852: Rare – Identifying Nineteenth-century Printers with Google Book Search

Identifying nineteenth-century broadside and ballad printers is often difficult, as many signed their work only with their surname and street.

In 1825 London, for instance, there were 20 active printers named Taylor. While cataloging the Special Collections department’s Crime Broadsides we used a few resources to help us sort out these difficulties, including William B. Todd’s “A Directory of Printers and Others in Allied Trades: London and Vicinity, 1800-1840” and the online database the British Book Trade Index, which lists printers throughout Great Britain from William Caxton, the first English printer, until 1850.

Detail of HOLLIS 8107338

Sometimes, these resources could not answer our questions, as with this broadside, printed by “T. Storer, Fleur-de-lis Court, Fleet-Street, London, [1816].” I suspected that this was printed by Thomas Storer, a journeyman active in London from 1815 to 1817. However, I could not find a record of him at Fleur-de-lis court or on Fleet Street. In fact, he was listed from 1816 to 1817 at 1 Fetter Lane. From early maps of London, I knew that Fetter Lane and Fleet Street converged, but Fleur de lis court was at 9 Fetter Lane, too far from Storer’s listed address to convince me. My usual resources exhausted, I gave Google a try.

Google Books returned the the trial transcript for the 1817 trial of James Watson for his role in the Spa Fields Riots. Thomas Storer was implicated in printing a treasonous tract for Watson. During the trial, there was a lengthy questioning of witness Thomas Preston as to the exact location of Mr. Storer’s house, which perfectly answered my question:


That confirmed that this was my T. Storer of Fetter Lane, and also explained why he stopped printing in 1817 after such a short career.

Post contributed by:
Matthew Reidsma
Curatorial Assistant

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