18th century trade cards for London book sellers

For those readers who are familiar with All Things Georgian, you will more than likely know of my passion for trade cards and the tiny clues they offer about the lives their former owners. Today we’re going to take a look at just a few of the booker sellers of 18th century London.

We begin with the card above which belonged to Mr George Sael of at No 192, the Strand, London, showing a female figure, possibly Minerva, seated to the right inscribing the text on an oval. George was not only a bookseller, but also sold stationery and purchased libraries or collections of books.

Although it’s not possible to date the card accurately, we do know from his will, that George died June 1799, at just 38 years of age, said to have been due to overwork. Before ‘going it alone’, George had been in partnership with another bookseller, Edward Jeffery, but they had mutually ended their business partnership in October 1788, so this narrows the window to around a ten year span. It would seem likely that George produced or acquired new business cards after the division of the company, to tells his customers where he was now to be found.

When George died, he left a wife, Sarah née Poole whom he had married in Chester on 19 April 1789, and three surviving daughters, Letitia Margaretta, (born 1790), Sarah (born1794), Elizabeth (born 1795) and a two year old son, George. In his will he specified that all his stock in trade and other financial assets should to go to his wife, then to the children when/if they reached the age of 21 and that his wearing apparel should go to his nephew. George was buried at St George’s Hanover Square on 17 June 1799.

As a former citizen of Chester, the Chester Chronicle provided the following notice of his death:

This next one was very attention grabbing, as it shows George III and Queen Charlotte, with an added name-check for the Prince of Wales. As can be seen in the bottom right hand corner this was advertising the bookseller, Alexander Hogg of Paternoster Row who had acquired a ‘New selection of British novels’



Alexander didn’t marry until he was aged, 56, his wife being Hannah May, of the parish of St Olave, Bermondsey. Rather unusually, it was Hannah who arranged the marriage licence on 15 September 1808, rather than Alexander. The couple then married at St Olave’s a couple of days later and on the day of their marriage Alexander also wrote his will, he clearly believed that he wouldn’t live for much longer and wanted to ensure that his new bride was provided for. Sure enough, their marriage was to be cut short, as Alexander died just over 3 months later, at the beginning of January 1809. This perhaps explains why Hannah organised the marriage licence, a ‘quickie’ wedding, Alexander was too ill to arrange it himself.

The Hull Packet, 17 January 1809 wrote:


On Sunday se’nnight, after a long and painful affliction, which he endured with exemplary fortitude, Mr Alexander Hogg, late a bookseller in Paternoster Row, London, in the 57th year of his age; whose strict adherence to honour and honesty, during life, rendered him universally respected and esteemed.

The next card belonged to a John Weble, bookseller at ‘The Pineapple’ in the City Road, London, showing the text inscribed on a sheet, a bookseller standing to right showing books to a gentleman and a lady; an ornamental border framing the image and is rather more elaborate and detailed than that of George Sael.

However, there’s a glaring error which doesn’t look very professional – have you spotted it yet? I think I might have been asking for a refund if I had paid for the card to be printed.

John ran his book selling and stationery business from at least 1770 and was based on Paternoster Row, London. The little we know of his life comes courtesy of the Oxford University and City Herald, 30 September 1820:

At Bromley, Kent, in his 74th year, John Wheble, Esq., the original projector, and till within these few years, the sole conductor, of the County Chronicle. Of an active, intelligent, and truly liberal mind, combined with generosity to a fault, it may be truly said that few men possessed in a greater degree the respect and esteem of the circle in which he moved, or quitted this transitory life more deeply or sincerely regretted. In 1805, Mr Wheble was chosen one of the Common Council of the war of Farringdon Within, an honour which he continue to enjoy until his death.

This one below belonged to a John Pridden, who operated his business in Fleet Street, from at least 1757 until his death in 1807. The card itself has text inscribed within a Rococo border, the Prince of Wales’s feathers in the upper section with piles of books at the sides and was dated 1757.

