Joseph Johnson

Born Nov 15, 1738

Joseph Johnson was an influential 18th-century London bookseller and publisher. His publications covered a wide variety of genres and a broad spectrum of opinions on important issues. Johnson is best known for publishing the works of radical thinkers such as Mary Wollstonecraft, William Godwin, and Joel Barlow, as well as religious dissenters such as Joseph Priestley, Anna Laetitia Barbauld, and Gilbert Wakefield.… Read More

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1738 Birth Born on November 15, 1738.


1761 22 Years Old Upon completing his apprenticeship in 1761, Johnson opened his own business, but he struggled to establish himself, moving his shop several times within one year.
1763 24 Years Old Two of his early publications were a kind of day planner: The Complete Pocket-Book; Or, Gentleman and Tradesman's Daily Journal for the Year of Our Lord, 1763 and The Ladies New and Polite Pocket Memorandum Book. … Read More
1764 25 Years Old Fuseli's early 19th-century biographer writes that when Fuseli met Johnson in 1764, Johnson "had already acquired the character which he retained during life,—that of a man of great integrity, and encourager of literary men as far as his means extended, and an excellent judge of their productions". … Read More
1765 26 Years Old In July 1765, Johnson moved his business to the more visible 8 Paternoster Row and formed a partnership with B. Davenport, of whom little is known aside from his association with Johnson. … Read More
1767 28 Years Old However, in the summer of 1767, Davenport and Johnson parted ways; scholars have speculated that this rupture occurred because Johnson's religious views were becoming more unorthodox. … Read More
1768 29 Years Old In 1768 Johnson went into partnership with John Payne (Johnson was probably the senior partner); the following year they published 50 titles. … Read More


Johnson was on the verge of real success when his shop was ravaged by fire on 9 January 1770. … Read More
1777 38 Years Old In 1777 Johnson published the remarkable Laws Respecting Women, as they Regard Their Natural Rights, which is an explication, for the layperson, of exactly what its title suggests. … Read More


1784 45 Years Old 1 More Event
In 1784, Johnson issued John Haygarth's An Inquiry How to Prevent Small-Pox, which furthered the understanding and treatment of smallpox. … Read More


1791 52 Years Old 1 More Event
At one dinner in 1791, Godwin records that the conversation focused on "monarch, Tooke, Samuel Johnson, Voltaire, pursuits, and religion" Godwin's. … Read More
1793 54 Years Old …  However, in 1793, Johnson published William Wordsworth's An Evening Walk and Descriptive Sketches; he remained Wordsworth's publisher until a disagreement separated them in 1799. … Read More
1794 55 Years Old 1 More Event
…  In 1794 Johnson even considered emigrating to America with Priestley to escape the increasing pressure he felt from conservatives and the government. … Read More


1806 67 Years Old …  In January 1806, Johnson's premises were wracked by a second fire, destroying the building and all of his stock.
1808 69 Years Old Although not as active in routine business, Johnson still took an interest in political events. For example, he spearheaded the efforts of the booksellers of London and Westminster to appeal a new copyright law in 1808. … Read More
1809 70 Years Old 1 More Event
According to Chard, Johnson's obituaries, both those written by his friends and those not, "consistently stress his generosity and his principles", particularly his integrity. William Godwin's obituary of 21 December 1809 in the Morning Chronicle was particularly eloquent, calling Johnson an "ornament to his profession" and praising his modesty, his warm heart, and the integrity and clarity of his mind. … Read More
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