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 (2017) 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.

John's career indicates that he had a good education, and a reasonably well-off family background.  He was possibly the son of John HINXMAN (c.1705-1765) of Weeke near Winchester, from the Andover family, 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. 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 to Robert DODSLEY (1704-1764) and his brother James DODSLEY (1724-1797) in London.  The DODSLEYs owned one of the foremost publishing houses of the day, and counted the famous writer Dr. Samuel JOHNSON (1709-1784) amongst their clients.  John later referred to his apprenticeship with the well-known DODSLEY brothers in his early newspaper advertisements, to impress potential customers with his credentials.

John HINXMAN presumably completed his apprenticeship over the normal period of seven years, before opening his first bookshop.  He bought an existing business, the property of the late John HILDYARD, at The Sign of the Bible, in Stonegate, York, on 01 Sep 1757.  The building he occupied (now number 23 Stonegate) can still be seen there, where he almost certainly lived as well as worked.  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'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.  In 1759 John decided to clear out his old stock, by selling a catalogue for a book sale of over 15,000 volumes.  By this time he 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.

Tristram Shandy
During 1759, John HINXMAN gave advice to the local author Rev. Laurence STERNE (another member of The Good Humour Club) on publishing his work.  After an abortive attempt at persuading the DODSLEY brothers to take his book – The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gent. – STERNE asked HINXMAN to publish the first edition himself.  On 01 Jan 1760, The London Chronicle newspaper carried a small but significant advertisement:

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.

This turned out to be a business coup.  The book became an instant, sensational bestseller, clearing over 100 copies a day from the start.  It is still revered as one of the first modern English novels.  But subsequent volumes were handled by the DODSLEYs in London, and this may have influenced John’s growing resolve to move to the larger market there too.

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 began to advertise in The London Chronicle (although he was still based in York), which suggests that his business was growing.


John's focus was clearly swinging back to London, for on 09 Nov 1761 John HINXMAN married 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 was a spinster, residing at Paternoster Row in the Parish of St. Michael Le Querne.  The old church of this latter parish, 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.


Their wedding venue, the church of St. Vedast, was just a stone’s throw from Paternoster Row.  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.  From her address, it seems likely that Jane’s family were also in the publishing business, and that John met Jane while he was apprenticed nearby (c.1750-1757), or when visiting the DODSLEY brothers on business matters.

Jane must have had wealthy parents, as she brought with her a large dowry of £10,000.  This was a very sizeable sum, equivalent to at least £1.2M now (2014).  John moved rapidly: in December 1761 he sold his York business; bought the bookselling and publishing business of the late Thomas COOPER, situated at The Globe, Paternoster Row; and moved to London.

John 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.  His business seems to have prospered, and in 1762 he was already publishing, advertising and selling books upon a wide range of topics.  These included humour, ethics, criminology, poetry, religion, mythology, directories, and especially politics.

However, the good times did not last.  Later that year, it was announced by The London Magazine that ‘Mr. John HINXMAN, bookseller, in Paternoster Row’, had died on 09 Nov 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.  No doubt they felt sorry for her.

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'.

Webpage version 2017.1.  First version 2015.
Webpage c
opyright © Richard HINXMAN, 2015.

1.  Title Page of a Pamphlet printed for John HINXMAN (c.1736-1762)
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. 
Collection of Richard HINXMAN.  Copyright © Richard HINXMAN 2015.

2.  John HINXMAN's Name & Business Address on a Pamphlet
Detail from the title page above.