Friedrich Koenig

1774 (Eisleben, Germany) – 1833 (Würzburg)

Koenig couldn’t interest anyone in Germany in his proposals for a high-speed printing-press, so he moved to London and patented it with the help of Nicholson (in his guise as patent agent). A revolutionary but undeveloped idea of Nicholson’s was central to the version of his machine that was successfully sold to The Times, effectively starting the age of mass media. Koenig’s patents proved hard to enforce, however, and in the face of widespread pirating of his designs he quit London and returned to Germany.

Friedrich Koenig knew…

William Smellie, encyclopaedist

1740 (Edinburgh) – 1795 (Edinburgh)

The convivial Smellie (not to be confused with the obstetrician of the same name) was a leading figure in Edinburgh enlightenment circles. He printed the work of Burns, Hume, Smith, Cullen and Hutton, all of them friends of his (he attended Cullen’s lectures). Smellie learned French so he could translate Buffon’s great work, was with Black a regular at Monboddo’s ‘learned suppers’, and corresponded with Hunter. Burns immortalised the drinking club Smellie founded — the two had a particular taste for each other’s wit and company; Smith, Ferguson and Monboddo were also members. There is surprisingly little on him online.

Samuel Richardson

1689 (Mackworth, England) – 1761 (London)

Richardson was one of those credited with inventing the novel and, revolutionary for the time, inviting readers into his protagonists’ emotional world (his contemporary Fielding and he spent their time sniping at one another). He commissioned frontispiece illustrations from Hogarth, though decided against using them. He paid off a debt that was threatening to put Johnson into prison, gave his friend Young plentiful advice, and seems to have employed Goldsmith as a proof-reader. As a printer and publisher, he revised some of Defoe’s work; as with Fielding, it is hard to imagine they did not meet, though the facts are unclear.