Some research into satirical print publishers

Recently I’ve been trying to find out more about the satirical print publishers active during the career of Isaac Cruikshank (c. 1783-1811). These men are notoriously elusive, leaving as they did very few business records. But this hasn’t deterred me. And some recent scratching around has uncovered some interesting lines of inquiry.

Using the recently launched Records of London’s Livery Companies Online some interesting details have emerged. Samuel Fores, for example, was a member of The Drapers’ Company from 1784, when he left the apprenticeship of his father a vellum binder and himself a member of the Drapers’. In 1788 the younger Fores is listed as a ‘copperplate printer and vellum binder’ when he took on his first apprentice, Samuel John Allgar, the son of a clockmaker. Allgar left the apprenticeship of Fores in 1799, to establish himself as a copper plate printer and member of the Drapers’. Fores took a total of seven apprentices registered by the Drapers’, four of whom were his own children.

Records of the Stationer’s company contain mention of John Johnston, a figure on whom we know very little. Johnston published in excess of 15 Cruikshank prints in 1809 and went on to work with Isaac’s sons upon his death. It appears the Johnston was apprenticed to a printer and bookseller (one Thomas Chapman) in 1793 for seven years, perhaps explaining the apparently diverse trade he had established by 1810. More well known associations are also confirmed by the lists. Robert Laurie appears as an apprentice to Robert Sayer between 1770 and 1777. Less well known is that prior to taking over Sayer’s business in 1794 with James Whittle, Laurie became a master of the Stationer’s and worked as an engraver from Gray’s Inn Lane. At the establishment of his business he took on Joseph Grozer as his apprentice, son of an ‘Innholder’ from Wakefield, Yorkshire. I presume Joseph was not living in Yorkshire at the time of his apprenticeship, but some further digging around will be needed to ascertain this.

The point of this work is to put satirical prints into their economic, business, and spatial context. And these resources in particular shed some intriguing light on the networks of association print publishers established in this period. Which is all rather exciting.


2 thoughts on “Some research into satirical print publishers”

  1. The ESRCs London Lives website has thrown up some surprising titbits of information on the various members of Georgian London’s printing fraternity.

    For example, I used the site some time ago to see if I could identify the political affiliations of London publishers who were eligible to vote in the constituency of Westminster. Samuel Fores voting record was particularly interesting as it undermines many of the suggestions I’ve read that Fores harboured radical political sympathies and also perhaps explains why he had no apparent compunction about producing prints which favoured both Whigs and Tories.

    Westminster Pollbook records for Samuel William Fores 1784 – 1818

    1784 – Hood (Tory) & Wray (Whig)
    1802 – Fox (Whig) & Gardner (Tory)
    1806 – Hood (Tory) & Paull (Radical)
    1818 – Romilly (Whig) & Maxwell (Tory)

    1. The Corfield et al Westminster Historical Database (used most notably in this 2001 article is an valuable addition to London Lives. And indeed it does appear challenge suggestions of Fores possessing radical sympathies (that said by splitting rather than plumping in 1806 there may well be a story to tease out).
      Locating London’s Past (, the newer cousin of LL and OBO, also contains some interesting ratebook information. I’m still working through what it really means. But I believe it usefully contextualises the business/environmental contexts Fores, Laurie & Whittle et al functioned within.

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