c.1736-69:  A Novel Business
HINXMAN Strays:  John HINXMAN (c.1736-1762), & Jane HINXMAN née MORGAN (c.1739->1769)

This John HINXMAN is currently a ‘stray’, i.e. with no known connections to any particular branch of the family.  Research has failed to discover his true origins, so for the moment he rests in this temporary category.  Nevertheless, his story is an interesting one.


There are few clues about John's origins.  His career as a successful publisher and bookseller indicates he was both literate and numerate, and thus had a good education.  His purchase of a building and business in the City of York, in 1757, further suggest a well-off family background.  

John was possibly the son of John HINXMAN (c.1705-1765) of Weeke near Winchester, a descendant of the Andover branch, and his wife Mary GOSNEY (1705-1778), who married on 06 Oct 1735.  If this is correct, then our John was their first child, probably born around 1736, and named after his father - as was normal then, for eldest sons.  

However, other attributions are also possible.  York is a long way from Winchester, and there are no other known HINXMAN links to York at about this time.  John was the most common male name in England from 1550 to the mid-1950s, so there were plenty of babies being baptised as John - even when combined with the rare HINXMAN surname.

Whatever his origins, in about 1750 John became apprenticed in London to Robert DODSLEY (1704-1764) and his brother James DODSLEY (1724-1797).  The DODSLEYs owned Tully's Head, one of the foremost publishing houses of the day, and counted the famous writer Dr. Samuel JOHNSON (1709-1784) among their clients. 

John HINXMAN was certainly working at their publishing house by 23 Feb 1753, when he witnessed an agreement with their client Edward MOORE. John was also probably the senior apprentice referred to by Robert DODSLEY in a letter to William MELMOTH, on 16 Dec 1756.

Illustration 1:  Robert DODSLEY (1704-1764).  1760.  For picture details, see footnotes.

London was easily accessible from Hampshire (the original home of the HINXMAN family), so John may have come from any of the several HINXMAN branches based there.  Alternatively, John may have been brought up in London.  Even then, the capital was a melting pot of people of many origins, and a branch of the HINXMAN family was already established there. 

John HINXMAN therefore remains a 'stray' at present, i.e. his precise origins are unclear.

Business Startup
John HINXMAN probably completed his apprenticeship over the normal period of seven years, before opening his first bookshop.  John wisely chose a location in York, far enough away from his old employers that there was little competition with them, and therefore opening the door to collaborative ventures with their competent and well-established firm.

John bought an existing business, the property of the late John HILDYARD (c.1711-1757), at The Sign of the Bible, in Stonegate, York, on 01 Sep 1757. 

Between 1746 and 1756 HILDYARD had collaborated on 7 different texts with the DODSLEY brothers, so they may have suggested the purchase.  The building John HINXMAN occupied can still be seen (it is now number 23 Stonegate), and retains the same name.  John almost certainly lived above the shop there too.  

John’s ability to purchase an existing business on a prime site, and to find the necessary start-up capital at such an early stage in his career, suggests he had significant financial backing, perhaps from wealthy parents. 

John HINXMAN seems to have been well connected as well, for in 1757 he was admitted to the Freedom of the City of York.  The Register of the Freemen of the City of York for that year duly records: 

John Hinxman, bookseller, by order.

In his early newspaper advertisements (such as in the London Chronicle, 8-10 Sep 1757), John HINXMAN referred to his apprenticeship with the well-known DODSLEY brothers in order to impress potential customers with his credentials. 

However, John's new business seems to have got off to a slow start, although the DODSLEY brothers began to include him in their lists of associate booksellers from at least 1758 and they continued to collaborate with John on some jointly published works.  So in 1759 John decided to clear out much of HILDYARD's old leftover stock, by publishing and selling a massive catalogue for a book sale comprising over 15,000 volumes.  

