Rossiter Johnson

Last updated
Rossiter Johnson
CAB Johnson Rossiter.jpg
Signature CAB Johnson Rossiter signature.png

Rossiter Johnson (27 January 1840 in Rochester, New York – 1931) was a United States author and editor. He edited several important encyclopedias, dictionaries, books, and was one of the first editors to publish "pocket" editions of the classics. [1] His best known works was "Phaeton Rogers" a story of boy life in early Rochester.



Johnson received his early education in common schools, and later graduated from the University of Rochester in 1863, delivering the poem on class day. He received the degrees of Ph.D. and LL.D. from the University of Rochester.



From 1864 to 1868, he was connected with Robert Carter in editing the Rochester Democrat, a Republican newspaper, and from 1869 to 1872 was editor of the Concord, New Hampshire, Statesman. From 1873 to 1877, he was associated with Messrs. George Ripley and Charles A. Dana in editing the American Cyclopædia . In 1878, he edited the authorized Life of Farragut. From 1879 to 1880, he was associated with Sydney Howard Gay in the preparation of the last two volumes of Gay's History of the United States. In 1883 he became editor of the Annual Cyclopaedia, and from 1886 to 1888 was managing editor of Appletons' Cyclopædia of American Biography. From 1891 to 1894, he was on the editorial staff of the Standard Dictionary. For six years, he was secretary of the New York Authors Club, whose sumptuous and unique Liber Scriptorum (1893) he prepared with J. D. Champlin and G. C. Eggleston. He was the editor-in-chief of The Biographical Dictionary of America published in 1906. [2]

He devised and edited the series of Little Classics (16 vols., Boston, 1874–1875; two additional vols., 1880; 25th ed., 1887), and has also edited Works of the British Poets, with Biographical Sketches (3 vols., New York, 1876), Famous Single and Fugitive Poems (1877), Play-Day Poems (1878), Fifty Perfect Poems (with Charles A. Dana, 1882), A History of the World's Columbian Exposition held in Chicago in 1893 (4 vols., New York, 1898), World's Great Books (editor-in-chief, 50 vols., 1898–1901), Great Events by Famous Historians (20 vols., 1904), The Literature of Italy (with Dora Knowlton Ranous, 16 vols., 1906), and The Authors' Digest (1909). In 1876, he tried making abbreviated editions of some of the greater novels of the English language (4 vols., 16 mo., New York). He edited “The Literary Querist” of the Lamp (formerly the Book-Buyer).


Rossiter Johnson: The War in Europe, New York, 1914 (Cover artist not credited) Rossiter Johnson - The War in Europe, New York, 1914.jpg
Rossiter Johnson: The War in Europe, New York, 1914 (Cover artist not credited)

Johnson made numerous contributions to periodicals, among which were those to “The Whispering Gallery” department to the Overland Monthly. He also wrote:


His wife was Helen Kendrick Johnson, a writer, poet, and prominent activist opposing the women's rights movement.

His sister, Evangeline Maria Johnson, graduated from Rochester Free Academy, and in 1877 married Joseph O'Connor, a journalist and poet. She translated “Fire and Flame” (German: Feuer und Flamme) by Levin Schücking (New York, 1876), and prepared An Analytical Index to the Works of Nathaniel Hawthorne (Boston, 1882) and An Index to the Works of Shakspere (New York and London, 1887). She contributed numerous poems to periodicals, the best known of which is “Daughters of Toil.”


  1. "Rossiter Johnson Papers | RBSCP". Retrieved 2020-07-29.
  2. PD-icon.svg This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain : Johnson, Rossiter, ed. (1906). "Preface". The Biographical Dictionary of America. 1. Boston: American Biographical Society. pp. 13–14. Retrieved March 18, 2021.

Related Research Articles

Thomas Bailey Aldrich

Thomas Bailey Aldrich was an American writer, poet, critic, and editor. He is notable for his long editorship of The Atlantic Monthly, during which he published writers including Charles W. Chesnutt. He was also known for his semi-autobiographical book The Story of a Bad Boy, which established the "bad boy's book" subgenre in nineteenth-century American literature, and for his poetry.

<i>Appletons Cyclopædia of American Biography</i> Collection of biographies of notable people involved in the history of the New World

Appletons' Cyclopædia of American Biography is a six-volume collection of biographies of notable people involved in the history of the New World. Published between 1887 and 1889, its unsigned articles were widely accepted as authoritative for several decades. Later the encyclopedia became notorious for including dozens of biographies of people who had never existed. In nearly all articles about the Cyclopædia various authors have erroneously spelled the title as 'Appleton's Cyclopædia of American Biography', placing the apostrophe in the wrong place.

Richard Watson Gilder

Richard Watson Gilder was an American poet and editor.

George Parsons Lathrop

George Parsons Lathrop was an American poet, novelist, and newspaper editor. He married Nathaniel Hawthorne's daughter, Rose Hawthorne.

