chapter  1
18 Pages

A Dynasty of Taylors

Richard Taylor, the founder of Taylor & Francis, was a member of the talented Taylor family of Norwich concerning whom it has been said that if all their works were collected together, ‘it would form a respectable library’.1 The Norwich Taylors formed part of the ‘intellectual aristocracy’ of eighteenth-and nineteenth-century England. United by their religious dissent, radicalism, liberalism, and their literary and business abilities, they exemplified to Francis Gallon in 1869 the ‘hereditability of genius’. In fact, the roots of their genius lay, not in Norwich, but in Lancashire, where Richard Taylor’s great-great-grandfather, John Taylor, was born in 1657. A humble timber merchant, his son, John Taylor (1694-1761) became one of the great eighteenth-century Nonconformist divines, renowned for his teaching at the famous dissenting academy at Warrington, and for his edition of The Hebrew Concordance (1754) which was an essential stage in the treatment of biblical texts as historical documents and for which the University of Glasgow awarded him an honorary doctorate in 1756.2 Between 1715 and 1733 he was minister to a small Presbyterian congregation at Kirkstead in Lincolnshire. Dissent was not strong in Lincolnshire; nevertheless his motley congregation of yeomen, tradesmen, farmers and labourers was larger than was found in Lincoln. In 1733 Taylor

Dr John Taylor (1694-1761), Richard Toylor’s great-grandfather. He began to preach in Norwich in 1733 and the engraving commemorates his opening of the Octagon Presbyterian Chapel there in 1754. On 8 November he wrote to his daughter, Sarah: ‘This day I have corrected ye last sheet of my [Hebrew] Concordance, which hath been near five years in printing, and in wch I have been exercised, more or less, for near two and twenty years’. (Courtesy Norfolk Record Office)

settled in the more intellectual environment of Norwich where, between 1753 and 1756, his congegation of well-to-do wool merchants and manufacturers, who formed the backbone of English Presbyterianism, built for him the spacious and elegant Octagon Chapel. John Wesley describes it in his Journals as ‘perhaps the most elegant [meetinghouse] in all Europe’.