Charles Knight (publisher)

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Charles Knight
ca. 1865
Born15 March 1791
Died9 March 1873 (1873-03-10) (aged 81)
Addlestone, Surrey, England
OccupationPublisher, editor, author
Known forKnight's Quarterly Magazine
Penny Magazine
Penny Cyclopedia
The Results of Machinery

Charles Knight (15 March 1791 – 9 March 1873) was an English publisher, editor and author. He published and contributed to works such as The Penny Magazine , The Penny Cyclopaedia , and The English Cyclopaedia , and established the Local Government Chronicle .

<i>The Penny Magazine</i>

The Penny Magazine was an illustrated British magazine aimed at the working class, published every Saturday from 31 March 1832 to 31 October 1845. Charles Knight created it for the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge in response to Chambers's Edinburgh Journal, which started two months earlier. Sold for only a penny and illustrated with wood-engravings, it was an expensive enterprise that could only be supported by very large circulation. Though initially very successful—with a circulation of 200,000 in the first year—it proved too dry and too Whiggish to appeal to the working-class audience it needed to be financially viable. Its competitor—which included a weekly short story—grew more slowly, but lasted much longer.

The Local Government Chronicle (LGC) is a British weekly magazine for local government officers, and is published by Metropolis. The magazine was launched in 1855 by bookseller and publisher Charles Knight. It is politically independent.


Early life

The son of a bookseller and printer at Windsor, he was apprenticed to his father. On completion of his indentures he took up journalism and had an interest in several newspaper speculations, including the Windsor, Slough and Eton Express .

Windsor, Berkshire town and unparished area in the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead in Berkshire, England

Windsor is a historic market town and unparished area in the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead in Berkshire, England. It is widely known as the site of Windsor Castle, one of the official residences of the British Royal Family.

Indenture Form of legal contract

An indenture is a legal contract that reflects or covers a debt or purchase obligation. It specifically refers to two types of practices: in historical usage, an indentured servant status, and in modern usage, it is an instrument used for commercial debt or real estate transaction.

The Windsor and Eton Express was founded on August 1, 1812 by Charles Knight Snr and his son, Charles Knight Jnr. Charles Knight Snr was a local book seller and printer and edited and printed the newspaper from Church Street in Windsor. When Charles Knight Snr died the paper was passed to his son, who was unhappy with the cost of the newspaper, which was six-and-a-half pence when it began and rose to seven pence in September 1815 due to a heavy stamp duty. Charles Knight Jnr believed in a cheap press, but at the start of the Express newspapers were only ever subscribed to by the wealthy, before the abolition of stamp duty in 1855.

In 1823, in conjunction with friends he had made as publisher (1820–1821) of The Etonian, he started Knight's Quarterly Magazine, to which Winthrop Mackworth Praed, Derwent Coleridge and Thomas Macaulay contributed. It lasted for only six issues, but it made Knight's name as publisher and author, beginning a career which lasted over forty years. The periodical included an 1824 review of Frankenstein in which Percy Bysshe Shelley was attributed as the author in a comparison with his wife's second novel. One of his early publications was the diary of the naval chaplain Henry Teonge (c. 1620–1690). [1]

Winthrop Mackworth Praed British politician, poet

Winthrop Mackworth Praed —typically written as W. Mackworth Praed—was an English politician and poet.

Derwent Coleridge British writer and priest

Derwent Coleridge (1800–1883), third son of Samuel Taylor Coleridge, was a distinguished English scholar and author.

Percy Bysshe Shelley English Romantic poet

Percy Bysshe Shelley was one of the major English Romantic poets, who is regarded by some as among the finest lyric and philosophical poets in the English language, and one of the most influential. A radical in his poetry as well as in his political and social views, Shelley did not see fame during his lifetime, but recognition of his achievements in poetry grew steadily following his death. Shelley was a key member of a close circle of visionary poets and writers that included Lord Byron, John Keats, Leigh Hunt, Thomas Love Peacock and his own second wife, Mary Shelley, the author of Frankenstein.


Title page of Knight's Pictorial Shakspere, 1867 edition. The non-standard spelling of Shakespeare's name set a trend. Knight-1867.JPG
Title page of Knight's Pictorial Shakspere, 1867 edition. The non-standard spelling of Shakespeare's name set a trend.

