Samuel Mallet Johnson 1788-1868

Bookseller rather than printer coming to the Island in 1847 accompanied by two sons, Joseph (who however remained in business in Manchester until his father's death) and John, and a daughter Grace. Wesleyan Methodist Local Preacher and early supporter of Methodist Local Preachers Mutual Aid Society - he attended its inaugral meeting in 1849 which support later saw him expelled from the Wesleyans; after which he joined the Primitive Methodists and appears as a LP on their plan. The following letter appeared in Mona's Herald (Jan 1850)

Local Preachers - Their labours and Reward!

To the editor of Mona's Herald

Sir - As I had no opportunity afforded me in Court of explaining what was the nature of the guilt with which I was implicated in connection with other local preachers, I beg to state the offence of which I acknowledged myself to be guilty is - sympathising with men who have proved themselves the servants of God and the friends of the people by acts of self-denial and unwearied diligence in the cause of Jesus Christ. For many years these men have preached throughout the Island in all kinds of weather - some of them have travelled many miles at their own expense ; and now that they are overtaken by old age, infirmity, and poverty they wish to establish a fund for their own relief under such circumstances! It is a fact that some of the best local preachers in England have been reduced to the degraded and melancholy condition of seeking an asylum in the Union Workhouses ; some have been buried by the funds of the parish as common paupers ; while others have pined away, in their own cheerless abodes of want, amidst the moans of staving children and the bitter wailings of a heart broken wife and thus after spending their best days in the cause of Methodism many have found a premature grave and have passed away as though they were unworthy of the least notice or sympathy by their more exalted and dignified brethren.

For the formation of this "Mutual Aid Society," we have been denounced as acting unconstitutionally, our meetings have been branded as illegal ; and remarks were made at the last Quarter day which, to say the least of them, bespoke little for the sympathies of the man who gave utterance to them! It was said by the Superintendent that such a society would lay the brethren open to temptation and acts of imposition! It was also intimated that local preachers were generally gainers by their position in the society ; and that many of them who were in business, had an advantage over their fellow-tradesmen that were not so circumstanced ! This MAY apply in some few cases - but how does it bear upon me ? One preacher remained here three years ; and to oblige him I travelled many extra miles to fulfill his appointments, and for other purposes in connection with them. But what was the amount of my gain by his custom ? Can it be credited ? Just one half-penny !Yes, precisely two farthings !! So much for the patronage of a Superintendent Preacher ! I have never sold a book to the committee of the day or Sabbath school, for teaching, or for library purposes since I came to the town of Douglas ; and although we are in the constant habit of using stationery &c., in our Quarterly and Leaders' Meetings, yet I never supplied them with a sheet of paper, a pen, or a book of any kind during my residence on the Island ! "Well, why do you explain ? You are only a poor emaciated old man and can do but little for the society." Quite true : I know I have many infirmities, yet I have done something. Since I came to Mona - little more than three years ago - I have travelled 1602 miles, preached 269 times. led classes twice a week ; and attended most of the social meetings. But I have sympathised with the oppressed : I "have wept with those that weep", and have "remembered those that are in bonds, as bound with them," and this is the sum and substance of my guilt. I have only to add, that if this makes me vile, I will be yet more vile.

Samuel Johnson

Jan 10 1850


According to Cubbon he was also one of the first, if not the first, photographer in Douglas but the evidence for this is not stated - possibly Cubbon was confused with his use of photographs as a basis for the steel engravings? However a son and grandson were photographers in Douglas.

From 1851 census: Wife Grace (b.1788, d.1860); daughters Mary (b.1827). Grace (b.1831 d.1854). Daughter Grace (wife of C.H.Young), wife Grace and and he are buried in Braddan New Yard (grave 2682; section 1 Block 5) - however he is not commenorated on the M.I..

In 1861 census shown living alone at 2 Fort Street, described as Bookseller

In 1848 the address is given as 34 Duke Street (where also entered in Quiggin's directory as an Auctioneer, which was his son's business in Manchester) but in Thwaite's 1863 directory it is given as Fort Street where he is advertised both as bookseller and as a linen draper.

Joseph Johnson became an auctioneer in Douglas, John became a Toy dealer and photographer though his son Frederick was a full-time photographer.

