Anniversarial — 2009

1809 — death of Joseph Johnson

The English publisher and bookseller Joseph Johnson died on the 20 December 1809. Born at Everton, near Liverpool, Johnson arrived in London in 1752 and established himself at St. Paul's Churchyard from 1772 onwards.

A man of advanced (radical?) and firmly held opinions, Johnson published important works on surgery and medicine as well as some of the most innovative works of his time. His authors included Joseph Priestley, Erasmus Darwin, Horne Tooke, Mary Wollstonecraft, Tom Paine, Henry Fuseli and Maria Edgeworth.

In 1788, Johnson began publishing the Analytical Review, a forum for radical political and religious ideas. The periodical published essays on politics, philosophy, natural history and literature, often written by prominent figures such as the poet William Cowper, the moralist William Enfield and the early feminist Mary Wollstonecraft.

Johnson had a long-standing relationship with Cowper, publishing his long and influential poem The Task in 1785 and his translation of Homer in 1791. In turn, Cowper helped arrange Johnson's involvement in the publication and distribution of John Newton's Olney Hymns, which included "Amazing Grace".

EE has over 50 letters from William Cowper to Johnson (dating c. 15 January 1781 to 1 August 1793); letters that offer a revealing glimpse into the relationship of an author and his publisher:

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