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Bancroft, Hubert Howe (05 May 1832–02 March 1918), businessman and historian, was born in Granville, Ohio, the son of Azariah Ashley Bancroft, a farmer, and Lucy Howe, a teacher. His formal education stopped short of college, and at age sixteen Bancroft left home to learn the book trade from his brother-in-law in Buffalo, New York. Sent to California with a valuable consignment of books, Bancroft opened his own bookstore in San Francisco in December 1856, with capital supplied by his sister and credit from several New York firms. Efficiently run, and favored by a margin between California gold and depreciated eastern currency during the Civil War, Bancroft’s store proved phenomenally profitable. Within a decade, H. H. Bancroft & Co. supported extensive European travel for its proprietor and permitted him the luxury of semiretirement at age thirty-seven. In 1869–1870 he built a five-story building for his business, which expanded to include stationery, office supplies, printing, and bookbinding. He turned over the day-to-day operations to his younger brother, Albert, while he moved into the fifth floor and devoted himself to the study of history....

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Beach, Sylvia Woodbridge (14 March 1887–06 October 1962), bookstore owner and publisher, was born in Baltimore, Maryland, the second of three daughters of Sylvester Woodbridge Beach, a Presbyterian minister, and Eleanor Orbison, an artist. Disinclined toward both religion and formal education, she often pleaded illness and eventually fled the Presbyterian parsonage of Princeton, New Jersey, for Europe. Beach spent 1907–1908 and 1911–1912 in Florence, 1914–1916 in Spain, and in midsummer of 1916 settled in Paris, where her father had served as associate pastor at the American Church from 1902 to 1905. Paris would remain her home until her death there forty-six years later....

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Deinard, Ephraim (11 May 1846–24 June 1930), Hebrew author, bibliographer, and bookdealer, was born in Shossmaken, Courland, Russia, the son of Jekuthiel Gerson Deinard and Leah Cohen. In addition to attending traditional schools of Jewish learning, he also studied secular subjects with private tutors. By age eighteen he was contributing articles on current issues to the Hebrew weekly ...

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Dobson, Thomas (1751–09 March 1823), bookseller, printer, and publisher of the first comprehensive encyclopedia produced in the United States, was born probably near Edinburgh, Scotland. His family and early professional backgrounds are unknown, but by 1777, when he married Jean Paton of New North Parish, he could claim to be a member of the Edinburgh bookselling fraternity. Three daughters were born in Scotland, and a son, Judah, who later became a full partner in the firm of Thomas Dobson and Son, was born in Philadelphia around 1792....

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Drake, Samuel Gardner (11 October 1798–14 June 1875), bookseller and historian, was born in Pittsfield, New Hampshire, the son of Simeon Drake and Love Muchmore Tucke, farmers. Drake was a slender and delicate child who loved the woods near his home more than he did the local school. In 1816 he joined his older brother John Drake and worked as an underclerk for his uncle Samuel J. Tucke, an importer of paints and oils, in Boston. Following a six-month stay in Baltimore on business for his uncle, Drake returned to New Hampshire and taught in a school in Loudon, New Hampshire. This was followed by a schoolteaching stint in New Jersey (1819–1820), a study of medicine in Pittsfield, New Hampshire, and then a return to teaching (1820–1823). Although he did not “find himself” in these endeavors, Drake brought the purposefulness that he had developed to what would become the great passions of his life: collecting antiquarian materials and bookselling....

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Dunton, John (04 May 1659–24 November 1732), bookseller and author, was born in Huntingdonshire, England, the son of John Dunton, a clergyman, and Lydia Carter. Unwilling to study for the ministry, he was apprenticed to a well-established London bookseller. Despite prankish interludes, he learned his trade and went into business for himself. Moralistic works were to be Dunton’s mainstay; his first publishing venture was ...

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Gaine, Hugh (1726–25 April 1807), printer-editor and bookseller, was born in Portglenone in the parish of Ahoghill, Ireland, the son of Hugh Gaine and his wife (name unknown). At age fourteen he began his apprenticeship to Samuel Wilson and James Magee, Belfast printers. When the partnership split in 1744, Gaine left Ireland for America and settled in New York City, where he became a printer’s journeyman for ...

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Hall, Samuel (02 November 1740–30 October 1807), publisher, bookseller, and printer, was born in Medford, Massachusetts, the son of Jonathan Hall and Anna Fowle. As a youth, he served an apprenticeship to his uncle, Daniel Fowle, publisher of the New Hampshire Gazette. Hall then moved to Rhode Island where in August 1762 he became the partner of ...

