Street View: 54
Address: 37 Goodge Street


Although Tallis in his index spells the name of Augustus Union Thiselton as Thistleton, I have chosen to use Thiselton as that is the spelling the family of printers preferred. It all started with William Thiselton who established a printing house and bookshop in Goodge Street at least as early as 1784, but possibly even earlier. To whom William Thiselton was apprenticed is unclear as his name does not appear in the list of Stationers’ apprentices, nor in the freedom records of the City of London, which suggests he never felt the need to apply for the freedom, his business being outside the City boundaries. His sons, however, were apprenticed to a master who did hold the freedom of the City and were as such listed in the records. More on them in a moment, but first William’s career. One of the first publications that lists his name is The New Spectator, a short-lived weekly magazine that appeared from 1784 to early 1786. Thiselton’s was one of the booksellers where the publication could be bought. The publication already had the 37 Goodge Street address, so he certainly traded from that address as early as 1784. Number 37 was situated on the south side of Goodge Street, on the corner with Charlotte Street.

Colophon The New Spectator

colophon The New Spectator

At some point Thiselton extended his book selling activities to include a Circulating Library, a popular 18th-century way of making literature available to those who could not afford to buy the books outright. Although we know nothing about the titles on offer in Thiselton’s library, the collection probably consisted mainly of multi-volume novels and other popular reading material. More on circulating libraries here.

trade card (Source: British Museum Collection)

trade card (Source: British Museum Collection)

trade card @Doull

The trade card shown above is from the Ambrose Heal collection of the British Museum, but another one has turned up recently in a 4-volume set of Richard Cumberland’s Henry (1795), for sale at Doull Books (see here). This one has the same text as the other one, but the decorative border is slightly different and small differences in the position of the words show that the cards must have been printed at different times.

Free Masonry for the Ladies

Thiselton was involved with the Masons and his name appears in the membership list for the Tyrian Lodge with an admission date of 8 January 1784. He printed several masonic texts, such as Free Masonry for the Ladies (1791), shown here and also Free-Masonry. A Word to the Wise! (1796) (online here). The last mention of the Circulating Library is in 1806, when W.H. Rayner’s Virtue and Vice was published “for the author, and sold by W. Thiselton, Circulating Library, 37 Goodge Street. The colophon shows that the actual printing was done by William Matthew Thiselton, William’s eldest son.
1806 Virtue and Vice 3

William Matthew was apprenticed to one John Abraham in 1797 and made free of the Stationers Company in 1804. He applied for a printing licence soon afterwards and seems to have taken over the printing side of the business, while his father continued the bookshop and stationer’s.(1) Another son, Octavius Young Thiselton, had been apprenticed in 1813 to his brother Charles Alfred who himself had been apprenticed to their eldest brother William Matthew in 1805. Another brother, Augustus Union, does not seem to have applied for the freedom of the City, or at least, I can find no record of him doing so. It is likely that all these sons worked in the family business, but only William Matthew and Augustus Union’s names seemed to have graced the imprints of their publications. One other son, Arthur Loutherbourg, seems to have bucked the trend and became an artist.(2)

The London and Country Directory of 1811 gives William as stationer and bookseller at Goodge Street and William Matthew as printer at Great Russell Street, although The National Anecdotes, published in 1812, still had William Matthew as a printer at 37 Goodge Street. He probably ran both printing businesses, but already in 1807, at the time of his marriage, William Matthew is described as of Great Russell Street. Father William died in 1830 and was at that time living in John Street, Fitzroy Square.(3) He does not mention the business in his will and leaves most of his estate to his daughter Ann. The sons get various bequests of money, suggesting that the business had been signed over to the sons sometime before. In 1824, William, “gent”, insures a property at 12 Blenheim Street which may be where he went after retiring from the business. The Fire Office records give us various names of who was paying the premium on 37 Goodge Street:

