Wolverhampton Printers

Thomas Simpson

There appear to have been two Thomas Simpsons, father and son.

Lawley refers to "Mr. Thomas Simpson, who for nearly fifty years stood at the head of the printing trade in Wolverhampton and printed some of the best local books of that period. He was a native of this town and was brought up in the printing establishment of Mr. Joseph Smart, thus carrying on from the same office the succession of local typographers up till 30 years ago". The first work under T. Simpson’s imprint is a work by Bishop Milner dated 1811.

The title page from Oliver's history of St. Peter's, 1836, by T. Simpson, Market Place.
Lawley continues: "The year 1845 was marked by the issue of several important volumes from the Simpson press, a circumstance which gives me the opportunity of referring more particularly to this famous family of Wolverhampton printers. 

"The earliest of them … was apprenticed to the trade in Wolverhampton, and commenced business on his own account in 1760, printing, between that time and his death, which occurred in 1798, many local works. 

"He was succeeded by his son who carried on the business until 1830, worthily sustaining the firm’s reputation for the excellence of its typographical workmanship. 

"His son, the late Mr. Thomas Simpson, was apprenticed to Mr. J. Wood of Birmingham and his father dying when he attained the age of 21 he came to Wolverhampton and assumed control of the printing business.

He became the most famous of the family and printed more books and pamphlets than any other local printer during the one hundred and sixty years that the town has had the honour of being in possession of a printing machine. He was not only a printer but a lover of books and there were few local authors of his day with whom he did not have business or friendly relationships. Nor was he merely the printer of other persons’ literary labours. He himself undertook the responsibility of issuing several volumes of local interest with a view of placing in local collectors’ hands copies of books which had become rare. … He married Ellen, daughter of the late Mr. John Corser, of the Oaks, and retired from the business in 1866, leaving it in the able hands of the late Mr. John Steen …. Mr. Simpson, on retiring, spent much time travelling abroad but finally settled down in Dorking, leaving one son, now a practising solicitor in Shipston-on-Stour."

An election poster (right) and Simpson's imprint from it above


Mander adds: "In the well known view of High Green, c.1820, a low four-gabled house at the corner of the High Street is distinguished by a placard bearing the words Printing Office. This marked the ambitions of Thomas Simpson .. and afterwards 'Simpson and Steen'".

Simpson must have taken Steen into partnership before he retired as Lawley notes a book dated 1852 on which the imprint is Simpson and Steen.

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