JOHN NICHOLS (1745-1826), English printer and author, was born at Islington on the 2nd of February 1745. He edited the Gentleman's Magazine from 1788 till his death, and in the pages of that periodical, and in his numerous volumes of Anecdotes and Illustrations, he made invaluable contributions to the personal history of English men of letters in the ,8th century. He was apprenticed in 1757 to "the learned printer," William Bowyer, whom he eventually succeeded. On the death of his friend and master in 1777 he published a brief memoir, which afterwards grew into the Anecdotes of William Bowyer and his Literary Friends (1782). As his materials accumulated he compiled a sort of anecdotical literary history of the century, based on a large collection of important letters. The Literary Anecdotes of the 18th Century (1812-1815), into which the original work was expanded, forms only a small part of Nichols's production. It was followed by the Illustrations of the Literary History of the 18th Century, consisting of Authentic Memoirs and Original Letters of which was begun in 1817 and completed by his son John Bowyer Nichols (1779-1863) in 1858.
The Anecdotes and the Illustrations are mines of valuable information on the authors, printers and booksellers of the time. Nichols's other works include: A Collection of Royal and Noble Wills (1780); Select Collection of Miscellaneous Poems (1782), with subsequent additions, in which he was helped by Joseph Warton and by Bishops Percy and Lowth; Bibliotheca Topographica Britannica (1780-1790); with Richard Gough, The Progresses and Public Processions of Queen Elizabeth (1788); and the important History and Antiquities of the Town and County of Leicester (1795-1815). Nichols was a fellow of the Society of Antiquaries, a trustee of many city institutions, and in 1804 he was master of the Stationers' Company. He died on the 26th of November 1826. John B Owyer Nichols continued his father's various undertakings, and wrote, with other works, A Brief Account of the Guildhall of the City of London (1819). His eldest son, John Gough Nichols (1806-1873), was also a printer and a distinguished antiquary, who edited the Gentleman's Magazine from 1851 to 1856, and the Herald and Genealogist from 1863 to 1874, and was one of the founders of the Camden Society.
A full Memoir of John Nichols by Alexander Chalmers is contained in the Illustrations, and a bibliography in the Anecdotes (vol. vi.) is supplemented in the later work. See also R. C. Nichols, Memoirs of J. G. Nichols (1874).
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