Johnson, John

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From Kidson's British Music Publishers

Johnson, John. At the Harp and Crown, facing Bow Church, Cheapside. A publisher of many important works. He was probably in business about, or prior to 1740, and may have then, or earlier, transferred to Cheapside the trade carried on by Daniel Wright, junior, in St. Paul's Church Yard. One is led to this conclusion by the fact that trace of Wright is lost at that period, and that one of Johnson's earliest publications is entitled "Wright's Country Dances," in two volumes, with a preface signed D. Wright, who was doubtless the Daniel Wright in question, and from the early character of the engraving it appears likely that the books are from plates originally issued by him. Besides yearly sets of twenty four Country Dances, and volumes of two hundred of the same, Johnson issued a higher class of music, generally particularly well engraved, and printed on stout paper of good quality. In 1760, when Charles Dibdin first came to London he got employment here as a harpsichord tuner. About 1762 there are indications that John Johnson had died, and that he was succeeded by his widow, for the name, Mrs. Johnson, is appended to one or more pieces of music which have this engraved date. In 1763, however, the old name, John Johnson, is resumed, whether by reason of a son of the same Christian name holding the shop, or from the retention of the old name, I am unable to say, but John Johnson for the second time remains on the imprints till 1765 or 1766. In 1766 or 1767 James Longman & Co. opened a music shop at 26, Cheapside, which did not face Bow Church, but was nearer St. Paul's, between Old Change and Friday Street, and it remained for many years in the hands of the firm and their successors. James Longman and his partners seem to have obtained the right to use Johnson's sign, the Harp and Crown, though it appears as if Robert Bremner had got most of the plates, for in the list of Bremner's publications purchased by Preston in 1789, many are easily identified. Longmans' used the imprint Harp and Crown, 26, Cheapside for some years, but in due course changed the sign to The Apollo. Meanwhile, Mrs. Johnson did not abandon the premises facing Bow Church, which now bore the number 10, Cheapside, though there is no mention of the Harp and Crown ; I cannot trace any of her issues later than 1771. F.Kidson


John Johnson published the very important eight volume series of Choice Collection of Favorite Country Dances (total 1600 tunes and dances). The first two volumes had been printed for Daniel Wright, the younger, being the two volumes of his Compleat Collection of Celebrated Country Dances (total 400 tunes and dances). However, the address on Daniel Wright's books are the Harp and Crown, which is Johnson's address. The dates for Wright, which may only be Kidson's best guess, are usually given as Vol 1 1740 and Vol 2 1742. Johnson's own series then continues on from there, being dated Vol 3 1744, Vol 4 1748, Vol 5 1750, vol 6 1751, Vol 7 1756, Vol 8 1758.

At some point Johnson evidently succeeded in selling out of the Wright volumes, and he re-engraved and republished them under his own name, again as Volumes 1 & 2, with some changes. This is said by Kidson to have been around 1750. Johnson sometimes dated his collections on the frontispiece, which might confirm this, but without seeing the relevant pages I cannot confirm this date.

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