By this time John had also joined The Good Humour Club – a novel association of local gentlemen who met to share good humour, in the belief it was not only enjoyable, but good for their health and well-being.  For more information on this club, see:  The Good Humour Club.

Illustration 2.  John HINXMAN's Bookshop (on the left) at The Sign of the Bible.  1813.  York, England.  For picture details, see footnotes.

Publishing Problems
In May 1759, the local author Rev. Laurence STERNE (another member of The Good Humour Club) was looking for a publisher for his most recent work.  STERNE had links to a complex network of local publishers, but the recent deaths of his main contacts had left him uncertain how to progress.

For instance, STERNE had also enjoyed a long association with the local printer and publisher Caesar WARD (1???-1759),
also a member of The Good Humour ClubIn 1739, WARD and yet another member of The Good Humour Club, Richard CHANDLER (1???-1745), had bought the York Courant newspaper. 

However CHANDLER, weighed down by debts, committed suicide in 1745 - also bankrupting WARD.  WARD's friends came to the rescue, he re-built his business, and he continued as Editor of the York Courant.  WARD's printing shop was in Coney Street, York, with at least 2 printing presses: one of which was regularly employed for the publication of the York Courant

STERNE (though a Whig) had written for this newspaper as early as 1741.  Caesar WARD also possibly published 2 of STERNE's sermons, in 1747 (The Case of Elijah and the Widow of Xerephath), and in 1750 (The Abuses of Conscience), and had published STERNE's satirical Political Romance earlier in 1759.  However, Caesar WARD had died on 24 April 1759.

One of STERNE's sermons of 1747 had been published by John HILDYARD of York, but the latter had also died in 1757.  John HINXMAN, HILDYARD's successor and WARD's friend, was now running HILDYARD's business.  Already knowing John through The Good Humour Club, STERNE evidently decided to approach him for advice on publishing his most recent work. 

John HINXMAN was collaborating at the time with his former employers Robert & James DODSLEY in London, on the publishing of The Safety and Perpetuity of the British State by William WESTON, and it seems that John quite naturally suggested contacting the DODSLEY brothers to take on STERNE's work. 

Illustration 3.  Rev. Laurence STERNE.  1760.  For picture details, see footnotes.

Tristram Shandy
On 23 May 1759 STERNE therefore wrote to the DODSLEYs in London, offering them the manuscript of the first 2 volumes of his proposed book – The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman – for what he thought was a reasonable sum of fifty pounds. 

However, the DODSLEYs initially declined to purchase it, considering it too expensive and risky a venture.  STERNE then decided to finance the publication of Volumes I and II himself, and asked his friend John HINXMAN to publish the work for him. 

Analysis of the paper and watermarks of these first editions suggests that the printing was in fact carried out by Ann WARD (c.1715-1789).  This was Caesar WARD's widow, who took over her deceased husband's business and ran it very ably until her own death in 1789.  The initial print run of 200 copies of Volumes I and II was evidently completed by late November. 

The books were first advertised in the York Courant (the newspaper formerly run by Caesar WARD & Richard CHANDLER) on Tue 11 Dec 1759, to stoke up interest before their publication. 

Interestingly, it contains an epigraph from the classical philosopher Epictetus (c.55-135 AD), printed in the original Ancient Greek.  This was not unusual in adverts for complex and demanding works, and clearly signals the target market was expected to be academic and well-educated.

Illustration 4.  The First Advert for Tristram Shandy, bearing John HINXMAN's name.  11 Dec 1759.  York, England.  For picture details, see footnotes.

The next advertisement appeared soon afterwards, on 18 Dec 1760, and again in the York Courant.  This was the very day that Tristram Shandy was finally published.  Here is a transcript:

This day was published,
Printed on a superfine writing paper, and a new Let-
ter, in two Volumes, Price 5s. neatly bound,


York, printed for and sold by John Hinxman (Suc-
cessor to the late Mr. Hildyard) Bookseller in Stone-
gate: J. Dodsley in Pallmall and M. Cooper in Pater-
noster-row, London: and by all the Booksellers.

