Grace's Guide

British Industrial History

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William Strahan

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William Strahan (1715–1785), printer and publisher.

1715 born in Edinburgh, the elder of two children of George and Anne Strachan

Educated at the Royal High School

c.1729–1736 Apprenticed to Mossman and Brown, king's printers in Scotland.

1736-38 Moved to London where he worked as a journeyman compositor for William Bowyer the elder.

1738 Married. Set up his own printing business in London

By 1740 the business was in Wine Office Court, St Bride's.

He soon realised that he would need extra lines of business if he was to accumulate wealth so he started to buy copyrights from authors, or shares in copyrights from their booksellers.

1748 he moved to larger permanent quarters at the corner of Little New Street and Printer Street, with seven presses.

1749 he began printing the "Monthly Review"

Between 1751 and 1780 he completed at least 330 transactions for sets of copyright shares in 411 books. He had the influence of a major bookseller but printing was his main business.

1757 He bought a share in the "London Chronicle". He became a publisher, publishing many famous authors, usually in conjunction with Andrew Millar and later Thomas Cadell.

1762 Strahan and Henry Woodfall II took over half each of the law patent, housed at Craven House, Clare Street, Clare Market, off the Strand.

1767 During negotiations to purchase one-third of the king's printer from Charles Eyre, Strahan built a new king's printing house with nine presses, next to the multiple buildings of his private business. This ensured that Strahan would also be appointed manager of the king's printing house when the patent began in January 1770.

1769 After Woodfall's death Strahan assumed sole management, with Woodfall's heirs retaining their share of the profits.

1770 With the new public branches, Strahan operated and owned, or owned part of, three separate printing businesses housed in at least six different buildings in two areas of London and running at least twenty-five presses and possibly more. The private business alone was one of the largest printing firms in London, if not the largest in the kingdom.

His 3 sons went separate ways - William set up for himself in 1769 (but his father gave him £2000 to start a business on Snow Hill); George was called to the church; Andrew stayed with his father, becoming overseer when his eldest brother left. His youngest daughter, Margaret Penelope, had married John Spottiswoode.

1774-80 MP for Malmesbury

1780-84 MP for Wootton Bassett.

1783 he had turned most of the business over to his son Andrew.

1785 died at New Street on 9 July, at the top of the trade, leaving a fortune.

See Also


Sources of Information

  • Biography of William Strahan, ODNB
  • [1] History of Parliament