Elmsley, Peter (1736-1802) (DNB00)

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ELMSLEY or ELMSLY, PETER (1736–1802), bookseller, was born in Aberdeenshire in 1736, and succeeded Paul Vaillant (1716-1802), whose family had carried on a foreign bookselling business in the Strand, opposite Southampton Street, since 1686. He, with Cadell, Dodsley, and others, formed the literary club of booksellers who produced many important works, including Johnson's 'Lives ot the Poets.' Gibbon writes to Lord Sheffield, 2 Oct. 1793: 'My first evening was passed at home in a very agreeable tête-a-tête with my friend Elmsley,' and the following month he speaks of lodging in a 'house of Elmsley's' in St. James's Street (Memoirs, 1814, pp. 408, 411). Elmsly was intimate with Wilkes, and directed the sale of his library. Miss Wilkes ordered that 'all her manuscripts, of whatever kind,... be faithfully delivered to Mr. Elmsly,' but he died before her (Gent. Mag. lxxii. pt. i. 467). To the usual Scottish schooling Elmsly added a large fund of information acauired by his own exertions in after life. He knew French well. His business career was honourable and prosperous, and many of the leading book collectors and literary men of the day were on friendly terms with him. A short time before his death he gave up his business to a shopman, David Bremner, who soon died, and was succeeded by Messrs. James Payne & J. Mackinlay, the one the youngest son of Thomas Payne of the Mews-gate, the other one of Elmsly's assistants.

Elmsley died at Brighton, 3 May 1802, in his sixty-seventh year. His remains were conveyed to his house in Sloane Street, London, and were buried at Marylebone 10 May. He left a widow. A handsome share of his large fortune fell to his nephew, the Rev. Peter Elmsley, D.D. (1773-1825) [q.v.]

H. R. T.