Jacob Tonson the Elder

“The celebrated bookseller, Jacob Tonson, had his shop here, within Gray’s Inn Gate, next Gray’s Inn Lane. Here he published (Joseph) Addison’s “Campaign;” and from this place also he wrote the following letter to (Alexander) Pope:—

“Gray’s Inn Gate, April 20th, 1706.

“Sir,—I have lately seen a pastoral of yours, in Mr. Walsh’s and Congreve’s hands, which is extremely fine, and is approved of by the best judges in poetry. I remember I have formerly seen you at my shop, and am sorry I did not improve my acquaintance with you. If you design your poem for the press, no person shall be more careful in the printing of it, nor no one can give greater encouragement to it than, sir, yours, &c., “Jacob Tonson.”

Tonson was the second son of Jacob Tonson, a barber-chirurgeon in Holborn. He was born in the year 1656; and by his father’s will, which was executed July 10th, 1668, and proved in the following November, he and his elder brother, Richard, and their three sisters, were each to receive the sum of £100 on their attaining the age of twenty-one —the money to be paid in Gray’s Inn Hall. On the 5th of June, 1670, we find him bound apprentice for eight years to a bookseller called Thomas Basset, and on the 20th of December, 1677, he was admitted a freeman of the Stationers’ Company. His first shop was in Chancery Lane, very near Fleet Street, and was distinguished by the sign of the “Judge’s Head.” About 1697 he removed to Gray’s Inn, where he remained till about 1712, when he removed to a house in the Strand, over against Catherine Street, and here he chose Shakespeare’s head for a sign. He died, very rich, on the 18th of March 1735–6.”

Walter Thornbury: Old and New London Vol 2 (1878)

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