John HINXMAN also advertised the books more widely, such as in the London Chronicle newspaper on Thu 20 Dec 1759.  Further almost identical advertisements were also published in the York Courant newspaper (still being printed on Caesar & Ann WARD's printing press in York) in Feb 1760. 

STERNE's novel turned out to be a publishing phenomenon, and a significant business coup for John HINXMAN.  The books became instant, sensational bestsellers, clearing over 100 copies a day from the very start.  They are still revered as t
he most modern, imaginative and funny of all the key early English novels, and as a milestone in book-publishing history.  Such was Tristram Shandy's immediate popularity that the 6th edition was published in 1767, only 7 years after the initial launch. 

However, John HINXMAN did not retain this publishing contract for long. 

The DODSLEY brothers soon realised the books were becoming a publishing phenomenon, and on 08 Mar 1760 they paid STERNE £250 for the right to publish the first two volumes, and agreed a sum of £380 for the next two. 

So in April 1760, just 3 months after the first edition, it was the DODSLEYs in London who published the second edition of volumes I and II, and who subsequently published the additional volumes III-IX as well. 

The 9 volumes of 'Tristram Shandy' have been republished in many different versions since then, but the rarest versions remain those first editions of Volumes I and II, published by John HINXMAN in York, which are particularly scarce and valuable.  For instance, a complete set of first editions of all 9 Volumes, including the Volumes I and II published by John HINXMAN, was on sale in 2018 for £19,721.

There seems to have been no hard feelings between John HINXMAN and the DODSLEY brothers, as they collaborated on a further 9 titles from 1759 to 1764, including the 1761 publication of Fables for Grown Gentlemen by John HALL-STEVENSON (1718-1785). 

But John's loss of the significant income from Tristram Shandy to his London colleagues and competitors may have influenced his growing resolve to move to the capital himself. 

Illustration 5.  Blue Stained Glass Plaque at The Sign of the Bible.  2018.  For picture details see footnotes below.

Meanwhile, he returned to his book sales.  John's initial 1759 book sale was evidently a success, for he held four more auctions in 1760 (three in York and one in Leeds), and a further sale in 1761.  He also continued to advertise in The London Chronicle (although he was still based in York), which suggests that his business was growing and that he was planning to move to the capital.

Mary & Thomas COOPER
And now, for reasons that will become apparent, we follow a temporary diversion from the life of John HINXMAN. 

Mary MORGAN was born in Somerset, and baptised on 26 Dec 1707.  In 1732 she married Thomas COOPER (birth date unknown).  Thomas was an apprentice of John WALTHOE, a well-known book trader in Cornhill, London, and between 1732 and 1741 he and Mary produced 4 children. 

Thomas soon set up his own printing and publishing shop, at the Sign of the Globe, on Paternoster Row - in the heart of the British book industry.  This street, adjacent to St Paul’s Cathedral, remained the principal London location for booksellers and publishers for centuries, until it was destroyed by German bombing during World War II.  It has since been rebuilt, but is no longer a focus for publishing houses. 

Thomas COOPER published and sold books at the Sign of the Globe, as well as (from 30 Jun 1735 onwards) his Daily Gazetteer newspaper.  But on 09 Feb 1743 the Gazetteer carried a notice of Thomas's early death, hinting he had left significant wealth as well as a useful web of business contacts. 

Unusually for those times, Mary took over Thomas's business after him.  She soon proved herself a highly effective businesswoman, and the business flourished from 1743 onwards.  Her first publication 'sold by the widow Cooper' was in Dec 1743, and a wide range of books followed, from a great variety of authors.  She remained a shareholder in the Daily Gazetteer newspaper, produced 19 other periodicals, and while keeping clear of the law she published large numbers of controversial and ephemeral works, becoming the dominant publisher of such works.