We know slightly more about John Pridden than we do about some of the other booksellers, courtesy of the Dictionary of National Biography which tells us that John was born in 1728 to a very affluent family, at Old Martin Hall, Ellesmere, Shropshire. He ran away from home to escape from his cruel step-father and headed for London, where he found employment working for Richard Manby, a book seller of Ludgate Hill, whom he eventually succeeded upon Manby’s death, in 1767.

John married Anne Gregory in 1757 and they had two sons, John and Humphry and six daughters, Anne, Elizabeth, Sarah, Frances, Isabella and Margaret. John outlived his wife, but only by a few years, Anne died in 1801 and John’s wish in his will was to be buried in the same grave as his wife so they could be reunited in death on 24 March 1807, at St Bride’s, Fleet Street.

An anecdote written upon his demise in the Oracle and Daily News, 17 March 1807.

Yesterday morning, in the 79th years of his age, Mr John Pridden, nearly half a century a bookseller in Fleet Street, who, by persevering industry, acquired an independent fortune, with strict integrity. The following anecdote of this worthy man must not go untold, as a specimen of the goodness of his heart: Seven years ago, on the failure of his less fortunate next-door neighbour, he invited him to his house, and relinquished business, to give him the opportunity of the remaining on the spot. His kind intentions met with success, and he frequently expressed the pleasure he felt on seeing his friend prosper under his roof.  

I have one final one to share, not because I had researched the books seller, rather that I am curious about a description on his trade card. He tells potential purchasers that he sells books bound in either calves or turkey leather – turkey leather is a new one to me, so if anyone knows about it, please do let me know.


All images are courtesy of the British Museum

London Gazette, 25 Oct 1788

George Sael.  Records of the Prerogative Court of Canterbury, Series PROB 11; ClassPROB 11; Piece1326

Alexander Hogg. Records of the Prerogative Court of Canterbury, Series PROB 11; ClassPROB 11; Piece1482

John Pridden.  Records of the Prerogative Court of Canterbury, Series PROB 11; ClassPROB 11; Piece1460


23 thoughts on “18th century trade cards for London book sellers

  1. Judy Buckley

    Those trade cards are absolutely brilliant. So much information on each one. If you have any dated around 1800-1810 for large draper’s shops in Bishopsgate Without (i.e. the part of Bishopsgate outside the City walls) I should love to know! Can one find them at British Library, and are they indexed in any way?


    1. Sarah Murden

      I love trade cards and it’s great being able to find a little more about the businesses operating in the 18th century. If you Google – British Museum, a search box appears, enter ‘draper’ and they should appear, but you’ll need to check them out to find any for Bishopsgate Without.


  2. Love trade cards — and booksellers! As you remarked, they’re a fascinating glimpse into the history of London. (This is not something I’ve researched myself, but I have not yet seen any trade cards from other commercial centres, although I’m sure they must exist!)

    I was going to comment that ‘Turkey leather’ referred to Turkish binding (e.g. Turkey carpets, Admiral Nelson’s Turkey cup) but Judy beat me to it! And provided a link, too. Nice work, Judy.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Sarah Murden

      If you search the British Museum website, there are trade cards from other commercial centres, obviously fewer being held by BM than for London, but I suspect local archives probably also have some squirrelled away in dusty boxes 🙂


    1. Sarah Murden

      I absolutely love them and yes, I could spend weeks/months/years looking at them. Thank you so very much, that’s so kind. There are several other post on All Things Georgian about other trade cards too which you may enjoy.


    1. Sarah Murden

      Thank you, I’ll check out that website … I suspect you’re sending me off down yet another rabbit hole, aren’t you? (in a good way, of course) 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

          1. Judy Buckley

            Thank you Sarah. My ancestors were in Spitalfields, so I’ve been watching Spitalfields Life, but it’s SO huge I hadn’t found the Tallis elevations (beautifully large) there before.

            Liked by 1 person

    1. Sarah Murden

      Yes, thank you so much, I’ve had a couple of lovely replies with links which provide more information about the leather. I’m familiar with Moroccan leather, but I hadn’t come across Turkish leather 🙂


  3. Pingback: 18th century trade cards for London book sellers - Gabani Shops

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.