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Tegg, James (1808–1845)

by L. F. Fitzhardinge

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 2, (MUP), 1967

This is a shared entry with Samuel Augustus Tegg

James Tegg (1808-1845) and Samuel Augustus Tegg (b.1813), booksellers and publishers, were born in Cheapside, London, sons of Thomas Tegg, bookseller, and his wife Mary, née Holland. Thomas Tegg had been orphaned early and boarded out in Scotland, where he was apprenticed to a country bookseller, from whom he ran away and after a number of adventures came to London in 1796. Later he established himself in Cheapside, where he built up a very large business as a publisher of cheap reprints and as a dealer in remainders. He described himself as 'the broom that swept the booksellers' warehouses'.

James Tegg was born on 16 January 1808 and arrived in Sydney with Samuel in 1834. In January 1835 they opened as 'wholesale and retail book merchants' in George Street, where they announced that 'all orders intrusted to them will be executed with promptitude and correctness, and at London prices'. There were then three booksellers in Sydney (McGarvie, Moffitt and Evans) and a fifth (Lane) set up at about the same time.

By December Samuel had returned to England, presumably to collect stock for Van Diemen's Land. James soon launched into publishing with Tegg's Monthly Magazine (March-July 1836). This bold venture 'devoted to general literature, avoiding the stormy arenas of politics and polemics, and combining amusement with instruction' contained extracts from English magazines and contributions by local writers, whose dilatoriness in delivering copy, according to Tegg, caused its demise. The first number included the story of Fisher's ghost, and an anonymous sketch of early days on the Hawkesbury attributed in the Mitchell Library copy to Dr John Dunmore Lang. A later venture, The Literary News; A Review and Magazine of Fact and Fiction, The Arts, Sciences, & Belles Lettres, was published weekly from August 1837 to February 1838. Though short lived these optimistic ventures served to advertise their publisher and to establish a connexion in the literary world of Sydney. Other publications by Tegg included, besides his New South Wales Pocket Almanac, which appeared yearly from 1836 to 1844, such works of colonial literature as James Martin's Australian Sketch Book (1838), Legends of Australia, a novel issued in four parts (1842) and Henry Parkes's Stolen Moments (1842); curiosities like Psellus' Dialogue on the Operation of Daemons; … by Marcus Collisson (1843) and William Lee's Brandy and Salt; Being an Effectual Remedy for Most of the Diseases Which Afflict Humanity (1842); and new editions of William Hovell and Hamilton Hume's Journey of Discovery to Port Phillip, New South Wales, in 1824 and 1825 (1837); Lady Darling's Simple Rules for the Guidance of Persons in Humble Life … (1837) and John Hubert Plunkett's The Australian Magistrate (1840). His name also appears, with his brother's, in joint imprints on some of his father's publications, such as his Handbook for Emigrants (1839 and later editions).

In 1837 Tegg added printing to his activities, carrying on business as J. Tegg & Co., at the Atlas Office and Book Repository, George Street. Until the establishment of a government printer in 1840 he shared the government printing with the Herald office and others. In 1842 he disposed of this business to D. L. Welch, who later published the Atlas newspaper from this office. Tegg, however, was primarily a bookseller, regularly advertising a wide range of books, many of which were probably drawn from his father's remainder stock, and from time to time issuing catalogues, one of which, for 1842, the Colonial Observer thought comprised 'a greater amount of light and trashy reading than we like to see', but hoped that Mr Tegg of London would continue to send out a liberal supply of his cheap editions of standard works 'to improve the taste of our colony, and to form our colonial youth to vigorous thinking'. On 16 December 1836 Tegg married Eliza Rebecca Silvester of London; they had two daughters and a son. In August 1844 he sold out to W. A. Colman on account of ill health. He died on 16 May 1845, leaving an estate valued at under £100.

Samuel Augustus Tegg had accompanied his brother to Sydney in 1834, but soon returned to London, whence he arrived in Hobart Town in the Wave in December 1836. In February 1837 he married Caroline, second daughter of Gideon Lewis of Hobart. He set up as a bookseller and stationer in Elizabeth Street. In January 1839 he opened the Derwent Circulating Library and in May 1845 the Wellington Bridge Stationery Shop and Library, which at the end of that year he sold to James Walch. He had taken premises at Brisbane Street, Launceston, in November 1844, and carried on business there until he sold out in October 1847. After visiting Sydney, where he was his brother's executor, he returned to London. On leaving Tasmania he advertised that he would continue to act as agent for the Launceston business, and that 'orders for books etc, executed personally in London, [would be] delivered in V.D.L. at the published prices'.

Even more than his brother, S. A. Tegg was venturesome in encouraging local writers. Among his publications were James Knox's Poetic Trifles (1838), David Burn's Plays and Fugitive Pieces (1842), James Bonwick's Geography for the Use of Australian Youth (1845), and Nathaniel Kentish's Essay on Capital Punishment (1842) and Work in the Bush (1846).

The importance of the Teggs as booksellers lay in their connexion with the London trade. They offer the first example of an attempt to exploit the colonial market through a chain of interconnected businesses with their centre in London. As publishers both brothers made a significant contribution to Australian writing in its embryonic stage. Neither seems to have inherited the hard-headed acumen and persistence by which their father accumulated a fortune. James had a strain of optimism and enterprise, with perhaps a leaning to extreme Protestantism, and Samuel a restlessness that drove him to build up and sell out one business after another.

Select Bibliography

  • T. Tegg, Memoir of the Late Thomas Tegg (Lond, 1870)
  • Parish Registers of St Mary-le-Bow (Harleian Society), vol 44
  • newspaper indexes and manuscript catalogue under Tegg (State Library of New South Wales).

Citation details

L. F. Fitzhardinge, 'Tegg, James (1808–1845)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/tegg-james-2718/text3827, published in hardcopy 1967, accessed online 31 August 2014.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 2, (MUP), 1967

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