The Gentleman's Magazine

Last updated

Front page of The Gentleman's Magazine, May 1759 The Gentleman's Magazine, May 1759.jpg
Front page of The Gentleman's Magazine, May 1759

The Gentleman's Magazine was a monthly magazine [1] founded in London, England, by Edward Cave in January 1731. [2] It ran uninterrupted for almost 200 years, until 1922. It was the first to use the term magazine (from the French magazine, meaning "storehouse") for a periodical. [3] Samuel Johnson's first regular employment as a writer was with The Gentleman's Magazine.



The original complete title was The Gentleman's Magazine: or, Trader's monthly intelligencer. Cave's innovation was to create a monthly digest of news and commentary on any topic the educated public might be interested in, from commodity prices to Latin poetry. It carried original content from a stable of regular contributors, as well as extensive quotations and extracts from other periodicals and books. Cave, who edited The Gentleman's Magazine under the pen name "Sylvanus Urban", was the first to use the term magazine (meaning "storehouse") for a periodical. Contributions to the magazine frequently took the form of letters, addressed to "Mr. Urban". The iconic illustration of St. John's Gate on the front of each issue (occasionally updated over the years) depicted Cave's home, in effect, the magazine's "office".

Before the founding of The Gentleman's Magazine, there were specialized journals, but no such wide-ranging publications (although there had been attempts, such as The Gentleman's Journal, which was edited by Peter Motteux and ran from 1692 to 1694).

Samuel Johnson's first regular employment as a writer was with The Gentleman's Magazine. During a time when parliamentary reporting was banned, Johnson regularly contributed parliamentary reports as "Debates of the Senate of Magna Lilliputia". Though they reflected the positions of the participants, the words of the debates were mostly Johnson's own. The name "Columbia", a poetic name for America coined by Johnson, first appears in a 1738 weekly publication of the debates of the British Parliament in the magazine. [4] [5]

A skilled businessman, Edward Cave developed an extensive distribution system for The Gentleman's Magazine. It was read throughout the English-speaking world and continued to flourish through the 18th century and much of the 19th century under a series of different editors and publishers. It went into decline towards the end of the 19th century and finally ceased general publication in September 1907. However, issues consisting of four pages each were printed in very small editions between late 1907 and 1922 in order to keep the title formally "in print".


Top half of Volume One, Issue One, published January 1731 Gentleman's Magazine Volume One, Number One.jpg
Top half of Volume One, Issue One, published January 1731


In addition to an index for each year of The Gentleman's Magazine, which was usually published with the December issue of the magazine, a full index was compiled by the College of Arms and typed by the Genealogical Society of Utah. [6] This 75-volume index, covering the years 1731–1850, gives the full name and an abbreviated reference to the date, event, and any other person(s) in each entry. The index is available at the Family History Library (FHL) under the call number 942 B2g Index, and is also available on microfilm (#599738–#599761) or microfiche (#6026701). In addition to the index, the FHL also has the magazine itself available in various formats. [7]

An abstract of the "chief contents of The Gentleman’s Magazine from 1731 to 1868" was published by George L. Gomme [8] in 1891. He describes it as "excerpts from the original publications containing local history and information, topographical details, and family history are presented here, organized into volumes by county". Gomme's work has been digitized and indexed by and is available online to Ancestry subscribers or at subscribing libraries.

A four-volume set of indexes was compiled by Samuel Ayscough (Assistant Librarian of the British Museum) with some assistance or later editing by John Nichols and by Gabriel Richard. The contents of these indexes are given as: [9]

Volume 2 includes an "Index of Names to the Marriages, Births, Deaths, Promotions, &c." covering 1731–1786, and volume 4 contains an "Index of Names of Persons" covering 1731–1818. The indexes are by surname only and are available online for free through Google Books:

David Dobson gleaned references to American births, marriages, and deaths from The Gentleman's Magazine and published it as American Vital Records from the Gentleman's Magazine, 1731–1868 (Baltimore, MD: Genealogical Publishing Co., 1987).

A few partial indexes to genealogical events in The Gentleman's Magazine are also available:

See also

Authors of works appearing in The Gentleman's Magazine

Artists, painters, topographers associated with The Gentleman's Magazine

Related Research Articles

Isaac Reed was an English Shakespearean editor.

Sir Herbert Croft, 5th Baronet British writer

Sir Herbert Croft, 5th Baronet, English author best known for his novel Love and Madness.

