The Routledge and Warne publishing families: Part 3

Starting out together in the book trade.

In Part 1 of this series, the Cumberland origins of George Routledge and how he started as a Soho bookseller are described. In Part 2, the Gloucestershire origins of the Warne family and how Frederick Warne became a neighbour of George Routledge is explained. This post, Part 3, will cover how the Routledge and Warne families started working together in the book trade.

The Beginnings of George Routledge, Publisher

George Routledge arrived in London in October 1833, having just completed his apprenticeship as a bookseller in Carlisle. He rented 11 Ryder’s Court in Soho as his home. For the next three years, he worked for an established bookseller/publisher, Baldwin and Craddock of Paternoster Row. In September 1836, following the failure of the firm of Baldwin and Craddock, George Routledge set himself up as a bookseller at 11 Ryder’s Court. He published his first book from that address just before the end of 1836.

In 1827, Frederick Warne, then aged 2, together with his five year old brother, William Henry Warne (1822-1859) moved with their parents and siblings from 5 Ryder’s Court to live literally just around the corner at 41 Lisle Street where Frederick was to remain until 1852. The move allowed his father Edmund to separate his family home from his business by also renting 42 Lisle Street as a workshop and showroom. The first known interaction between the Warne family and George Routledge was the witnessing of the will of Frederick’s oldest and short-lived brother Robert Alexander Warne (1808-1834) by George Routledge in 1834. This was followed by three other much more significant events.

Shortly after he opened his bookshop at 11 Rider’s Court in 1836, George Routledge engaged the fourteen year old William Henry Warne as his assistant and apprentice. Although the main business from 11 Ryder’s Court was selling books, George Routledge began to publish books in 1836 and these early Routledge publications from Ryder’s Court are now very scarce. Shown below are two early Routledge title pages, both published from Ryder’s Court in 1840.

It was very common in the 18th and 19th century for booksellers to become publishers. This made a lot of sense, as it provided a ready supply of books for sale, both through retail via a bookshop, but also to the wholesale market, the circulating libraries and within the book trade to other booksellers. These last three activities helped to mitigate some of the economic risks of publishing. Sometimes two or more booksellers would combine to publish a book in order to share the risks, and the profits.

George Routledge marries.

The ties between the Warne family and George Routledge became even closer on 25th January 1837, when George Routledge married Marie Elizabeth Warne (1814-1855), the sister of Frederick and William Henry Warne. The wedding took place at the church of Sr Anne’s Soho, in Westminster. This was the local parish church for the Warne family and for George Routledge and, despite being largely destroyed in 1940 in the Blitz, it was rebuilt and is still the parish church today.

St Anne’s Soho in the 19th century by J. McN. Whistler

In 1839, the links between the Warne family and George Routledge strengthened, when the fourteen year old Frederick Warne joined his older brother William Henry as an assistant to George Routledge, bookseller. George and Marie Routledge lived above the bookshop at 11 Ryder’s Court, where the first four of their eight children were born. These included the two oldest sons of George Routledge, Robert Warne Routledge (1837-1899) and Edmund Routledge (1843-1899), who were both to play important parts in Routledge publishing history.

36 Soho Square

In May 1843, the Routledge family and business were still at 11 Ryder’s Court. Sometime in the second half of 1843, George Routledge, his wife and four children, and business, all moved from Ryder’s Court to much larger premises at 36 Soho Square, about 300 metres north of Ryder’s Court. George continued to refer to himself as a bookseller for the next few years, but gradually changed his description in the later 1840s to “Bookseller and Publisher”.

The next three Routledge children, Maria, William Henry and George, were all born at 36 Soho Square. The building has survived in good shape into the 21st century, where it is a Grade II listed building that is rented for office space. For much of the 20th century, it housed the music publishing department of Oxford University Press. It clearly provided good accommodation in the upper floors for a growing family, while providing the bookshop and publishing spaces on the ground floor.

36 Soho Square today

The page below is from one of the most profitable series of books published by Routledge from Soho Square in the 1840s. It is one of twenty-one volumes of Rev. Albert Barnes’ commentaries on the bible. Barnes was an American pastor who was a prolific author of religious books. Routledge published all 21 volumes of Barnes’ commentaries, starting in 1845. The page shown is an advertisement for the series from my copy of the Thessalonians commentary published in 1846.

Advertisement page from 1846

In Part 4 of this series of posts, the development and expansion of Routledge’s publishing activities from 1845 to 1865 will be discussed.