Miller, William (1769-1844) (DNB00)

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MILLER, WILLIAM (1769–1844), publisher, born at Bungay, Suffolk, on 25 March 1769, was son of Thomas Miller (1731–1804) [q. v.], bookseller. When a youth he evinced a taste for drawing, and was advised by Sir Joshua Reynolds to enter the Royal Academy as a student, but in 1787 he was placed in Hookham's publishing house. In 1790 he commenced business on his own account in Bond Street, London, where the first book which he sent forth was his uncle Dr. Edward Miller's ‘Select Portions of the New Version of the Psalms of David, with Music.’ A series of publications in large quarto, illustrating the costumes of various countries, with descriptions in English and French, brought him considerable profit. Among his other successful ventures may be mentioned Howlett's ‘Views of Lincolnshire,’ Stoddart's ‘Remarks upon Scotland,’ and Forster's edition of the ‘Arabian Nights Entertainments,’ illustrated by Smirke. In 1804 Miller removed to a larger house in Albemarle Street, where he continued until his retirement from business in 1812, being succeeded by John Murray. During this period he was one of the most popular publishers in London. He took shares in the poems of Sir Walter Scott, and published solely Scott's edition of ‘Dryden’ in 18 vols. 8vo. He reprinted ‘The Antient Drama,’ ‘British Drama,’ ‘Shakespeare,’ and Blomefield's ‘History of Norfolk,’ 11 vols, 8vo, and Samuel Richardson's works in nineteen small octavo volumes. The ‘Travels’ of Viscount Valentia, Sir Richard Colt Hoare's ‘Giraldus Cambrensis,’ and the same author's ‘Ancient History of South Wiltshire,’ vol. i., were among his most splendid undertakings. His ‘British Gallery’ was notable for the excellence of the engravings.

For the copyright of Charles James Fox's ‘History of the Reign of James II’ Miller paid 4,500l., hitherto the largest sum ever given for literary property. Five thousand copies were printed in demy quarto at 1l. 16s. by Savage, and 250 copies on royal quarto at 2l. 12s. 6d., with fifty upon elephant size quarto at 5l. 5s. by Bulmer. Miller barely cleared his expenses by the speculation.

Having realised a modest competency, Miller took a farm in Hertfordshire, but after a brief experience of country life he removed to Duchess Street, Portland Place, London. He died on 25 Oct. 1844, at Dennington, Suffolk, the residence of his son, the Rev. Stanley Miller.

In 1826 he published two quarto volumes of ‘Biographical Sketches of British Characters recently deceased, commencing with the Accession of George the Fourth … with a list of their Engraved Portraits.’ He announced, but did not print, a continuation.

There is a good portrait of Miller engraved by E. Scriven, after a painting by T. Phillips, R.A., given in Dibdin's ‘Bibliographical Decameron.’ Another was drawn from the life on stone by J. D. Engleheart in 1826, and is frequently found inserted in Miller's ‘Biographical Sketches.’

[Gent. Mag. 1845, pt. i. pp. 102–3; advertisements at beginning and end of Ames's Typogr. (Herbert & Dibdin), vol. i.; Dibdin's Bibliogr. Decameron; Timperley's Encycl. of Lit. and Typogr. Anecd., 2nd edit.]

G. G.