James Crossley (author)

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James Crossley (1800 – 1883) was an English author, bibliophile and literary scholar. By profession he was a lawyer.


He was born in Halifax, and moved to Manchester in 1816.[1] Some of his early essays were published in the Retrospective Review.[2]

He perpetrated a literary fraud, the forging of Fragment on Mummies, supposedly by Sir Thomas Browne, that was a highly successful hoax.[3] The bogus nature of the Fragment, given by Crossley to George Wilkin to publish, is now regarded as highly probable, but Crossley never precisely confessed to it.[4]

He set up the Chetham Society in 1843, with Thomas Corser, Francis Robert Raines and others: it was named after Humphrey Chetham and its purpose was to edit and publish historical works relating to Lancashire and Cheshire. In the following years he personally edited many of its publications:[5][6][7] including the Autobiographical tracts of John Dee (1851),[8] and the Diary of John Worthington. He served as President from 1847 until 1883.[9]

He is said to have collected 100,000 books at his residence in Chorlton on Medlock and later Stocks House, Cheetham.[10][11] He supplied the novelist William Ainsworth with historical material and ideas; he was in business with Ainsworth's father Thomas, and their friendship was lifelong.[12][13]


  1. ^ "The city and parish of Manchester : Introduction". British-history.ac.uk. Retrieved 29 October 2014. 
  2. ^ Campbell, Jane (1972) The Retrospective Review 1820-1828 and the Revival of 17th Century Poetry; p. 14.
  3. ^ Kane, Robert J. (1933) James Crossley, Sir Thomas Browne, and the Fragment on Mummies, in: "The Review of English Studies", Vol. 9, No. 35 (Jul., 1933), pp. 266-274.
  4. ^ Schwyzer, Philip (2007) Archaeologies of English Renaissance Literature; p. 152.
  5. ^ Concise Dictionary of National Biography
  6. ^ [1][dead link]
  7. ^ Levine, P. J. A. (2003) The Amateur and the Professional: Antiquarians, Historians and Archaeologists in Victorian England 1838-1886; p. 42.
  8. ^ "Appendix II". Johndee.org. Retrieved 29 October 2014. 
  9. ^ "Chetham Society: Officers and Council". Chetham Society. 2014-01-13. Retrieved 2014-01-13. 
  10. ^ [2][dead link]
  11. ^ Swindells, Thomas. Manchester Streets and Manchester Men (extract). Retrieved 2009-06-13. 
  12. ^ Mitchell, Rosemary (2000) Picturing the Past: English History in Text and Image, 1830-1870; p. 104.
  13. ^ "William Harrison Ainsworth (1805-1882) — King of the Historical Potboiler: A Brief Biography". Victoriaweb.org. Retrieved 29 October 2014. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Ellis, S. M., A Great Bibliophile: James Crossley in: Wilkie Collins, Le Fanu and others. London : Constable & Co., 1931 (reissued in 1951 by Constable).
  • Collins, Steve, An Eminent Bibliophile and Man of Letters: James Crossley of Manchester, in: "Lancashire & Cheshire Antiquarian Society Transactions"; vol. 97, 2001, pp. 137–152.
  • Collins, Stephen, James Crossley: A Manchester Man of Letters, Manchester: Chetham Society, 2012.

External links[edit]