In 1827 Knight was forced to give up publishing, and became the superintendent of the publications of the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge, for which he projected and edited The British Almanack and Companion , begun in 1828. In 1829 he resumed business on his own account with the publication of The Library of Entertaining Knowledge , writing several volumes of the series himself. In 1832 and 1833 he started The Penny Magazine and The Penny Cyclopaedia , both of which had a large circulation. The Penny Cyclopaedia, as a result of the heavy excise duty, was only completed in 1844 at a financial loss.

The Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge (SDUK), was founded in 1826, mainly at the instigation of Lord Brougham, with the object of publishing information to people who were unable to obtain formal teaching, or who preferred self-education. A Whiggish London organisation that published inexpensive texts intended to adapt scientific and similarly high-minded material for the rapidly expanding reading public, it was wound up in 1848.

Excise tax that taxes the consumption of certain goods

An excise or excise tax is any duty on manufactured goods which is levied at the moment of manufacture, rather than at sale. Excises are often associated with customs duties ; customs are levied on goods which come into existence – as taxable items – at the border, while excise is levied on goods which came into existence inland.

Besides many illustrated editions of standard works, including in 1842 an edition of the works of William Shakespeare entitled The Pictorial Shakspere, which had appeared in parts (1838–1841), Knight published a variety of illustrated works, such as Old England and The Land we Live in and The Pictorial Gallery of Arts – Useful Arts, the latter based on the Great Exhibition of 1851. He also undertook the series known as Weekly Volumes, himself contributing the first volume, a biography of William Caxton. Many famous books, Harriet Martineau's Tales, Anna Brownell Jameson's Early Italian Painters and G. H. Lewes's Biographical History of Philosophy, appeared for the first time in this series.

William Shakespeare 16th and 17th-century English playwright and poet

William Shakespeare was an English poet, playwright, and actor, widely regarded as the greatest writer in the English language and the world's greatest dramatist. He is often called England's national poet and the "Bard of Avon". His extant works, including collaborations, consist of some 39 plays, 154 sonnets, two long narrative poems, and a few other verses, some of uncertain authorship. His plays have been translated into every major living language and are performed more often than those of any other playwright.

William Caxton 15th-century English merchant, diplomat, writer and printer

William Caxton was an English merchant, diplomat, and writer. He is thought to be the first person to introduce a printing press into England, in 1476, and as a printer was the first English retailer of printed books.

Harriet Martineau English writer and sociologist

Harriet Martineau was a British social theorist and Whig writer, often cited as the first female sociologist.

In 1853 Knight became editor of The English Cyclopaedia , essentially a revision of The Penny Cyclopaedia. Knight also launched the Local Government Chronicle in 1855, and at about the same time he began his Popular History of England (8 vols., 1856–1862).


In addition to being the editor and author of Penny Magazine and Penny Cyclopedia, and other popular works, Knight wrote The Results of Machinery [2] (1831) and Knowledge is Power, which was published in 1855. [3] In 1864 he withdrew from the business of publishing, but he continued to write nearly to the close of his long life, authoring The Shadows of the Old Booksellers (1865), an autobiography under the title Passages of a Working Life during Half a Century (2 vols., 1864–1865), and an historical novel, Begg'd at Court (1867). [4]


Charles Knight died at Addlestone, Surrey on 9 March 1873. A gateway was erected in his memory at the cemetery adjacent to Bachelors Acre in Windsor, where he was buried. [5] He is considered to be the first person to propose the use of stamped newspaper wrappers in 1834, thus is attributed as their inventor. [6] [7]


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  1. The Diary of H. Teonge, Chaplain on board his Majesty's Ships Assistance, Bristol, and Royal Oak Anno 1675 to 1679 ... With biographical and historical notes. London, 1825.
  2. Knight, Charles (1831). The Results of Machinery:. Carey & Hart. p. 216. namely, cheap production and increased employment exhibited : being an address to the working-men of the United Kingdom
  3. Knight, Charles (1856). Knowledge is Power:. Boston: Gould & Lincoln. p. 503. a view of the productive forces of modern society, and the results of labour, capital, and skill
  4. Knight, Charles (1867). Begg'd at Court : a Legend of Westminster; London : Chapman & Hall; iv, 283 pages. OCLC: 767644588
  5. "Charles Knight (1791–1873)". The Royal Windsor Website. Retrieved 22 November 2012.
  6. Smyth, Eleanor C, Sir Rowland Hill the Story of a Great Reform, 1907, p189
  7. Dagnall, H, Postal Stationery Wrappers, 1993, p42