was an English
England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Scotland to the north and Wales to the west; the Irish Sea is to the north west, the Celtic Sea to the south west, with the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south separating it from continental...
In publishing, printers are both companies providing printing services and individuals who directly operate printing presses. With the invention of the moveable type printing press by Johannes Gutenberg around 1450, printing—and printers—proliferated throughout Europe.Today, printers are found...
, author and antiquary
An antiquarian or antiquary is an aficionado or student of antiquities or things of the past. More specifically, the term is used for those who study history with particular attention to ancient objects of art or science, archaeological and historic sites, or historic archives and manuscripts...
Early life and apprenticeship
He was born in Islington
Islington is a neighbourhood in Greater London, England and forms the central district of the London Borough of Islington. It is a district of Inner London, spanning from Islington High Street to Highbury Fields, encompassing the area around the busy Upper Street...
London is the capital city of :England and the :United Kingdom, the largest metropolitan area in the United Kingdom, and the largest urban zone in the European Union by most measures. Located on the River Thames, London has been a major settlement for two millennia, its history going back to its...
to Edward Nichols and Anne Wilmot. On 22 June 1766 he married Anne Cradock daughter of William Cradock. Anne gave birth to three children: Anne (born 1767), Sarah (born 1769), and William Bowyer (born 1775 and died a year later). His wife Anne also died in 1776. He married a second time to Martha Green in 1778. Martha gave birth to eight children. Nichols was apprenticed in 1757 to "the learned printer," William Bowyer, whom he eventually succeeded. On the death of his friend and master in 1777 he published a brief memoir, which afterwards grew into the Anecdotes of William Bowyer and his Literary Friends
In 1788, he became editor of the Gentleman's Magazine
and remained so till his death. In that periodical, and in his numerous volumes of Anecdotes
, he made numerous contributions to literary biography. As his materials accumulated he compiled a sort of anecdotal literary history of the century, based on a large collection of letters. The Literary Anecdotes of the 18th Century
(1812–1815), into which the original work was expanded, forms only a small part of Nichols's production.
Considered one of his most important works, Nichols's monumental History and Antiquities of the County of Leicester
, was the most ambitious of the antiquarian county histories
English county histories, in other words historical and topographical works concerned with individual ancient counties of England before their reorganisation, were produced by antiquarians from the late 16th century onwards...
(extremely long, but the quality of the content is very variable), a massive compendium of historical notes, manuscripts and engraved plates printed by subscription after an exhaustive survey of the county, and published in eight parts not in chronological order to make up four volumes when complete, from 1795-1815. It was followed by the Illustrations of the Literary History of the 18th Century, consisting of Authentic Memoirs and Original Letters of Eminent Persons
, which was begun in 1817 and completed by his son John Bowyer Nichols
-Life:The eldest son of John Nichols, by his second wife, Martha Green , he was born at Red Lion Passage, Fleet Street, London, 15 July 1779...
(1770–1865) in 1858. The Anecdotes
and the Illustrations
are mines of valuable information on the authors, printers and booksellers of the time.
Nichols and the printing of the Domesday Book (1767-1783)
Nichols co-operated with Abraham Farley
Abraham Farley was a lifelong civil servant, who was appointed deputy chamberlain of the Exchequer in 1736, and soon became involved with the public records at the Chapter House of Westminster Abbey. First amongst these was the Domesday Book, of which Farley became custodian, granting visiting...
in the production of the 1783 edition
The Domesday Book is the record of the great survey of England completed in 1086, executed for William I of England. This article is about the various ways the Domesday Book was published, beginning in the eighteenth century...
of Domesday Book
Domesday Book , now held at The National Archives, Kew, Richmond upon Thames in South West London, is the record of the great survey of much of England and parts of Wales completed in 1086...
, which he called in his Literary Anecdotes
“the most invaluable as well as most antient Record in this or any other kingdom”. Between Farley’s appointment as co-editor of the project in 1770 and the final publication of the Domesday Book in two volumes in 1783, Nichols assisted Farley in printing and proof-reading the text, and also designed the special typeface that was to be used. This was a source of lasting pride to him; he would later say “on the correctness and the beauty of this important Work I am content to stake my typographical credit”.
The types created by Nichols for the Domesday project were destroyed, alongside much else of value, in a fire at his office in February 1808.
- A Collection of Royal and Noble Wills (1780)
- Select Collection of Miscellaneous Poems (1782), with subsequent additions, in which he was helped by Joseph Warton
Joseph Warton was an English academic and literary critic.He was born in Dunsfold, Surrey, England, but his family soon moved to Hampshire, where his father, the Reverend Thomas Warton, became vicar of Basingstoke. There, a few years later, Joseph's younger brother, the more famous Thomas Warton,...
and by Bishops Percy and Lowth
Robert Lowth FRS was a Bishop of the Church of England, Oxford Professor of Poetry and the author of one of the most influential textbooks of English grammar.-Life:...
- Bibliotheca Topographica Britannica (1780–1790)
- The Progresses and Public Processions of Queen Elizabeth (1788), with Richard Gough
Richard Gough was an English antiquarian.He was born in London, where his father was a wealthy M.P. and director of the British East India Company. In 1751 he entered Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, where he began his work on British topography, published in 1768...
Nichols was a fellow of the Society of Antiquaries
The Society of Antiquaries of London is a learned society "charged by its Royal Charter of 1751 with 'the encouragement, advancement and furtherance of the study and knowledge of the antiquities and history of this and other countries'." It is based at Burlington House, Piccadilly, London , and is...
, a trustee of many city institutions, and in 1804 he was master of the Stationers' Company.
John Bowyer Nichols and John Gough Nichols
John Bowyer Nichols
continued his father's various undertakings, and wrote, with other works, A Brief Account of the Guildhall of the City of London
John Gough Nichols
(1806–1873), John Bowyer Nichols' eldest son, was also a printer and a distinguished antiquary, who edited The Gentleman's Magazine
The Gentleman's Magazine was founded in London, England, by Edward Cave in January 1731. It ran uninterrupted for almost 200 years, until 1922. It was the first to use the term "magazine" for a periodical...
from 1851 to 1856, and the Herald
from 1863 to 1874, and was one of the founders of the Camden Society
The Camden Society, named after the English antiquary and historian William Camden, was founded in 1838 in London to publish early historical and literary materials, both unpublished manuscripts and new editions of rare printed books....