Grace's Guide is the leading source of historical information on industry and manufacturing in Britain. This web publication contains 145,029 pages of information and 230,666 images on early companies, their products and the people who designed and built them.
1796 John Letts, bookbinder and printer, established a stationery business in the arcades of London's Royal Exchange.
1803 John's son, Thomas (1803 – 1873), was born at Stockwell, London
1812 The merchants and traders who frequently purchased stationery items from his shop needed a means of recording the movements of stock and controlling their finances. John Letts responded to the needs of his merchant customers by creating the world's first Commercial Diary.
1816 John published "Letts's diary or bills owed book and almanack" as the first commercially-produced diary, which Thomas later developed into dozens of differently-printed and bound, annual publications.
Rapid refinement of the product, with the introduction of detailed information sections, meant that by the 1820s the first modern style diary ranges were being published.
1835 Thomas took over the family-owned company on his father's retirement, printing a range of diaries that stretched from small pocket diaries to commercial foolscap folio one-day-per-page editions. Additionally, his factories at North Road, New Cross printed interest tables, specialist clerical and medical diaries, calendars, parliamentary registers, ledgers, and logbooks.
Letts' publications became ubiquitous, being used by many of the well-known Victorian writers and diarists who were well-acquainted with the product range. For example, writing in the Cornhill Magazine, William Makepeace Thackeray noted he preferred a Letts No. 12 diary.
Thomas was joined in the family business by his son, Charles John Letts (b.1839).
1870 The company needed to raise working capital to fund the expansion of the diary business and converted to a limited liability company, Letts, Son and Co.
However the profitability declined and the shareholders became dissatisfied
1881 Charles resigned to set up Charles Letts and Co.
1886 Cassell and Co issued a series of diaries bearing the name Letts