John Taylor (English publisher)

For other people named John Taylor, see John Taylor (disambiguation).

John Taylor (1781–1864) was a publisher, essayist, and writer. He is noted as the publisher of the poets John Keats and John Clare.


He was born in East Retford, Nottinghamshire, the son of James Taylor and Sarah Drury; his father was a printer and bookseller. He attended school first at Lincoln Grammar School and then he went to the local grammar school in Retford. He was originally apprenticed to his father, but eventually he moved to London and worked for James Lackington in 1803. Taylor left after a short while because of low pay.

Taylor formed a partnership with James Augustus Hessey (1785–1870), as Taylor & Hessey, at 93 Fleet Street, London.[1] In 1819, through his cousin Edward Drury, a bookseller in Stamford, he was introduced to John Clare of Helpston in Northamptonshire. He polished Clare's grammar and spelling for publication. He was also Keats's publisher, and published works by Lamb, Coleridge and Hazlitt.

In 1821 John Taylor became involved in publishing the London Magazine. In later years he became Bookseller and Publisher to the then new University of London and, now in formal partnership with James Walton, moved to Upper Gower Street. As such he developed a line in what was then the new and developing field of standard academic text books.

After a long bachelor's life fraught with illness and depression, he died in London and was buried in the churchyard at Gamston, near Retford, where his tombstone was paid for by the University of London.[2]


After Taylor's death, many of his manuscripts were put up for sale at Sotheby's, but the poets of the Regency era were out of fashion, and the total only fetched about £250. In contrast, when sold in 1897, the manuscripts of Endymion and Lamia fetched £695 and £305 respectively.


Taylor wrote and published his own work, Junius Identified, the writer of Letters of Junius, probably correctly as Sir Philip Francis. It ran to two editions, the second in 1818.

In The Great Pyramid (1859), Taylor argued that the numbers Pi and the golden ratio may have been deliberately incorporated into the design of the Great Pyramid of Khufu at Giza. His theories in pyramidology were then expanded by Charles Piazzi Smyth. His 1864 book The Battle of the Standards was a campaign against the adoption of the metric system in Britain, and relied on results from his earlier book to show a divine origin for the British units of measure.

According to Bernard Lightman, these two publications are strongly linked. He says: "Taylor and his disciples urged that the dimensions of the Pyramid showed the divine origin of the British units of length."[3]


His brother, James Taylor (1788–1863), banker of Bakewell in Derbyshire, published a number of articles on bimetallism.

See also


  1. Symonds, Barry. "Taylor, John". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/27060. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  2. Chilcott, Tim (1972). A publisher and his circle. The life and works of John Taylor, Keats's publisher. London and Boston: Routledge & Kegan Paul. pp. 196–197.
  3. Bernard Lightman, Victorian Science in Context, p.450, University of Chicago Press, 1997

Further reading

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