Mary COOPER was also one of the earliest publishers of children's books in English, including a second edition of The Child's New Play-Thing, which had been first published at the Globe (probably with her involvement) in the year before Thomas's death.  Mary COOPER is particularly known for Tommy Thumb's Pretty Song Book (1744): a book of nursery rhymes (illustrated with woodcuts) which she collected herself.

The Globe's broad inventory of authors and topics under Mary's management, coupled with her extensive range of contacts and collaborators (including the DODSLEY brothers), enabled her to tap into a wide market with considerable success.  The leading modern authority on Mary's life, Beverly SCHNELLER, wrote in 2018:

'Though COOPER was not the only woman in the London book business in the 1740s,
the volume of her publications and her relationship with printers and other booksellers suggests
she was by far the most stable and influential businesswoman among her contemporaries.'

But all this came to an end when Mary COOPER died, aged only 53, on 05 Aug 1761.  Her next of kin, Mary's sister Jane MORGAN, was to inherit the Sign of the Globe and all that went with it.


While John HINXMAN had been finding some success in York, it seems he still felt the pull of London - and more besides.

On 09 Nov 1761, only 3 months after Mary COOPER's death, John HINXMAN married her younger sister, Jane MORGAN, in the church of St. Vedast, Foster Lane, London.  John is described in the Marriage Register as a bachelor, still residing in York, while Jane is listed as a spinster, residing at Paternoster Row in the Parish of St. Michael Le Querne. 

The old church of this latter parish (which was largely to the north-east of Paternoster Row) had been destroyed in the Great Fire of London in 1666, and was never rebuilt – so the wedding had to be in another, nearby church.  The venue they chose, the church of St. Vedast, was just a stone’s throw from the Sign of the Globe in Paternoster Row. 

Their timing was strikingly swift and decisive.  As the heiress of an established and successful business, Jane must have had a number of potential suitors.  She was certainly a good catch, especially for someone already embarked upon a career in the publishing trade.

But the speed with which they married, suggests that love was already in the air before Mary COOPER's demise.  Were they already courting while Mary was alive?  Did the couple nurse Mary through her final days?  Did Mary advise Jane to marry John?  We simply do not know.

But it seems likely that John first met Jane some time earlier.  This may have been while he was apprenticed nearby, between c.1750 and 1757, or when maybe later when he was visiting the DODSLEY brothers on business matters.  However it came about, it seemed a perfect marriage for both Jane and John, at least from the business viewpoint.

Jane brought with her a large dowry of £10,000.  This was a very sizeable sum, equivalent to at least £1.2M in 2014.  John moved rapidly: in December 1761 he sold his business in York, and moved to London.

Illustration 6.  Title Page of a Pamphlet printed for J. HINXMAN.  1762.  For picture details, see footnotes.

John and Jane now possessed established premises in a prime site, at the heart of London’s – indeed Great Britain’s – book industry, plus a large stock of books and copyrights.  Their business seems to have prospered, and in 1762 they were already publishing, advertising and selling books upon a wide range of topics.  These included humour, ethics, criminology, poetry, religion, mythology, directories, and especially politics.

Their books bore the name of the publisher as 'J. HINXMAN, at the Globe, in Paternoster-Row' - which of course neatly applied to both Jane & John.  It seems possible that Jane was already taking an active part in their business.

However, the good times did not last.  Later that year, it was announced by The London Magazine and The Gentleman's Magazine that ‘Mr. John HINXMAN, bookseller, in Paternoster Row’, had died on 09 Jul 1762.  It was only 8 months since he and Jane had married, and John had been struck down just as his career really began to blossom. 

The cause of his death is not recorded, but they seem to have had no children. Jane was left a widow, shocked and alone.

Jane initially continued the bookselling and publishing, and sold off the York business to discharge John’s debts. 