Samuel Ayscough British librarian

Samuel Ayscough (1745–1804) was a librarian and indexer, who was described as the "Prince of Index Makers".

John Duncombe was an English clergyman and writer.

Richard Polwhele was a Cornish clergyman, poet and historian of Cornwall and Devon.

Paul Henry Maty was an English librarian.

John Gough Nichols English printer and antiquary

John Gough Nichols (1806–1873) was an English printer and antiquary, the third generation in a family publishing business with strong connection to learned antiquarianism.

William Boys (1735–1803) was an English surgeon and topographer.

Samuel Boyse Irish poet

Samuel Boyse was an Irish poet and writer who worked for Sir Robert Walpole and whose religious verses in particular were prized and reprinted in his time.

Thomas Madox was a legal antiquary and historian, known for his publication and discussion of medieval records and charters; and in particular for his History of the Exchequer, tracing the administration and records of that branch of the state from the Norman Conquest to the time of Edward II. It became a standard work for the study of English medieval history. He held the office of historiographer royal from 1708 until his death.

Andrew Ducarel Antiquary

Andrew Coltée Ducarel, was an English antiquary, librarian, and archivist. He was also a lawyer practising civil law, and a member of the College of Civilians.

John Bowle (1725–1788) was an English clergyman and scholar, known today primarily for his ground-breaking, annotated edition of Cervantes's Don Quixote.

Treadway Russell Nash was an English clergyman, now known as an early historian of Worcestershire and the author of Collections for the History of Worcestershire, an important source document for Worcestershire county histories. He was a fellow of the Society of Antiquaries of London. He was buried at St Peter's, Droitwich in the family vault.

Evan Evans was a Welsh language poet, clergyman, antiquary and literary critic.

John Mitford (1781–1859) was an English clergyman and man of letters.

James Calthorpe of Ampton who was Sheriff of Suffolk, in 1656, during the Protectorate of Oliver Cromwell, by whom he was knighted at Whitehall, 10 December, in the same year.

James Hill was an English barrister and antiquary.

Craven Ord (1756–1832) was an English antiquarian. He was particularly noted for his brass rubbings.

Henry Headley (1765–1788) was an English poet and critic.

Peter Austin Nuttall was an English editor and classicist best known for dictionaries. He was born in Ormskirk, Lancashire and moved to London after completing his studies, gaining a doctorate from Aberdeen University in 1822. He was a contributor and possibly an editor of The Gentleman's Magazine between 1820 and 1837. From 1825 his editions of Latin authors were published. In 1839 he became a partner in a printing business, producing classics, educational reference books, anti-Catholic apologetics, and revised editions of older dictionaries such as Walker's and Johnson's. In 1840 he petitioned Parliament against the Copyright Bill. In 1863 Nuttall's Standard Pronouncing Dictionary of the English Language was published. Nuttall died bankrupt and was survived by five children; his wife and at least three children predeceased him. Subsequently, Frederick Warne & Co published further dictionaries under his name as late as 1973, and The Nuttall Encyclopædia in 1900.


  1. John Mark Ockerbloom (ed.). "The Online Books Pagepresents serial archive listings for The Gentleman's Magazine". Retrieved 12 May 2019.
  2. Heather A. Haveman. "Antebellum literary culture and the evolution of American magazines" (PDF). Poetics. 32. Retrieved 20 November 2015.
  3. Johnson, Samuel. "Magazine". A Dictionary of the English Language. Retrieved 31 July 2012.
  4. The Gentleman's Magazine, Vol. 8, June 1738, p. 285 Retrieved 2009-08-22
  5. Debates in Parliament, Samuel Johnson. Retrieved 2009-08-22
  6. College of Arms, Gentleman's Magazine Index, 75 vols. (Salt Lake City: Genealogical Society of Utah, 1958–60; typescript)
  7. "FamilySearch Catalog: The Gentleman's magazine". Retrieved 23 October 2017.
  8. George Laurence Gomme, ed. The Gentleman's Magazine Library 1731–1868. Cambridge: The Riverside Press, 1891
  9. Gentleman's Magazine, Midlands Historical Data web site, 2017.
  10. Boyd, Percival comp., Boyd's Marriage Index, 555 volumes, (London: Society of Genealogists, 1938–1962)
  11. Musgrave, William, comp., Musgrave's Obituaries, 6 vols. (London, Harleian Society, 1900)
  12. "Marriages of the Nobility and Gentry, 1650–1880", an article in Collectanea Genealogica, 1881–1885

Further reading

See also