An account of shop and his son are to be found in Manchester City News Notes & Queries

15 Oct 1879 p25 - part of article on Old Manchester Booksellers by J T. Slugg

In 1829 there was a bookseller named Samuel Johnson between the ends of Mosley street and Fountain street. He had not been there long, as I am told he had been a weaver living in Tasey street Ancoats, and had opened a shop in Ancoats lane first and then in Market street. He afterwards kept a shop in the Isle of Man, his Manchester business being carried on by his son after the removal to Corporation street.

Feb 3 1883 p15


On Friday in last week, Thomas Johnson, the well-known bookseller of Corporation-street, died in his seventy-third year. His last months were marked by a lingering and painful illness, from which medical aid could afford him little or no relief. His career as a bookseller is notable and interesting. At a very early age he was assistant to his father, whose premises were situated on the site now occupied by Hyam's clothing establishment in Market-street. The chief bookseller at that day was Mr. Charles Amberry, and his shopman was Mr. Henry Whitmore, who subsequently started a successful business on his own account. When Mr. Thomas Johnson married he went to Liverpool and opened a shop in Dale-street, in 1829, at a rental of fifty pounds per annum-considered at that time an enormous rent. His beginning was humble ; a few books åt the bottom of the shopwindow, and a bed at the end of the shop, were about all the worldly goods with which he made his start in life. One of the Liverpool merchants, on the occasion of the sale of a bookseller's stock, observing that Johnson did not buy, asked him the reason, and on being told that he had no money, requested him to bid to the extent of 100 or 150, and he would find the money. This kindness to one who was almost a stranger enabled Johnson very shortly to accumulate a large stock of books, ultimately the largest stock in the country. He published a periodical catalogue, extending to 300 pages, which was sold at one shilling.

After a career of almost unexampled success, he was induced to begin as a publisher, which necessitated the removal to large premises. His first publishing enterprise was an edition of the collected works of Jacob Abbott, the American author, which had an extensive sale. This was followed by Finney's , Lectures on Revivals and Lectures to Professing Christians, of which more than 150,000 copies were sold. It is calculated that during the period he was a Liverpool publisher he sent into the market more than one million books. He had the reputation, and it was perfectly well founded, of being one of the largest Bible dealers out of London. Ireland was the chief source of his supply. He paid periodical visits to Dublin to purchase at the pawn shops the Bibles presented to the poor (who were chiefly Catholics), by the agents of the Bible Society, receipt of alms was required to pay two shillings for and which were nearly always pledged immediately after presentation.

Notwithstanding his great and deserved success he ultimately became a bankrupt owing to accepting duplicate bills to a large amount for a firm with which he had had extensive dealings. His father, Mr. Samuel Johnson, then a large publisher in Manchester, purchased the whole of the plant and stock from the trustees of the estate, and had it removed to Manchester, when he took him into partnership. For several years the firm was known as " Samuel Johnson and Son," but when his father retired to the Isle of Man, where he died in his eightieth year, Thomas had sole possession of the business. After a few years, however, he again came to grief, and the whole of his stock and plant was sold by auction. Johnson then began as a second-hand bookseller in Corporation-street, in a wooden building erected on a piece of waste ground, upon which the Trevelyan Hotel now stands. When the land was taken for building purposes Johnson removed to the shop in Corporation-street which he occupied for a number of years, amid varying and not always successful fortunes. However smooth and successful his first business years were, his latter ones were considerably disturbed by want of trade and ill-health. Prior to his death he had left his business for some time, and it is now carried on by his youngest son. He leaves a widow, four daughters, and two sons.



Johnson’s Historical, Topographical, and Parochial Illustrated Guide and Visitors’ Companion through the Isle of Man (by James Brotherson Laughton)

1847 3rd Edition (red bordered pages) (1st and 2nd editions had been published by William Dillon under a slightly different title)
1848 4th edition (blue bordered pages) - this edition was the first to include the attractive etchings of various churches though Cubbon states this was the 6th
1850 6th edition (Cubbon quotes 1850 for 5th edition but my copy is marked 1850 and 6th) - subsequent editions 7th 1853, 8th 1854 and 9th 1858

(Logically the 5th would have been 1849 and the 6th 1850 but it is possible that the date/edition was added after the letterpress printing of the pages)

Several of the Views from Guide Book are on-line.


W. Cubbon Bibliography of works relating to the Isle of Man Vol I section F67 Douglas:1933

Alan Parker Confidence in Mutual Aid Peterborough:Methodist Publishing House 1999 (ISBN 1-85852-105-X) has very brief mention.

Manx Note Book   [Index of Printers]

Any comments, errors or omissions gratefully received The Editor
© F.Coakley, 2006