The coincidence of having the same initials as John allowed her to maintain business continuity, advertising under the name of J. HINXMAN of Paternoster-row, London.   Jane seems to have been accepted – and indeed supported – by John’s old mentors, R. & J. DODSLEY, plus many other bookselling and publishing associates, as her business continued to be advertised jointly with them.

Illustration 7.  John HINXMAN's Name & Business Address.  1762.  For picture details, see footnotes.

But by 26 Apr 1764, Jane had had enough.  She wound up the business, and auctioned off the remaining books and copyrights.  The firm of J. HINXMAN, Booksellers and Publishers, based in York from 1757 to 1762, and London from 1761 to 1764, ceased to exist.

After a decent interval of more than 6 years following John’s death, Jane HINXMAN (nee MORGAN), re-married.  On 21 Mar 1769, she wedded William KIRKBY at the church of St. Augustine, Watling Street, London.  Nothing more is currently known of Jane's further life, and both Jane and John currently remain 'strays'.

Any further information on the origins and lives of this stray HINXMAN couple will be gratefully received.

  • Bill CLEGHORN.  Consulted Feb 2018.  Newspapers: The York CourantWebsite: Good Humour.  Webpage URL:  http://goodhumour.laurencesternetrust.org.uk/exhibition/newspapers/
  • Editor: A useful overview of the history of the York Courant.
  • Lewis P. CURTIS.  Sep 1932.  The First Printer of Tristram Shandy.  Publications of the Modern Language Association of America.  Volume 47.  Number 3.  Pages 777-789.
  • Lewis P. CURTIS.  1935.  Letters of Laurence Sterne.  Pages 74, 80, & 85.  Oxford, England.
  • Editor:  3 letters containing clues to the publishing date of the first edition of Tristram Shandy.
  • Beverly SCHNELLER.  2018.  John Hill & Mary Cooper: A Case Study in Eighteenth-Century Publishing
  • Found in:  Clare BRANT & George Rousseau (Editors).  2018.  Fame and Fortune: Sir John Hill and London Life in the 1750s.  Palgrave Macmillan.  Pages 107-120.
  • Editor:  A detailed examination of Mary COOPER's successful business style.
  • James E. TIERNEY (Editor).  2004.  The Correspondence of Robert Dodsley: 1733-1764.  Cambridge University Press.  Cambridge, England. 
  • Editor:  Brief but informative references to John & Jane HINXMAN can be found on pages 17, 36-37, 251-252, 464-465, & 468.
  • John M. YOKLAVICH.  Jun 1948.  Notes on the Early Editions of Tristram Shandy.  PMLA.  Volume 63.  Number 2.  Pages 508-519.  Modern Language Association.  Webpage URL:  http://users.clas.ufl.edu/burt/sterneshakespeareshelley/EarlyEditionsTristramShandy.pdf
  • Editor:  A useful summary of the evidence then available, regarding the publication of Volumes I & II of Tristram Shandy.
  • Unattributed.  1762.  Deaths.  The Gentleman's Magazine.  London, England.  Page 449.
  • Notice of the death of 'John HINXMAN, bookseller, in Paternoster Row' on 09 Jul 1762.
  • Unattributed.  1762.  Deaths.  The London Magazine, or Gentleman's Monthly Intelligence.  London, England.  Page 449.
  • Notice of the death of 'John HINXMAN, bookseller, in Paternoster Row' on 09 Jul 1762.
  • Unattributed.  Consulted Oct 2019.  Publication of Tristram Shandy.  Found in: Good Humour (website of Laurence Sterne Trust). 
  • URL:  https://goodhumour.laurencesternetrust.org.uk/exhibition/year-1759/publication-of-tristram-shandy.
  • Editor:  A brief modern summary of current knowledge regarding the earliest publication and advertising dates of Tristram Shandy.
  • Unidentified editor.  1900.  Register of the Freemen of the City of York.  Volume 2, 1559-1759.  Andrews & Co.  Durham, England.
  • Editor:  The reference to John HINXMAN in the year 30 Geo. II (1757) can be found under:  Admissions to the Freedom of York: 16-32 George II (1742-59).  Pages 262-28.
  • Wikipedia.  Consulted Oct 2019:
    • Daily Gazetteer.  URL:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Daily_Gazetteer
    • Mary Cooper (Publisher).  URL:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mary_Cooper_(publisher)
Next . . .
  • Click on HINXMAN Authors for more about John HINXMAN's shop, and his sale catalogue of 15,000 books published in 1759.
  • Click on Blue Plaque for a link to a York Civic Trust webpage, providing more background about Laurence STERNE and the genesis of Tristram Shandy.
  • Visit John HINXMAN's shop (no longer a bookshop, but still with the original sign) at The Sign of the Bible, 23 Stonegate, York YO1 8AW, England.

