An imprint naming Ann Rivington, from the title page of A Sermon Preached in the Cathedral Church of St. Paul, London (1796), an imprint naming Alice James, from the title page of Meditations and Contemplations (1758), and an imprint naming Martha Gurney, from the title page of An account of the arguments of counsel with the opinions at large of the Honourable Mr. Justice Gould, Mr. Justice Ashhurst, and Mr. Baron Hotham (1775). [all imprint images from ECCO]


You can listen to Episode 2  of The WPHP Monthly Mercury, "Women in the Imprints", on AppleSpotifyStitcherGoogle Podcasts, and other podcast apps, available via Buzzsprout.


In this month’s episode of The WPHP Monthly Mercury, "Women in the Imprints", hosts Kate Moffatt and Kandice Sharren delve into the world of what we call female-run firms: the women who were publishers, printers, and booksellers. Using Kate Moffatt’s Spotlight on Black bookseller Ann Sancho as our jumping off point, this episode explores the processes for, and the difficulties of, discovering the often invisible and hidden women of the book trades. 

What does one do when resources for the book trades—even comprehensive, reliable, and detailed ones—do not include gender data? Or when the data they do include conflicts with the data in two or three other resources? How does one establish who, exactly, a “widow” may be when a resource does not provide her name? 

Alongside Ann Sancho, Episode 2, "Women in the Imprints" introduces you to Dublin-based printer Alice James, Shropshire- and London-based publisher Frances Houlston, London-based printer Ann Rivington, and abolitionist printer Martha Gurney as it seeks to illustrate how we respond to these questions, and more, in our efforts to create coherent data about women publishers, printers, and booksellers during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. We share both the frustrations and joys of widows who successfully continued a bookselling business for years after their husband’s death but who remain unnamed in resources, surnames with no distinguishing first initials, and the potential confusion of a husband and wife with the same initials, providing a behind-the-scenes look at the process of creating data for women in the book trades on the WPHP, and the importance of our doing so.



Produced by: Kandice Sharren, Kate Moffatt, and Michelle Levy

Music: “Sweetest Bard”, from Ignatius Sancho’s Minuets, Cotillons & Country Dances for the Violin, Mandolin, German Flute, & Harpsichord Composed by an African (1767), from Played by Kandice Sharren.


WPHP entries mentioned in this episode, in the order they are referenced:

Ann Sancho (person, bookseller)
Ann Sancho (firm, bookseller)
Ann and William Sancho (firm, bookseller)
Ignatius Sancho (person, author)
Letters of the Late Ignatius Sancho, an African (title, first edition)
Letters of the Late Ignatius Sancho, an African (title, second edition)
Letters of the Late Ignatius Sancho, an African (title, third edition
Letters of the Late Ignatius Sancho, an African (title, fourth edition)
Letters of the Late Ignatius Sancho, an African (title, fifth edition)
Lady Frances Anne Crew (person, editor)
William Sancho (firm, bookseller/publisher)
“The Search for Firm Evidence: Uncovering Ann Sancho, Bookseller” (Spotlight, firm)
Mrs. Vertue (firm, publisher)
Mrs. Vertue (person, publisher)
Samuel Johnson (person, author)
David Garrick (person, author)
Alice James (firm, printer/publisher)
Alice James (person, printer/publisher)
John Exshaw (firm, publisher)
James Hoey, Jun. (firm, publisher)
James Joey, Sen. (firm, publisher)
William Sleater (firm, publisher)
Peter Wilson (firm, publisher)
George Faulkner (firm, publisher)
Frances Houlston (person, publisher)
Frances Houlston [Shropshire] (firm, publisher)
Frances Houlston and Co. (firm, publisher)
Frances Houlston and Son (firm, publisher)
Frances Houlston and Son [Shropshire] (firm, publisher)
Frances Houlston and Stoneman (firm, publisher)
Ann Rivington (firm, printer)
Ann Rivington (person, printer)
John Rivington (firm, publisher)
Martha Gurney (firm, bookseller)
Martha Gurney (person, bookseller)
"Martha Gurney: Abolitionist Bookseller of Holborn Hill” (Spotlight, firm)
“Black Women’s and Abolitionist Print History Spotlight Series” (Spotlight, series)
“The First Slave Narrative by a Woman: The History of Mary Prince, A West Indian Slave” (Spotlight, title)
“The Transatlantic Publication of Phillis Wheatley’s Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral (Spotlight, title)
Mary Prince (person, author)
Phillis Wheatley (person, author)
Elizabeth Heyrick (person, author)
Lydia Maria Child (person, author)
The Woman of Colour (title)



