James Sprent Virtue

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James Sprent Virtue (18 May 1829 – 29 March 1892) was a British publisher.

Early years[edit]

Born at 26 Ivy Lane, Paternoster Row, London, EC, his father, George Virtue, was the founder in London of a publishing business the main feature of which was the production of illustrated works. At age 14, J.S. apprenticed to his father, and, in 1848, at age 19, was sent to the New York publishing branch to expand the United States and Canadian market for Virtue books. He travelled widely through the United States and Canada on business. He returned to England in 1850 and was admitted a liveryman to the Stationers' Company, then went back to the New York City branch and became the branch head. By 1852, he expanded the business to include 15 branches in major cities of eastern United States and Canada.[1] J.S. returned to England in 1855, when his father retired from active business and succeeded his father.

Mid career[edit]

As proprietor of The Art Journal, J.S. embarked upon the illustrations of the great galleries: the Royal, the Sheepshanks, the Vernon, and the Turner, making it famous. Among other works published by the firm were illustrated editions of the Holy Bible, 1861–5, three volumes, and Tomlinson's Cyclopaedia of Useful Arts, 1854.

In 1862, in conjunction with his older brother, George Henry Virtue, F.S.A., Esq. he organised another business at 1 Amen Corner, under the name of Virtue Brothers & Company. In 1865, his younger brother, William Alexander Virtue, became a partner in the family's City Road and Ivy Lane businesses. The brothers were also proprietors of Arthur Hall, Virtue & Co. which published all four of William H. Bartlett's Guelph collection books.[2]

J.S. sold some of the business after George Henry's death on July 21, 1866. William went to the United States and took over leadership of the family's American branch, until his death in 1875.[3] His sister, Frances, was married to the British essayist and historian James Augustus Cotter Morison.[4]


J.S. married Miss J. E. Shirreff in 1867. About this time, he began publishing St Paul's Magazine, but sold it around 1869.[6]

In 1871, Samuel Spalding was admitted a partner in the business at 26 Ivy Lane, 294 City Road, and 31 Farringdon Street, and in 1874 Frederic Richard Daldy, of the firm of Bell & Daldy, was also taken into the house. The business was conducted much upon the old lines, new and improved editions of illustrated works being issued, including Charles Knight's Shakespeare (1871), and Picturesque Palestine (1880).

Publishing houses[edit]

  • James S. Virtue
  • J.S. Virtue & Co Ltd
  • Virtue and Co.
  • Virtue Brothers & Co.
  • Virtue, Emmins & Co
  • Virtue, Spalding
  • Virtue, Spalding, and Daldy
  • Virtue & (John C.) Yorston

Later years[edit]

J.S. was one of the founders of the London Rowing Club, and for many years took an active part in the management. For several seasons he gave an annual prize of a sculling boat to be competed for by the scullers. He died at 3 Prince's Mansions, Victoria Street, London, on 29 March 1892, and was buried at Walton-on-Thames on 2 April.


  1. ^ "Original Drawings by W.H. Bartlett". lib.uoguelph.ca. Retrieved 2008-03-05. 
  2. ^ "Original Drawings by W.H. Bartlett, Introduction". lib.uoguelph.ca. Archived from the original on 2010-10-03. Retrieved 2008-03-04. 
  3. ^ Jacobi, C. T., Pennell, J., & Jacobi, C. T. (1892). Some notes on books and printing: a guide for authors London: Chiswick Press, C. Whittingham; et al. (1892). Some notes on books and printing: a guide for authors and others. Chiswick Press, C. Whittingham and Co. p. 3. OCLC 3680682. 
  4. ^ "MORRISON/GILMOUR BIOS". gosc.sl.bizhat.com. Retrieved 2008-03-05. 
  5. ^ "The art journal for 1869. New series.". London: J.S. Virtue & Co. January 1869: 25. OCLC 54759600. 
  6. ^ Srebrnik, Pataricia Thomas (December 1982). "Trollope, James Virtue, and Saint Pauls Magazine". Nineteenth-Century Fiction. University of California Press. 37 (3): 443–463. ISSN 0029-0564. JSTOR 3044662. OCLC 42646614. doi:10.1525/ncl.1982.37.3.99p03277. 

 This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain"Virtue, James Sprent". Dictionary of National Biography. London: Smith, Elder & Co. 1885–1900.