Webpage version 2021.1.  First version 2015.
Webpage copyright © Richard HINXMAN, 2015.

1.  Robert DODSLEY (1704-1764).  1760.
Portrait in oil on canvas.  Joshua REYNOLDS (1723-1792).  1760.  Robert DODSLEY (1704-1764): Bookseller, Poet, Playwright & Writer.   Dulwich Picture Gallery.  Public domain.
URL:  https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Reynolds,_Sir_Joshua_-_Robert_Dodsley_-_Google_Art_Project.jpg

2.  John HINXMAN's Bookshop (on the left) at The Sign of the Bible.  1813.
Monochrome etching.  Henry CAVE.  Stonegate.  1813.  Found in:  Henry CAVE (1779-1836).  1813.  Antiquities of York.  York, England.

3.  Rev. Laurence STERNE.  1760.
Portrait in stipple engraving.  William HOLL (1771-1838).  1819.  Laurence STERNE (1713-1768).  Public domain.  Collection of Richard HINXMAN.  See Terms of Use.
Drawn from the original 1760 painting by Sir Joshua REYNOLDS RA (1723-1792).
Found in:  1819.  The Biographical Magazine; Containing Portraits of Eminent and Ingenious Persons of every Age and Nation, with their Lives and Characters.  Volume I.  Printed for Effingham WILSON, Royal Exchange; and SHERWOOD, NEELY & JONES, Paternoster Row.  London, England.

4.  The First Advert for Tristram Shandy, bearing John HINXMAN's name  11 Dec 1759.  York, England.
Newspaper advertisement.  John HINXMAN.  11 Dec 1759.  Next Week will be published, York Courant.  York, England.

5.  Blue Stained Glass Plaque at The Sign of the Bible.  2018.
Digital colour photograph.  Unidentified author.  Nov 2018.  Stained Glass Plaque for Laurence STERNE.  Website of the York Civic Trust. 
URL:  https://yorkcivictrust.co.uk/heritage/civic-trust-plaques/laurence-sterne-1713-1768.

Original:  Stained glass plaque.  Created by Barley Studios.  2018.  'Tristram Shandy'.  Commissioned by York Civic Trust, in partnership with the Laurence Sterne Trust.  Displayed at The Sign of the Bible, 23 Stonegate, York YO1 8AW, England.  See https://yorkcivictrust.co.uk/stained-glass-plaque-for-laurence-sterne.

6.  Title Page of a Pamphlet printed for J. HINXMAN.  1762.
An early example of a pamphlet printed for John & Jane's new business in Paternoster Row, London, soon after John moved there from York in late 1761.

Original:  Anonymous.  1762. 
An Answer to the Observations on the Papers relative to the Rupture with Spain..  Title page of pamphlet.  Printed for John HINXMAN.  The Globe, Paternoster-row, London, England.  Public domain. 
Collection of Richard HINXMAN.  See Terms of Use.

7.  John HINXMAN's Name & Business Address.  1762.
Detail from the title page above.  Public domain.  See Terms of Use.