Palmer, Samuel (d.1732) (DNB00)

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PALMER, SAMUEL (d. 1732), printer, worked in a house in Bartholomew Close, London, afterwards occupied by the two Jameses the typefounders (Rowe Mores, Dissert. upon English Typogr. Founders, 1778, pp. 61–3). In 1725 Benjamin Franklin ‘got into work at Palmer's, a famous printing house in Bartholomew Close,’ where he ‘continued near a year,’ and ‘was employed in composing the second edition of Wollaston's “Religion of Nature”’ (Autobiography in Works, Boston [1840], i. 56–9). In March 1729 Palmer circulated a prospectus of ‘The Practical Part of Printing, in which the Materials are fully described and all the Manual Operations explained’ (Bigmore and Wyman, Bibliography of Printing, ii. 109). But as the letter-founders, printers, and bookbinders feared ‘the discovery of the mystery of those arts’ (Psalmanazar, Memoirs, 1765, p. 240), the Earls of Pembroke and Oxford, Dr. Richard Mead [q. v.], and others, persuaded him to change his plan, and write a history of printing, of which several parts were actually published—about two-thirds of the book—when Palmer died.

On 15 Feb. 1731 a printing-press was set up at St. James's House for the Duke of York and some of the princesses to work under Palmer's supervision (Gent. Mag. i. 79). Although his business was large and successful, and he was ‘a sober, industrious man, and free from all extravagance,’ Palmer ultimately became bankrupt (Psalmanazar, p. 242). He was ailing two years before his death (History of Printing, p. 311), which took place on 9 May 1732 (Gent. Mag. 1732, p. 775). He ‘was a good printer, but a bad historian, ignorant, careless, and inaccurate’ (J. Lewis's ‘Letter to Ames’ in Nichols's Illustr. of Lit. iv. 174). Dibdin speaks still more contemptuously of ‘that wretched pilferer and driveller, Samuel Palmer’ (Bibl. Decameron, ii. 379).

Palmer's ‘History of Printing’ was completed after his death by George Psalmanazar [q. v.], the Formosan impostor, who expressed the hope that he would ‘find the materials in so good an order that there will be little to do but to print after his [Palmer's] manuscript.’ In his ‘Memoirs’ (pp. 241–3), however, Psalmanazar claimed to have written the whole book. It appeared as ‘The General History of Printing, from its first invention in the City of Mentz to its first progress and propagation thro' the most celebrated cities in Europe, particularly its introduction, rise, and progress here in England,’ London, 1732, 4to. A ‘remainder’ edition was issued by A. Bettesworth and other booksellers with a new title in black and red, ‘A General History of Printing from the first Invention of it in the City of Mentz,’ &c., 1733. Ames's copy of the ‘History,’ with manuscript notes, was purchased by Bindley in 1786. The second part, containing the practical part, ready for printing, was also in the possession of Ames (Nichols, Lit. Anecdotes, v. 264).

It could not have been, as is sometimes stated, Palmer the printer who accompanied John Dunton as apprentice and servant in his American tour, since Dunton relates (Life and Errors, 1818, i. 131) how ‘Sam, having a greater fancy to shooting than bookselling, got a post in the army, and, riding to see his captain, was drown'd.’ Nor should the printer be confounded with the Samuel Palmer who collected Greek and Syriac manuscripts in the East (Nichols, Lit. Anecd. i. 540, 645, 649).

[Gough's Memoir of Ames in Dibdin's ed. of Typogr. Antiq. i. 33, 45; Hansard's Typographia, 1825, pp. 75, 78; Timperley's Encyclopædia, 1842, pp. 647–8; Reed's Old English Letter Foundries, 1887.]

H. R. T.