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Academic Insights for the Thinking World

  • Author: Stephen Bernard

Jacob Tonson the elder, international spy and businessman

Few have heard of him today, but Jacob Tonson the Elder (1656?-1736) was undoubtedly one of the most important booksellers in the history of English literature. He numbered Addison, Behn, Congreve, Dryden, Echard, Oldmixon, Prior, Steele, and Vanbrugh among those canonical authors whom he published. His reputation was international, and the quality and range of his classical editions remained a benchmark throughout the eighteenth century.

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Whig literary culture and the canon: the legacy of the Tonsons

Jacob Tonson the elder (1656-1736) was, as has long been recognized, one of the most influential and pioneering booksellers of the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries and, as such, is the subject of four major biographies of the past hundred years. The leading publisher of his day, Tonson published writers such as Joseph Addison, Aphra Behn, William Congreve, John Dryden, Laurence Echard, John Gay, John Oldmixon, Alexander Pope, Matthew Prior, Nicholas Rowe, Richard Steele, George Stepney, and John Vanbrugh.

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