Tonson, claimed as the first modern English publisher, made his mark with top-quality contemporary writing and the unprecedented scholarship of his historical editions. Dryden, one of his authors, was equally friend and business-partner. Addison wrote introductions to his works of Virgil, and was paid handsomely for the copyright of his most successful play. Pope, who described him as full of wit and spirit, was first published by Tonson. Vanbrugh was a crony, Congreve lived in his house. All these were members of the Kit-Cat Club he presided over, and all bar Vanbrugh contributed translations to his great edition of Ovid.
Rexroth met him whilst he was studying at the Sorbonne, and persuaded him to go to San Francisco. His bookshop ‘City Lights’ became an institution – he published ‘Howl’ and other work of Ginsberg’s, Corso (who broke in to raid the cashbox), Levertov, di Prima, Rexroth, Patchen, Kerouac (who fictionalised him in ‘Big Sur’), O’Hara (whose pockets Ferlinghetti searched for some of the poems), and others. He met Thomas (as well as Trocchi) in Paris and drank with him in San Francisco. He and Coppola hosted a pasta-and-meatballs feast for their San Francisco neighbourhood; the city named a street after him.