Fisher, Thomas (1781?-1836) (DNB00)

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FISHER, THOMAS (1781?–1836), antiquary, born at Rochester in or about 1781, was the younger of the two sons of Thomas Fisher, printer, bookseller, and alderman of that city. His father, who died on 29 Aug. 1786, was author of the 'Kentish Traveller's Companion,' 12mo, 1777, and, with Samuel Denne, F.S.A. [q.v.]m, and W. Shrubsole, of a useful little 'History of Rochester' published in 1772 (Gent. Mag. vol. lvi. pt. ii. pp. 908, 995, vol. lvii. pt. ii. p. 696). In 1786 Fisher entered the India House as an extra clerk, but in April 1816 was appointedsearcher of records, a post for which his knowledge and literary attainments well fitted him. From this situation he retired on a pension in June 1834, after having spent in different offices under the company altogether forty-six years. He died unmarried on 20 July 1836, in his sixty-fifth year, at his lodgings in Church Street, Stoke Newington, and was buried on the 26th in Bunhill Fields. From the time of his coming to London he had resided at Gloucester Terrace, Hoxton, in the parish of Shoreditch.

Before he left Rochester Fisher's talents as a draughtsman attracted the attention of Isaac Taylor, the engraver. He was besides eminent as an antiquary. Some plates in the 'Custumale Roffense,' published by John Thorpe in 1788, are from drawings by Fisher ; while it appears from the same work (pp. 155, 234, 262) that he had helped Samuel Denne, one of the promoters of the undertaking, in examining the architecture and monuments of Rochester Cathedral. His first literary effort, a description of the Crown inn at Rochester and its curious cellars, was printed with a view and plan in the 'Gentleman's Magazine' for 1789, under the pseudonym of 'Antiquitatis Conservator' (vol. lix. pt. ii. p. 1185). He had previously contributed drawings for one or two plates. In 1795 Denne communicated to the Society of Antiquaries a letter on the subject of watermarks in paper, enclosing drawings by Fisher of sixty-four specimens, together with copies of several autographs and some curious documents discovered by him in a room over the town hall at Rochester. The letter, accompanied by the drawings, is printed in 'Archæologia,' xii. 114-31. By Fisher's care the records were afterwards placed in proper custody. His next publications were 'An Engraving of a fragment of Jasper found near Hillah, bearing part of an inscription in the cuneiform character,' s. sh. 4to, London, 1802, and 'An Inscription [in cuneiform characters] of the size of the original, copied from a stone lately found among the ruins of ancient Babylon,' s. sh. fol., London, 1803. In 1806 and 1807 Fisher was the means of preserving two beautiful specimens of Roman mosaic discovered in the city of London ; the one before the East India House in Leadenhall Street, and the other, which was presented to the British Museum, in digging foundations for the enlargement of the Bank of England. These he caused to be engraved from drawings made by himself, and he published a description of them in the 'Gentleman's Magazine,' vol. lxxvii. pt. i. p. 415.

In the summer of 1804 Fisher discovered some legendary paintings on the roof and walls of the chapel belonging to the ancient Guild of Holy Cross in Stratford-on-Avon. A work founded upon this and muniments lent to him by the corporation appeared in 1807 as 'A Series of antient Allegorical, Historical, and Legendary Paintings . . . discovered . . . on the walls of the Chapel of the Trinity at Stratford-upon-Avon . . . also Views and Sections illustrative of the Architecture of the Chapel,' parts i-iv. (Appendix, No. l,pp. 1-4), fol. (London), 1807. His account of the guild, with copious extracts from the ledgerbook, appeared in the 'Gentleman's Magazine,' new ser. iii. 162, 375.

Between 1812 and 1816 Fisher published ninety-five plates from his drawings of monumental and other remains in Bedfordshire, under the title of 'Collections Historical, Genealogical, and Topographical for Bedfordshire,' 4to, London, 1812-16. A second part, consisting of 114 folio plates, appeared only a few weeks before his death in 1836. He gave up his intention of adding letterpress descriptions on account of the tax of eleven copies imposed by the Copyright Act. He published numerous remonstrances in petitions to parliament, in pamphlets, and in essays in periodicals. See his essay in the 'Gentleman's Magazine 'for 181 3, vol. lxxxiii. pt. ii. pp. 513-28, and his petition in 1814, printed in the 'Gentleman's Magazine,' vol. lxxxvii. pt. i. p. 490. In 1838 John Gough Nichols added descriptions to a new edition.

Meanwhile Fisher had printed at the lithographic press of D. J. Redman thirty-seven drawings of 'Monumental Remains and Antiquities in the county of Bedford,' of which fifty copies were issued in 1828. Fisher was one of the first to welcome lithography in this country. As early as 1808 he published an account of it, under the title of 'Polyantography,' with a portrait of Philip H. André, its first introducer into England, in the 'Gentleman's Magazine,' vol. lxxviii. pt. i. p. 193. In 1807 he published in four lithographic plates: 1. 'A Collection of all the Characters . . . which appear in the Inscription on a Stone found among the Ruins of ancient Babylon . . . now deposited in the East Indian Company's Library at Leadenhall Street.' 2. 'A Pedestal, and Fragment of a Statue of Hercules . . . dug out of the Foundations of the Wall of the City of London.' 3. 'Ichnography, with Architectural Illustrations of the old Church of St. Peter le Poor in Broad Street, London.' 4. 'Sir W. Pickering, from his Tomb in St. Helen's Church, London.' Shortly afterwards he issued several plates of monumental brasses to illustrate Hasted's 'Kent' and Lysons's 'Environs of London.' In order to encourage a deserving artist, Hilkiah Burgess, Fisher had ten plates etched of 'Sepulchral Monuments in Oxford.' These were issued in 1836.

Fisher was in 1821 elected F.S.A. of Perth, and on 5 May 1836 F.S.A. of London, an honour from which he had been hitherto debarred, as being both artist and dissenter. Many of the more valuable biographies of distinguished Anglo-Indians in the 'Gentleman's Magazine' were contributed by Fisher. That of Charles Grant, father of Lord Glenelg (Gent. Mag. vol. xciii. pt. ii. p. 561), was afterwards enlarged and printed for private circulation, 8vo, London, 1833. He was likewise a contributor to the 'European Magazine,' the 'Asiatic Journal,' and to several religious periodicals. He was one of the projectors of the 'Congregational Magazine,' and from 1818 to 1823 conducted the statistical department of that serial. When elected a guardian of Shoreditch, in which parish he resided, he assisted John Ware, the vestry clerk, in the compilation of a volume entitled 'An Account of the several Charities and Estates held in trust for the use of the Poor of the Parish of St. Leonard, Shoreditch, Middlesex, and of Benefactors to the same,' 8vo, London, 1836. He was also zealous in the cause of anti-slavery. In 1825 he published 'The Negro's Memorial, or Abolitionist's Catechism. By an Abolitionist,' 8vo, London. He was a member, too, of various bible and missionary societies. A few of his letters to Thomas Orlebar Marsh, vicar of Steventon, Bedfordshire, are in the British Museum, Addit. MS. 23205. His collections of topographical drawings and prints, portraits and miscellaneous prints, books, and manuscripts, were sold by Evans on 30 May 1837 and two following days.

[Gent. Mag. new ser. vi. 220, 434-8; Notes and Queries, 5th ser. xi. 228, 339; Cat. of Library of London Institution, iii. 350.]

G. G.