Julian Pooley (Leicester) “Printing the Past: Discovering the Archive of the Nichols family (…)”

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Julian Pooley (University of Leicester) “Printing the Past: Discovering the Archive of the Nichols family of printers, antiquaries and editors of the Gentleman’s Magazine,1777-1873”.

This paper tells the story of how the purchase of an anonymous pocket diary in a London bookshop, led me to discover extensive and previously unknown archives of John Nichols (1745-1826) and his family of printers, antiquaries and editors of the Gentleman’s Magazine. Nichols was one of Georgian London’s most prominent printers, contracted to print for Parliament, the Royal Society and Society of Antiquaries. He was also a literary biographer, chronicling the book trade and its customers over the long-eighteenth century; a pioneer of Renaissance culture through his Progresses of Queen Elizabeth and a leading antiquary whose History and Antiquities of the Town and County of Leicester 4 vols (1795-1815) transformed the way that English local history was written and illustrated. The vast archive of family and business papers which he and his successors accumulated inspired his granddaughter to form her own collection of autograph letters, augmented by exchange with other collectors and by purchases in the London and Paris salerooms. This internationally significant collection is now part of the 20,000 Nichols papers calendared and accessible via the Nichols Archive Database. This paper will explore the value of the archive for studying the career of John Nichols, his editorship of the Gentleman’s Magazine and his achievements as a literary biographer and antiquary. It will also highlight some of the many French historical documents preserved in this archive.

Julian Pooley F.S.A. is Hon. Visiting Fellow of the Centre for English Local History at the University of Leicester and Public Services and Engagement Manager at Surrey History Centre, Woking.

Nichols Archive Project

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