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Mein, John (1732–1810), bookseller, printer, and Loyalist publisher, was born in Edinburgh, Scotland, the son of John Mein, a burgess and guildsman of Edinburgh and a slater by trade. His mother’s name is unknown. John, Jr., was also enrolled as a burgess and guildsman in December 1760. Little is known about Mein apart from his role in supporting British policy during the revolutionary crisis. He emigrated to Boston in November 1764 and set up the first of his three shops in company with ...

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Michaux, Lewis H. (04 August 1885–25 August 1976), bookseller and black nationalist, was born in Newport News, Virginia, the son of Henry Michaux and Blanche Pollard. Some uncertainty about his birthdate exists because his death certificate from the New York Vital Records Department lists it as 23 August 1884. Before coming to New York, Michaux worked variously as a pea-picker, window-washer, and deacon in the Philadelphia church of his brother, Solomon Lightfoot Michaux. According to Edith Glover, his secretary while a deacon, Michaux started selling books in Philadelphia with an inventory of five. When he founded his bookstore in 1932 in Harlem, he still had only a few books with him, including ...

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Anne Moody, 1970s, by Werner Bethsold

© Werner Bethsold/Wikimedia Commons/CC BY-SA 4.0

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Nicholson, Timothy (02 November 1828–15 September 1924), Quaker reformer and printer, was born in Perquimans County, North Carolina, the son of Josiah Nicholson, a teacher and farmer, and Anna White. Both parents came from families long prominent in Quaker affairs in North Carolina, and by Timothy Nicholson’s own account, their influence and that of Quaker neighbors was such that he never questioned Quaker teachings. He was educated in the Quaker Belvidere Academy in Perquimans County and at the Friends Boarding School (now Moses Brown School) in Providence, Rhode Island. He married twice, first in 1853 to Sarah N. White, who died in 1865, and then in 1868 to her sister, Mary White. There were six children by the first marriage and two by the second....

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Rich, Obadiah (1783–20 January 1850), diplomat and book dealer, was born in Truro, Massachusetts, the son of Obadiah Rich, a ship captain, and Salome Lombard. About 1789 his family moved to the Boston area, where Rich resided until 1816. Although the details of Rich’s schooling are not known, an acquaintance described him as “a gentleman by birth and education” and “really learned” (Henry Harrisse, ...

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Rosenbach, Abraham Simon Wolf (22 July 1876–01 July 1952), antiquarian bookseller, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the son of Morris Rosenbach, a soft-goods merchant, and Isabella Polock. As a child, A. S. W. Rosenbach, the youngest of seven children, spent many hours in the bookshop of his uncle Moses Polock, a well-known antiquarian bookseller. There he learned to love old books and manuscripts and absorbed much about history and literature. He was the only one of his family to attend college, receiving his Ph.D. in English literature in 1901 from the University of Pennsylvania....

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Sabin, Joseph (06 December 1821–05 June 1881), bibliographer and bookseller, was born in Braunston, Northamptonshire, near Oxford, England, the son of Joseph Sabin and Mary Shirley. He studied in the common schools in Oxford but did not attend a university. At age fourteen he was apprenticed to Oxford book dealer Charles Richards, who taught him bookbinding but transferred him to sales when his bibliophilic interests began to emerge. Thus immersed in books and prints, Sabin grew to be effective with customers and was promoted to general manager, a position that allowed him to buy books. His increasing responsibilities included the preparation of library sale catalogs, which drew him into the art of bibliographic description. In 1842 he left Richards to form a partnership as a bookseller and auctioneer with a man named Winterborne, whose father was an architect and builder in Oxford and whose sister, Mary Ann, Sabin married in 1844. They had two children....

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Theobald, Paul (1900–06 October 1955), publisher and bookseller, was born in Russia to German parents (names unknown). Theobald’s large family—he was the youngest of nine siblings—immigrated in 1914 to the United States, where three of Theobald’s older brothers already lived. The family settled in Chicago; there Theobald enrolled at the Art Institute, where for the next two years he took courses in portrait painting and stage design before entering the army in 1918. After World War I ended in November of that year, he was discharged and soon resumed his studies at the Art Institute, taking classes at night....

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Timothy, Elizabeth (?–1757), newspaper publisher, printer, and bookseller, was born in Holland. Details of her parentage and early life remain unknown. She arrived in Philadelphia with her French Hugenot husband, Louis ( Lewis Timothy), in September 1731 and later followed him to Charleston, South Carolina, in 1734. In Charleston Louis anglicized their French name from Timothée to Timothy and changed the spelling of his given name to Lewis. ...

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Weems, Mason Locke (11 October 1759–23 May 1825), Episcopal priest, writer, and book agent, was born at “Marshes Seat,” near Herring Bay, Anne Arundel County, Maryland, the son of David Weems, occupation unknown, and Esther Hill. Very little is known about his early life, except what Bishop ...