1805: William as bookseller and stationer
1805: William Matthew as printer
1808-1809: William Matthew as printer
1814: William as bookseller and stationer
1819: William Matthew as printer
1821: William as bookseller
1822: Augustus Union as printer
1823: William as bookseller
1825: William Matthew as printer

Frontispiece of T. Waring's  Treatise on Archery: Or, The Art of Shooting with the Long Bow (1830), printed by A.U. Thiselton

Frontispiece of T. Waring’s Treatise on Archery: Or, The Art of Shooting with the Long Bow (1830), printed by A.U. Thiselton

Augustus was listed at number 37 in the 1825 Pigot’s Directory and in 1827, The London Gazette of 26 June announces the end of the partnership between William Matthew and Augustus Union as printers at 37 Goodge Street. An 1832 advertisement for The Comical Melange names Augustus as the publisher at Goodge Street.(4) But, although he continued to publish, Augustus devoted more and more time to secretarial jobs for various institutions and charities. He is named as the secretary of the Masonic Institution for Clothing, Educating and Apprenticing the Sons of Indigent and Deceased Freemasons in an advertisement for their quarterly meeting in The Morning Chronicle of 8 April 1828, but he apparently started this office in 1824 and he was to continue that post until 1861.(5) Augustus was also the secretary of the governors of Queen Charlotte’s Lying-in Hospital(6), and of the Artist’s Benevolent Fund for the Relief of their Widows and Orphans.(7) In the 1843 Post Office Directory Augustus’s address is given as 7 Bloomsbury Place and he is then referred to as ‘Esquire’ which suggests he had given up the bookshop. The Bloomsbury Place address is also given as the address for the Masonic Institution for Clothing in a list of Metropolitan charities, “where attendance is given every Saturday, between the hours of 10 and 2”.(8) Augustus Union died 13 November 1869. His address is then given as 6 Athern Road, Peckham, formerly of 28 Alma Street, Kentish Town.(9)

1840 coat of arms

In the mean time, William Matthew also changed his vocation. Desirous of becoming a magistrate, he qualified at the age of fifty as a barrister at Gray’s Inn and changed his name to W.M. Thiselton Dyer, taking on the surname and coat of arms of his uncle Thomas Dyer (granted by the Queen on 16 April 1840).(10) He died in May 1842 and the Freemason’s Quarterly listed his public offices: coroner and steward for the Tower of London, magistrate of Middlesex, Westminster, and the Tower Royalties, governor of the hospitals of Bethlehem, Bridewell and St. Bart’s, and he also held an unspecified “responsible situation” in the stamp and tax department at Somerset House. The journal also mentions his physique as strong and six feet four in height. He was able to pull 400 an hour at a press, but a few months before he died he had been “reduced to a mere skeleton” through “marasma, or atrophy”.

Octavius Young died in 1865 and is then described as gentleman. (11) Charles Alfred seems to have fared quite well as he left £30,000. (12)

printers device
colophon A.U. Thiselton

(1) National Archives, MR/LP/1804/10.
(2) He is variously described as an artist or as a scene painter in the masonic membership records. He died in 1842.
(3) PROB 11/1771/405.
(4) Freeman’s Journal and Daily Commercial Advertiser, 2 October 1832.
(5) The London Gazette, 17 April 1840.
(6) Freemason’s Magazine and Masonic Mirror, 1 October 1870.
(7) From 1828 (The Morning Post, 11 January 1828) till at least 1837 (The Morning Post, 20 May 1837).
(8) The Standard, 21 June 1869.
(9) The Metropolitan Charities: Being an Account of the Charitable, Benevolent, and Religious Societies … in London, 1844.
(10) England & Wales, National Probate Calendar (Index of Wills and Administrations), 1869. Estate valued at under £600.
(11) England & Wales, National Probate Calendar (Index of Wills and Administrations), 1875. Estate valued at under £200.
(12) England & Wales, National Probate Calendar (Index of Wills and Administrations), 1873. Estate valued at under £30,000. He was living in York at the time of his decease.


<– 38 Goodge Street 20 Charlotte Street –>