefly responsible. In 1843 Whittingham persuaded Caslon to revive an old-faced fount of great primer cut in 1720, and an Eton prize ‘Juvenal’ was printed for Pickering and the ‘Diary of Lady Willoughby’ for Longman in this letter (1844; see art. Rathbone, Hannah Mary; cf. Reed, Old English Letter Foundries, 1887, p. 255; Notes and Queries, 8th ser. ix. 415, 472). He printed Pickering's fine reproductions of the first editions of the ‘Common Prayer’ in 1844. In 1848 he became a liveryman of the Company of Stationers. The lease at Took's Court expired in 1849, and for three years all his printing was carried on at Chiswick. In 1852 he returned to the premises at Took's Court, which have remained the Chiswick Press down to the present day. Among the later fine works there printed may be mentioned the volumes of the Philobiblon Society, Lord Vernon's ‘Dante’ (1854), and the ‘Breviarium Aberdonense’ (1854). In 1854 Whittingham lost his wife and his friend Pickering, and in 1860 took his manager, John Wilkins (d. 1869), into partnership, and retired from active work. The business subsequently passed to Mr. George Bell, the well-known London publisher. The Chiswick Press has largely contributed to raise the standard of English printing in the nineteenth century, and its productions are as distinctive in character as those of Baskerville.

Whittingham died on 21 April 1876. He was learned in the history of the art of printing, of printing ink, and of the manufacture of papers. He was rather brusque and severe in manner; fly-fishing was his relaxation. His portrait, painted by Mrs. Furnival, is now at Stationers' Hall.

He married, in 1826, Eleanor Hulley (d. 1854) of Nottingham, who bore him five children—William, Charlotte, Elizabeth Eleanor, Jane, and Charles John—all of whom were for many years connected with the Chiswick Press, the daughters applying themselves to the literary and artistic departments. Elizabeth died in 1867. Charlotte married Mr. B. F. Stevens, who was a partner in the Chiswick Press from January 1872 to August 1876. Charlotte and Elizabeth were educated as artists, and from their designs came the greater part of the extensive collection of borders, monograms, head and tail pieces, and other embellishments still preserved and used. The engraver of most of the ornamental wood-blocks was Mary Byfield (d. 1871).

[Information from Mr. B. F. Stevens. See also Warren's The Charles Whittinghams, Printers (Grolier Club), New York, 1896; Bigmore and Wyman's Bibliography of Printing, vol. iii.; Athenæum, 19 Aug., 2, 9 Sept. 1876; British Bookmaker, September 1890.]

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