D. Appleton & Company Publishing company

D. Appleton & Company was an American publishing company founded by Daniel Appleton, who opened a general store which included books. He published his first book in 1831. The company's publications gradually extended over the entire field of literature. It issued the works of contemporary scientists at moderate prices, for example, Herbert Spencer, John Tyndall, Thomas Huxley, Charles Darwin, etc. Medical books formed a special department, and books in the Spanish language for the South American market were a specialty which the firm made its own. In belles lettres and American history, it had a strong list of names among its authors.

James Grant Wilson

James Grant Wilson was an American editor, author, bookseller and publisher, who founded the Chicago Record in 1857, the first literary paper in that region. During the American Civil War, he served as a colonel in the Union Army. In recognition of his service, in 1867, he was nominated and confirmed for appointment as a brevet brigadier general of volunteers to rank from March 13, 1865. He settled in New York, where he edited biographies and histories, was a public speaker, and served as president of the Society of American Authors and the New York Genealogical and Biographical Society.

Nathan Haskell Dole was an American editor, translator, and author. He attended Phillips Academy, Andover, and graduated from Harvard University in 1874. He was a writer and journalist in Philadelphia, New York, and Boston. He translated many works of Leo Tolstoy, and books of other Russians; novels of the Spaniard Armando Palacio Valdés (1886–90); a variety of works from the French and Italian.

Charles Follen Adams

Charles Follen Adams was an American poet.

Edward Abbott (priest)

Edward Abbott was an American minister, journalist, and author.

Susan Hale

Susan Hale was an American author, traveler and artist. She devoted herself entirely to the art of painting in watercolors which she studied under English, French and German masters. Hale traveled extensively, sketching and visiting the galleries of the world. She was associated with her brother, the Rev. Edward Everett Hale, in the publication of The Family Flight series, which included the several countries she had visited. She also exhibited her pictures of the White Mountains in New Hampshire, of North Carolina scenery and of foreign scenes, in New York City and Boston. She edited Life and Letters of Thomas Gold Appleton (1885), and contributed numerous articles to periodicals.

Charles Lanman

Charles Lanman was an American author, government official, artist, librarian, and explorer.

Helen Kendrick Johnson

Helen Kendrick Johnson was an American writer, poet, and prominent activist opposing the women's suffrage movement.

Robert Carter (editor) American editor, historian and author (1819–1879)

Robert Carter was an American editor, historian and author. He was involved in the formation of the Republican Party.

George Edward Ellis

George Edward Ellis was a Unitarian clergyman and historian.

William Howe Cuyler Hosmer

William Howe Cuyler Hosmer or William H. C. Hosmer was a poet from the United States.

Frederic Beecher Perkins

Frederic Beecher Perkins was an American editor, writer, and librarian. He was a member of the Beecher family, a prominent 19th-century American religious family.

James Amaziah Whitney was a United States lawyer and author.

Arthur Gilman (educator)

Arthur Gilman was a United States educator and philanthropist. He and his second wife founded the women's institution in Cambridge, Massachusetts in association with Harvard University. It eventually developed as Radcliffe College.

Dora Knowlton Ranous

Dora Knowlton Ranous was an American actress, author, editor, translator, and book reviewer. She began her literary career editing educational books and contributing to Appleton's Annual Cyclopedia and The Criterion. Ranous attained distinction as a translator of French and Italian classics, and among the books rendered into English by her, either alone or in collaboration with Dr. Rossiter Johnson, whom she assisted, are The Literature of Italy, The Immortals, a collection of French works published under the sanction of the Académie française; Guy de Maupassant's stories in fifteen volumes, and Gustave Flaubert's writings in ten volumes. She wrote two books of her own, The Diary of a Daly Debutante and Good English in Good Form. A memoir entitled A Simple Record of a Noble Life, which included some of her unpublished work, appeared in 1916.

Henry Peterson (author)

Henry Peterson was an American editor, novelist, poet, and playwright. He was also an abolitionist. For twenty years, Peterson edited The Saturday Evening Post. He was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to son of George and Jane (Evans) Peterson. His eldest brother was the publisher Robert Evans Peterson, and his cousin was the publisher Charles J. Peterson. He was a clerk in a hardware store at fourteen, and in 1839 a member of the firm of Deacon & Peterson, who became publishers of the Saturday Evening Post, with Peterson as sole editor. He was married to Sarah Webb, who edited The Lady's Friend magazine for ten years, and their son, Arthur Peterson, became assistant editor of the Post. His works include The Twin Brothers (1843); Universal Suffrage (1867); The Modern Job (1869); Pemberton, or One Hundred Years Ago (1873); Faire-Mount (1874); Confessions of a Minister (1874); Caesar, a Dramatic Study (1879); Poems (1863), and the drama Helen, or One hundred Years Ago, produced in 1876. He died in Philadelphia in 1891.