British Book Trade Index. Oxford University, Accessed 14 July 2020.
Brown, Philip A. H. London Publishers and Printers, c. 1800-1870. British Library, 1982.
English Short Title Catalogue. The British Library, Accessed 14 July 2020.
Hathi Trust Digital Library. University of Michigan, Accessed 14 July 2020.
Maxted, Ian, ed. Exeter Working Papers in Book History.
Pollard, Mary, ed. Dictionary for Members of the Dublin Book Trade, 1550-1800. London, Bibliographical Society, 2000.
Scottish Book Trade Index. National Library of Scotland,


Further Reading:

Barker, Hannah. ‘Women, work and the industrial revolution: female involvement in the English printing trades, c. 1700–1840,’ Gender in Eighteenth-Century England: Roles, Representations and Responsibilities. Hannah Barker and Elaine Chalus, eds, Longman, 1997, 81-100.

Carey, Brycchan. “‘The extraordinary Negro’: Ignatius Sancho, Joseph Jekyll, and the Problem of Biography.” British Journal for Eighteenth-Century Studies, No. 26, 2003, p. 1-14, Accessed 17 June 2020.

Carretta, Vincent. "Sancho, (Charles) Ignatius (1729?–1780), author." Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, September 2017, Oxford University Press, Accessed 17 June 2020.

Caretta, Vincent. “Three West Indian Writers of the 1780s Revisited and Revised,” Research in African Literatures, Vol. 29, No. 4, 1998, p. 73-87.

Fitzpatrick, Barbara Laning. "Rivington family (per. c. 1710–c. 1960), printers, publishers, and lawyers." Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, October 04, 2008. Oxford University Press, Accessed 14 July 2020.

Fryer, Peter. Staying Power: The History of Black People in Britain. Pluto Press, 2018.

Gerzina, Gretchen Holbrook. “Ignatius Sancho: A Renaissance Black Man in Eighteenth-Century England.” The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education, Vol. 21, 1998, p. 106-107, Accessed 25 June 2020.

Hanley, Ryan. Beyond Slavery and Abolition: Black British Writing, c. 1770-1830. Cambridge University Press, 2019.

House, Khara. “Ignatius Sancho’s Letters of the Late Ignatius Sancho, An African,” The Explicator, Vol. 71, No. 3, 2013, 195-198,

“Ignatius Sancho,” British Library. Accessed 17 June 2020.

Sancho, Ignatius, 1729-1780, and Joseph Jekyll. Letters of the Late Ignatious Sancho: an African, to Which Is Prefixed, Memoirs of His Life. 5th ed. London, 1803. HathiTrust Digital Library,

“Sancho, Ignatius,” Wikipedia, Accessed 17 June 2020.

“The only surviving manuscript letters of Ignatius Sancho.” British Library, Accessed 25 June 2020.

Whelan, Timothy. “Martha Gurney and the Anti-Slave Trade Movement, 1788–94.” Women, Dissent and Anti-Slavery in Britain and America, 1790-1865. Edited by Elizabeth J. Clapp and Julie Roy Jeffrey. Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2011, pp. 44-65, 49.


This podcast draws on research supported by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council.