Tegg, Thomas (DNB00)

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TEGG, THOMAS (1776–1845), book-seller, the son of a grocer, was born at Wimbledon, Surrey, on 4 March 1776. Being left an orphan at the age of five, he was sent to Galashiel in Selkirkshire, where he was boarded, lodged, clothed, and educated for ten guineas a year. In 1785 he was bound apprentice to Alexander Meggett, a book-seller at Dalkeith. His master treating him very badly, he ran away, and for a month gained a living at Berwick by selling chapbooks about fortune-telling, conjuring, and dreams. At Newcastle he stayed some weeks, and formed an acquaintance with Thomas Bewick, the wood engraver. Proceeding to Sheffield, he obtained employment from Gale, the proprietor of the ‘Sheffield Register,’ at seven shillings a week, and during a residence of nine months saw Tom Paine and Charles Dibdin. His further wanderings led him to Ireland and Wales, and then, after some years at Lynn in Norfolk, he came to London in 1796, and obtained an engagement with William Lane, the proprietor of the Minerva Library at 53 Leadenhall Street. He subsequently served with John and Arthur Arch, the quaker booksellers of Gracechurch Street, where he stayed until he began business on his own account.

Having received 200l. from the wreck of his father's property, he took a shop in partnership with a Mr. Dewick in Aldersgate Street, and became a bookmaker as well as a bookseller, his first small book, ‘ The Complete Confectioner,’ reaching a second edition. On 20 April 1800 he married, and opened a shop in St. John Street, Clerkenwell, but, losing money through the treachery of a friend, he took out a country auction license to try his fortune in the provinces. He started with a stock of shilling political pamphlets and some thousands of the ‘Monthly Visitor.’ At Worcester he obtained a parcel of books from a clergyman, and held his first auction, which produced 30l. With his wife acting as clerk, he travelled through the country, buying up duplicates in private libraries, and rapidly paying off his debts. Returning to London in 1805, he opened a shop at 111 Cheapside, and began printing a series of pamphlets which were abridgments of popular works. His success was great. Of such books he at one time had two hundred kinds, many of which sold to the extent of four thousand copies. Up to the close of 1840 he published four thousand works on his own account, of which not more than twenty were failures. Of ‘ The Whole Life of Nelson,’ which he brought out immediately after the receipt of the news of the battle of Trafalgar in 1805, he sold fifty thousand six-penny copies, and of ‘ The Life of Mrs. Mary Ann Clarke,’ 1810, thirteen thousand copies at 7s. 5d. each. In 1824 he purchased the copyright of Hone's ‘ Everyday Book and Table Book,’ and, republishing the whole in weekly parts, cleared a very large profit. He then gave Hone 500l. to write ‘ The Year Book,’ which proved much less successful.

As soon as his own publications commenced paying well he gave up the auctions, which he had continued nightly at 111 Cheap- side. In 1824 he made his final move to 73 Cheapside. In 1825 he commenced ‘ The London Encyclopaedia of Science, Art, Literature, and Practical Mechanics,’ which ran to twenty-two volumes. But his reputation as a bookseller chiefly rested upon his cheap reprints, abridgments of popular works, and his distribution of remainders, which he purchased on a very large scale. He is mentioned as a populariser of literature in Thomas Carlyle's famous petition on the copyright bill in April 1839.

In 1835, being then a common councilman of the ward of Cheap, he was nominated an alderman, but was not elected. In 1836 he was chosen sheriff, and paid the fine to escape serving. To the usual fine of 400l. he added another 100l. and the whole went to found a Tegg scholarship at the City of London school, and he increased the gift by a valuable collection of books.

He died on 21 April 1845, and was buried at Wimbledon. He was generally believed to have been the original of Timothy Twigg in Thomas Hood's novel, ‘Tylney Hall,’ 3 vols. 1834. Tegg left three sons, of whom Thomas Tegg, a bookseller, died on 15 Sept. 1871 (Bookseller, 30 June 1864 p. 372, 3 Oct. 1871 p. 811); and William is separately noticed.

Tegg was author of: 1. ‘Memoirs of Sir F. Burdett,’ 1804. 2. ‘Tegg's Prime Song Book, bang up to the mark,’ 1810 ; third collection, 1810; fourth collection, 1810. 3. ‘ The Rise, Progress, and Termination of the O. P. War at Covent Garden, in Poetic Epistles,’ 1810. 4. ‘Chronology, or the Historical Companion: a register of events from the earliest period to the present time,’ 1811 ; 5th edit. 1854. 5. ‘Book of Utility or Repository of useful Information, connected with the Moral, Intellectual, and Physical Condition of Man,’ 1822. G. ‘Remarks on the Speech of Serjeant Talfourd on the Laws relating to Copyright,’ 1837. 7. ‘Handbook for Emigrants, containing Information on Domestic, Mechanical, Medical, and other subjects,’ 1839. 8. ‘Extension of Copyright proposed by Serjeant Talfourd,' 1840. 9. 'Treasury of Wit and Anecdote,' 1842. 10. 'A Present to an Apprentice,' 2nd edit. 1848. He also edited 'The Magazine of Knowledge and Amusement,' 1843-4; twelve numbers only.

[Curwen's Booksellers, 1873, pp. 379-98; Bookseller, 1 Sept. 1870, p. 756.]

G. C. B.