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Nichols family papers relating chiefly to The gentleman's magazine

Identifier: N53446

Scope and Content

This collection contains the call numbers Y.d.24, Bundle 1A (1-41)-Y.d.24, Bundle 30 (1-49).

The collection consists of a wide variety of printed and manuscript material, including correspondence, article proofs, poems, clippings, reviews, announcements, and miscellaneous business papers relating to The Gentleman's Magazine. The majority of the material is addressed to John Nichols (1745-1826), John Bowyer Nichols (1779 -1863) and John Gough Nichols (1806-1873). Other members of the Nichols firm to whom letters are addressed are shareholder Mr. [William] Pickering and "Mr. Sylvanus Urban," the pseudonym given to the editor throughout The Gentleman's Magazine's existence. The bulk of the material dates from 1830-1860, with papers from as early as 1778 and as late as 1873. Some of the manuscripts and proofs are from other publishing ventures of the Nichols family: Collectanea topographica et genealogica, The topographer and genealogist, and The herald and genealogist. Also included are a few papers of former collection owner T.N. Brushfield (ca. 1895).

While the topics are diverse, there are recurring foci on genealogy, philately, Anglican church activities, etymology of the English language, Irish independence and other political issues of the 19th century. The content also concerns pre-Industrial Revolution English life, such as English county histories, heraldry, titles, antiquarian matters and activities of the Berkshire Ashmolean, Camden, Shakespeare, Surtees and Wiltshire Topographical societies. Birth, wedding and death announcements comprise a great deal of both content and correspondence.

The business papers provide insight into the magazine publishing business of the 19th century, particularly concerning financial matters. The magazine's dependence upon advertising dollars is illuminated by correspondence about advertising space, fees and display copy. The technical aspects of making a magazine, such as design, typesetting, printing and distribution, are discussed in detail as well.


  • Majority of material found within Bulk, 1830-1860
  • 1778 to 1873



Collection is open for research.

Biographical/Historical Note

The Gentleman's Magazine was founded in 1731 by Edward Cave, who conceived of its target audience as the literary, or 'chattering', class of the 18th century. He desired that it embody all "Wit, Humor, or Intelligence" of the day, a charge continued by the Nichols family. The Cave family was sole publisher of the magazine until 1778, when John Nichols obtained a share in the business. For most of its publishing life, the magazine was a success, touching editorially upon some of the social concerns of the English during the first and second Industrial Revolutions. It published continuously until 1907 and occasionally thereafter until 1922.

John Nichols, John Bowyer Nichols, and John Gough Nichols – father, son and grandson – were prolific London-based printers and publishers during the first half of the 19th century. Both John Nichols and John Bowyer Nichols included occasional editing of The Gentleman's Magazine among their duties, but it was John Gough Nichols that put the largest personal stamp on the publication as a reflection of his own interests. John Gough Nichols joined the firm in 1828 as an assistant and co-editor to his father. He continued as co-editor until 1851, at which time he became the sole editor until 1856.

The Gentleman's Magazine was the most important publication of the Nichols' ventures, but they also printed circulars, family memoirs, and books. Two distinguished antiquarians, the Irish numismatist Richard Sainthill (Bundle 5B) and English clergyman James Raine (Bundle 27) were among their better-known clients. Other magazines edited by John Gough Nichols include: Collectanea Topographica et Genealogica (8 vols., 1834–1843); The Topographer and Genealogist (3 vols., 1846–1858); and The Herald and Genealogist (8 vols., 1863–1874).


5952.0 items (in 30 boxes.)

Language of Materials



Printed and manuscript material, including proofs, letters, reviews, clippings, poems, obituaries, announcements, and business papers, relating to The Gentleman's Magazine.


The collection was originally stored in 50 paper-wrapped bundles in a large tea chest. Later, the wrappers were removed and the collection was re-housed in archival boxes. The "bundle order" was maintained, which is believed to be the original order established by the Nichols family and firm. Supporting this contention is a chemical analysis of the original paper wrappers, which established an 1837–1850 period of manufacture (Peoples I, p.20). This arrangement is seemingly haphazard, lacking any sort of recognizable sequence (ex. chronological, alphabetical, or topical). Each item has been assigned a unique Folger shelfmark.

Acquisition Information

Henry Clay Folger purchased the Nichols Papers in 1911 from James G. Commin. It is listed as Item 772 in Commin's Catalogue of the First Portion of the Extensive Library of the Late T.N. Brushfield M.D., F.S.A (cat. no. 274, Exeter).


For an alphabetized index of creators, see Kuist, James M. The Nichols File of the Gentleman's Magazine: Attributions of Authorship and Other Documentation in Editorial Papers at the Folger Library. Madison, Wis. : University of Wisconsin Press, 1982. Z6621.F61 N42 R.R.

Processing Information

Processed by Folger Shakespeare Library staff.

Item-level descriptions and most of the content of the front matter are based on Penelope Peoples' thesis, The Folger Nichols Manuscript Collection: A Description and Analysis. Milwaukee : University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, 1980. Z6621.F61 N4 R.R.

Guide to the Nichols Family Papers Relating to The gentleman's magazine Folger MS Y.d.24
Unverified Full Draft
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Folger Shakespeare Library Repository

201 E. Capitol St. SE
Washington DC 20003 USA