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James Sprent Virtue

James Sprent Virtue (1829–1892) was a British publisher. He was born at 26 Ivy Lane, Paternoster Row, London, EC on 18 May, 1829. His father, George Virtue, was the founder in London of a publishing business the main feature of which was the production of illustrated works.

Early years

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. J.S. returned to England in 1855, when his father retired from active business and succeeded his father.

Mid career

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. 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. His sister, Frances, was married to the British essayist and historian James Augustus Cotter Morison.

J.S. married Miss J. E. Shirreff in 1867. About this time, he began publishing Saint Pauls Magazine, but sold it around 1869.

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

  • 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

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.


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