Evans, Robert Harding (DNB00)

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EVANS, ROBERT HARDING (1778–1857), bookseller and auctioneer, born in 1778, was the son of Thomas Evans (1742–1784) [q. v.] After an education at Westminster School he was apprenticed to Thomas Payne of the Mews Gate, and succeeded to the business of James Edwards (1757–1816) [q. v.], bookseller in Pall Mall, which Evans continued until 1812. In this year he commenced a long and successful career as auctioneer with the sale of the Duke of Roxburghe's library (Dibdin, Bibliographical Decameron, iii. 49–68). Among other famous libraries dispersed by him were those of Colonel Stanley (1813), Stanesby Alchorne (1813), John Towneley (1814), and James Edwards (1815), the Duke of Devonshire's duplicates (1815), the Duke of Grafton's library (1815), the vellum-printed books of Field-marshal Junot (1816), and the Borromeo collection of novels and romances (1817). He also sold the White Knights library, those of Bindley, Dent, Hibbert, North, and some portions of Heber's (1836). Between 1812 and 1847 the chief libraries sold in England went through his hands. His own marked set of catalogues is now in the British Museum. Possessing an excellent memory and rich store of information, he was in the habit of discoursing upon the books passing under his hammer. His expertness as an auctioneer was not assisted by ordinary business qualities, and he fell into pecuniary embarrassment. When re-established as a bookseller in Bond Street, in partnership with his two sons, he was again unfortunate. He was a fervid politician, and took a great interest in the history of the whig party. A portrait engraved by Freeman, after Behnes, is given by Dibdin (ib. iii. 51).

He died in Edward Street, Hampstead Road, London, on 25 April 1857, in his eightieth year. His widow, Susanna, died in Stamford Road, Fulham, on 31 Jan. 1861, aged 80.

Some works bear his imprint as publisher. The following were written or edited by him: 1. ‘Bishop Burnet's History of his own Time,’ London, 1809, 4 vols. 8vo. 2. ‘Hakluyt's Collection of the Early Voyages, Travels, and Discoveries of the English Nation. A new edition, with additions,’ London, 1809–12, 5 vols. 4to (part of the fourth volume and the whole of the fifth are added in this edition). 3. ‘Essays on Song-writing, with a Collection of such English Songs as are most eminent for Poetical Merit. By John Aikin. A new edition, with additions and corrections, and a Supplement,’ London, 1810, sm. 8vo. 4. ‘Old Ballads, by Thomas Evans. A new edition revised and considerably enlarged from Public and Private Collections, by his Son,’ London, 1810, 4 vols. sm. 8vo. 5. ‘Six Letters of Publicola on the Liberty of the Subject and the Privileges of the House of Commons, originally published in the “Times,” now collected and illustrated,’ London, 1810, 8vo (anonymous). 6. ‘A Letter on the Expediency of a Reform in Parliament, addressed to Lord Erskine,’ London, 1817, 8vo (this and No. 5 are pamphlets). 7. ‘Euripidis Opera, Gr. et Lat.,’ Glasgow, 1821, 9 vols. 8vo (Evans helped A. and J. M. Duncan in preparing this edition). 8. ‘Historical and Descriptive Account of the Caricatures of James Gillray,’ London, 1851, 8vo (written with Thomas Wright).

[Memoir in Gent. Mag. June 1857, 3rd ser. ii. 734–5, reprinted in Nichols's Illustr. viii. 526–7. See also Dibdin's Bibl. Decam. 1817, vol. iii.; Bibliomania, 1842, vol. ii.; and Library Companion, 1824.]

H. R. T.