John Tallis is one of the forgotten pioneers in the publishing of illustrated English newspapers. Tallis got his start publishing London Street Views No. 1 from 15 St. John’s Lane, St. John’s Gate, which was sold by ‘all Booksellers and Toy shops, in England, Wales, Ireland and Scotland.’ The price 1 1/2 d. Parts 1-36 were issued in 1838 ; Parts 37-39 in 1839 ; Parts 80-88 in 1840. The only dated Part is No. 80: March 1840. No. 10 was published after 12 June, 1848 according to an advertising testimonial.
A later edition of Tallis’s London Street Views, Parts 1-18 came out in the latter half of 1847.
London Street Views was an ambitious attempt at mapping every street and alleyway in London, a task which was never realized. The parts work was supported by advertising which accounts for the sporadic nature of the publishing. The whole was illustrated by steel engravings of various landmarks of the city. The images of the Burlington Arcade show that we moderns were years behind the Victorians when it came to indoor shopping malls.
John Tallis was born at Stourbridge, Worcestershire, in 1818, the son of a Birmingham Book-seller, John Tallis, Sr., who moved to London in 1820 and opened shop at 7 Warwick Square, near Newgate-street. John Tallis, Sr. died 28 Feb 1842 aged 50.
In 1836 Tallis & Co., Publishers, were located at Green Arbour Court, Old Bailey.
John Tallis was running the Birmingham shop at this time. In 1838 brothers John and Frederick began publishing Tallis’s London Street Views from 15, St. John’s Lane, near Smithfield. Tallis was not yet his own printer. Also in 1838 Thomas Dugdale’s England and Wales Delineated was published by Tallis in 2s. Parts, published concurrently with Street Views.
Advertisement: SPLENDIDLY COLOURED, THE ROYAL PROGRESS ; a faithful Representation of the whole of the Royal and Civic Procession, as it appeared on its way from Temple Bar to Guildhall, on the 9th of November last: The whole measuring 9 feet 6 inches in length. It may be had either as a print for framing or folded as a portable sized book. Published by J. Robins, Bride Court, Fleet-street, London, 1838.
On January 10, 1840 uniform penny postage was introduced to England. Tallis was a bookseller, what was known as a “Canvassing Publisher.” His salesmen sold books house to house. It was also known as the “Numbers Trade,” books were quite expensive when complete so were sold in illustrated parts or numbers. George Virtue was engaged in the same practice at the same time. Tallis opened agency’s in New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Boston, Cincinnati and Rochester. He met James Virtue, son of George in Rochester, NY, in 1849. On returning to England he and his bother dissolved their partnership.
By 1850 Tallis’s London publishing office was at 1 and 2 Bluecoat Building, Newgate-street. His printing works employed over 200 people at 97 and 100 St. John Street, West Smithfield. His high quality publications, especially in the printing of illustrations covered the British Isles and New York, Boston, Philadelphia, and Baltimore. In Canada his publications were published in Toronto, Montreal, Halifax, Nova Scotia and St. John, New Brunswick. Over 300 people were employed in these branches.
On 15 December 1853 Tallis took as partner Ephraim Tipton Brain and registered the London Printing and Publishing Company. Tallis transferred all his business, stock, plant and machinery to the new business. In 1857 with the support of the London Printing & Publishing Company Tallis offered to buy the Illustrated London News (1842) from Herbert Ingram for 150,000 pounds. Ingram at first accepted and then withdrew leaving Tallis furious and vengeful. Tallis and Brain registered a new paper called the Illustrated News of the World.
His board of directors supported the idea but soon had misgivings and withdrew support so Tallis rashly set out on his own. Tallis (a man who hated to see an idle press) bought a Hoe rotary printing machine from New York capable of printing 150,000 copies an hour. He installed it in a factory in Water Street off the Strand. The rival Illustrated London News was published at 198 Strand. Tallis hit back at Ingram by building his News of the World offices across the street at 199 Strand, directly facing his competitor.
On 15 January 1858 the London Printing and Publishing Company froze his finances and denied him use of the vast network of agencies he had created. He had to launch his new newspaper without advertising with his own funds on an income of 4000 pounds a year. To raise additional funds he arranged to print the Daily Telegraph on his Hoe press for 100 pounds a week.
“He hit upon the idea of giving his subscribers, as a free supplement every week, a steel-engraving of an eminent personality accompanied by a biographical memoir.” They were immensely successful with the public who had a great curiosity about what their celebrities looked like. When the public complained that engravings were damaged in the post Tallis sent yearly subscribers the complete set of engravings in a splendidly bound volume. Celebrity engravings from photographs were expensive to produce and the cost of fees and royalties landed Tallis in trouble. He eventually ended up (circa 1860-61) in 2 rooms at No. 10 Crane Court off Fleet Street, in business again as the London & Provincial Newspaper Company. In 1861 he leased the whole of no. 12, Crane Court.
1850. Tallis’s Dramatic Magazine. Periodical.
1851. Tallis’s History and Description of the Crystal Palace, 3.Volumes and Great Exhibition of 1851. Steel-engraved illustrations made from daguerreotype photographs by Richard Beard and John Edwin Mayall. At the same time W. M. Clark published The Crystal Palace and its Contents with 500 engravings in 27 weekly parts from Oct. 4, 1851- Mar. 27, 1852. (424 pages, some folding.)
Shakespeare Gallery of Engravings. Plays were illustrated with steel-engravings made from photographs of popular dramatic actors and actresses in costume for their parts. Preserving likenesses of the stage actors for posterity was more important than the Shakespeare.
Tallis’s Illustrated Life in London 2d., 2 April 1864. Theatrical paper. Later the title was changed to Tallis’s Theatrical then The Age and Sporting Pilot and finally simply The Age.
Every Day Life, 9 December 1865, penny paper. John Tallis’s last known periodical.