Ames, Joseph

, the celebrated typographical historian, was descended from an ancient family in Norfolk, where they are to be traced back as far as the middle of the sixteenth century. He was born at Yarmouth, Jan. 23, 1688-9, and removed by his father, who appears to have been the master of a merchant ship trading from Yarmouth to London, and placed at a little grammar-school at Wapping. At the age of fifteen, it is said, he was put apprentice to a plane-maker in King or Queen-street near Guildhall, London; and it is added that after serving out his time with reputation, he took up his freedom, and became a liveryman of the Joiners’ Company, but on inquiry both at Joiners’ hall and at the Chamberlain’s office, it does not appear that he ever took up his freedom: he settled, however, near the Hermitage, in Wapping, in the business of a ship-chandler, or ironmonger, and continued there till his death.

Mr. Ames very early discovered a taste for English history and antiquities, in which he was encouraged by his two friends Mr. Russel, preacher at St. John’s Wappino-, and Mr. John Lewis, minister of Margate, an eminent divine and antiquary. Some time before 1720, in attending Dr. Desaguliers’ lectures, he formed an acquaintance with Mr. Peter Thompson, an eminent Hamburgh merchant, and member for St. Alban’s, a gentleman of great humanity, and strong natural parts, who supplied the want of a liberal education by a conversation with men and books. He was also a lover of our national antiquities, and many years fellow of the royal and antiquary societies. This friendship continued uninterrupted till the death of Mr. Ames. Some time before 1730, Mr. Lewis, who had himself collected materials for such a subject, suggested to Mr. Ames the idea of writing the history of printing in England. Mr. Ames declined it at first, because Mr. Palmer, a printer, was engaged in a similar work, and because he thought himself by no means equal to an undertaking of | so much extent, But when Mr. Palmer’s book came out, it was far from answering the expectations of Mr. Lewis, or‘ Mr. Ames, or those of the public in general. Mr. Ames, therefore, at length consented to apply himself to the task, and after twenty-five years spent in collecting and arranging his materials, in which he was largely assisted by Mr. Lewis and other learned friends, and by the libraries of lord Oxford, sir Hans Sloane, Mr. Anstis, and many others, published, in one vol. 4to, 1749, “Typographical Antiquities, being an historical account of Printing in England, with some memoirs of our ancient Printers, and a register of the books printed by them, from the year 1471 to 1600; with an appendix concerning printing in Scotland and Ireland to the same time.” In his preface he speaks with great humility of his work, and of its imperfections; but it certainly has no faults but what may well be excused in the first attempt to accomplish an undertaking of such vast extent. He inscribed this work to Philip lord Hardwicke, lord high chancellor of Great Britain. Mr. Ames was at this time fellow of the royal and antiquary societies, and secretary to the latter of these learned bodies. He was elected F. A. S. March 3, 1736, and on the resignation of Alexander Gordon, previous to his going to settle in Carolina, 174], appointed secretary. In 1754, the rev. W. Norris was associated with him, and on his decease became sole secretary till 1784. This office gave Mr. Ames further opportunities of gratifying his native curiosity, by the communication as well as the conversation of the literati; and these opportunities were further enlarged by his election into the royal society, and the particular friendship shewn to him by sir Hans Sloane, then president, who nominated him one of the trustees of his will.

Besides his great work, Mr. Ames printed a “Catalogue vf English Printers, from 1471 to 1700,” 4to, intended to accompany the proposals for the former; “An Index to lord Pembroke’s Coins;” “A Catalogue of English heads, or an account of about 2000 prints, describing what is peculiar on each, as the name, title, or office of the person, the habit, posture, age, or time when done, the name of the painter, graver, scraper, &c. and some remarkable particulars relating to their lives,1748, 8vo. This was a kind of index to the ten volumes of English portraits, which had been collected by Mr. John Nickolls, F. R. and A. Ss. of Ware in Hertfordshire, in four volumes folio, and six iii | 4to; and which after his death in 1745, were purchased, for 50 guineas, by the late Dr. Fothergill. The last of Mr. Ames’s literary labours was the drawing up the “Parentalia, or Memoirs of the family of Wren,1750, in one volume folio, from the papers of Mr. Wren. At his expence two plates were engraved, one of a Greek inscription in honour of Crato, the musician of Pergamos; the other an ancient marble pillar, in his possession, with the Cufic inscription.

Mr. Ames died suddenly of a fit of coughing, Oct. 7, 1759, and on the 14th was interred in the church-yard of St. Georo-e in the East, in a stone coffin, on the lid of which is an inscription in Latin by the rev. Dr. Flexman; and over the grave was placed a ledger-stone with two inscriptions, one in English, the other in Latin. His collection of coins, natural curiosities, inscriptions, and antiquities, were sold by Mr. Langford, Feb. 20 and 2 1, 1760: his library of books, manuscripts and prints, on May 5 12, 1160. Many of the books had notes by him, and Mr. Gough has enumerated many valuable articles among his collection, with the buyers’ names.

Mr. Ames married April 12, 1714, Marv, daughter of Mr. Wrayford, merchant of London, who died August 12, 1734, and by whom he had six children, one only of whom, a daughter, survived him, and was married to Edward Dampier, esq. lately deputy surveyor of shipping to the East India Company, and descended from, or related to the voyager of that name.

Of Mr. Ames’s character, the opinion seems to be uniform, that he possessed an amiable simplicity of manners, and exemplary integrity and benevolence in social life. Mr. Cole, who bears him no ojood will, because, as he asserts, he was an Anabaptist, allows that he “was a little, friendly, good-tempered man, a person of vast application, and industry in collecting old printed books, prints, and other curiosities, both natural and artificial.” It is confessed, on the other hand, that he had not much of what is called literature, and knew nothing of composition. His preface to the “Typographical Antiquities” commences in the form of a preamble to an act of parliament, “Whereas it appears from reason and ancient history,” &c. His style, indeed, very much resembles that of his brother antiquary and equally laborious collector, Strype. With all this, he appears to have been a man entitled to high | respect for his acquisitions; they were entirely his own, and instigated by a laudable desire to be useful. The dates in the preceding account of his life will be sufficient to prove the absurdity of Horace Walpole’s flippant notice of him, in which he says, that Mr. Ames took to the study of antiquities “late in life,” and thac he was “originally” a ship-chandler. The truth is, and it is to the honour of his industry, that he was always an antiquary, and always a ship-chandler, but principally in articles of ironmongery. It is necessary to add that an enlarged edition of the “Typographical Antiquities” was published by the late learned and industrious Mr. William Herbert, of whom some account will be given in its proper place. This was extended to three volumes quarto, the first of which appeared in, 1785, the second in 1786. and the third in 1790, a work of inestimable value to the antiquary, the historian, and the general scholar. To the first volume, Mr. Gough prefixed “Memoirs of Mr. Joseph Ames,” from which all that is valuable in the present article has been taken; and the same has been retained, with many additional particulars, in the new and very splendid edition of Ames and Herbert, by the rev. Thomas Frognall Dibdin, F. S. A. of which one volume was published in 1810 and a second in 1812, which promise ample gratification to the lovers of typographical antiquities. 1


Ames and Herbert’s Edition.—Dibdin’s.—Cole’s Mss. in Brit. Mus.—Walpole’s Catalogue of Engravers.