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in the business of a ship-chandler, or ironmonger,
Sort ping, Mr. John Russel, minister of Poole in Dorn was setshire, was preacher at St. John's, and continued '; . so till his death in 1723. During his residence at Poole he had received many marks of friendship from the family of the Rev. Mr. John Lewis, minister of Margate, afterwards vicar of Winster in the Isle of Thanet about 40 years; an eminent divine and antiquary, well known for his many learned publications. In return for this kindness, Mr. Russel invited Mr. Lewis, who then taught grammar at Poole, whither he returned after his early removal to Bristol, to live with him at Wapping. Being himself much favoured by Abp. Teni. son, he introduced Mr. Lewis to that Prelate, which Mr. Lewis acknowledged to have laid the foundation of his preferment in the Church. Mr. Russel was a worthy Divine, and took great notice of his neighbour, Mr. John Ames, and his infant son; and when Mr. Joseph Ames commenced housekeeper, Mr. Russel frequently visited him, and gave him his advice, which Mr. Ames ever after gratefully acknowledged. He introduced him to the acquaintance of Mr. Lewis, with whom he soon formed a friendship that continued as long as Mr. Lewis lived.
Mr. Ames very early discovered a taste for English history and antiquities, which was encourager by his two friends. Some time before 1720, in attending Dr. Desaguliers' lectures, he formed an acquaintance with Mr. Peter Thompson, another native of Poole (of whom some account will be given in a future page); and with whom Mr. Ames Vol. V.
continued on terms of the most friendly intercourse till his death *.
Some time before 1730, Mr. Lewis, who had himself collected materials for such a subject, suggested to Mr. Ames the idea of writing the History of Printing in England. Mr. Ames declined it at first, because Mr. Palmer, a printer, was engaged in a similar work, and because he thought himself by no means equal to an undertaking of so much extent. But, when Mr. Palmer's book who came out, it by no means answered the expectations of Mr. Lewis or Mr. Ames, or those of the publick in general. Mr. Ames, therefore, at length consented to apply himself to the task; and, after 25 years spent in collecting and arranging his materials, in which he was largely assisted by Mr. Lewis and other learned friends, and by the libraries of Lord Oxford, Sir Hans Sloane, Mr. Anstis, and many others, published in one volume, 4to, 1749, his “Typographical Antiquities, being an Iistorical Account of Printing in England, with some Memoirs of our antient Printers, and a Register of the Books printed by them, from the Year 1471 to the Year 1600; with an Appendix concerning Printing in Scotland and Ireland to the same Time.”
What was his own opinion of this work, may be seen by his words in the Preface:
* Mr. Oldys, in his, British Librarian, published in 1737, p. 374, returns many thanks “ to Mr. Joseph Ames, member of the Society of Antiquaries, for the use “ of one antient relick of the famous Wicliffe.” This was an illuminated MS, on vellum, called “ Wiclife's Pore Caitiff.” Mr. Oldys goes on to acknowledge his obligations to Vir. Ames, whom he styles “ a worthy preserver of antiquities," and to “his ingenious friend Mr. Peter Thompson, for the use of several printed books, which are more scarce than manuscripts; particularly some, set forth by our first printer in England; and others, which will rise, among the curious, in value, as, by the depredations of accidents or: ignorance, they decrease in number.” † See before, vol. II. p. 285–31.
“I do also ingenuously confess, that, in attempting this History of Printing, I have undertaken a task much too great for my abilities, the extent of which I did not so well perceive at first; but though it is not so perfect a work as I could wish, yet, such as it is, I now submit it to the publick; and hope, when they consider in what obscurity and confusion Printing in its infancy was involved, they will acknowledge that I have at least cleared away the rubbish, and furnished materials towards a more perfect structure.” The opinions of others may be seen in the “ Nova Acta Eruditorum,” for 1754, p. 523, et seq.
The work was inscribed to Philip Lord Hardwicke, Lord High Chancellor of Great Britain. Mr. Ames was then fellow of the Royal and Antiquarian Societies, and secretary to the latter of these learned bodies. He was elected F. S. A. March 3, 1736 ; and on the resignation of Alexander Gordon, previous to his going to settle in Carolina, 1741, was appointed secretary. In 1754, the Rev. William Norris was associated with him; and on his decease became sole secretary till 1784. The Minutes of the Society in the earlier periods of it were barely outlines of the proceedings of each meeting *; for no secretary, before Mr. Norris, had an idea of giving abridgements of papers, however indispensably necessary, before the finances of the Society enabled them to print the memoirs themselves. This office gave Mr. Ames farther opportunities of gratifying his native curiosity by the communications as well as conversation of the Literati ; and these opportunities were farther enlarged by his election into the Royal Society, and the particular friendship shewn to him by Sir Hans Sloane, then president, who nominated him one of the trustees in his will. The circumstances of Mr.
* A copy of the Minutes of the Society of Antiquaries, from 1717 to 1750, in two volumes folio, was bought by Mr. Walpole, at Mr. Ames's sale, for fifteen guincas.
Ames's death are thus related by his friend Sir Peter Thompson, in a short account of him, from whence the principal parts of this life are extracted: “ After he had dined heartily with Sir Peter, Oct. 7, 1759, he went to Mr. Romelo's, in Basinghall-street, to see some curiosities, drank some coffee, and stayed there till past seven o'clock, when he and another friend, an ironmonger in St. Clement's-lane, whose name is not mentioned *, departed to their respective homes. As they passed by the Royal Exchange, Mir. Ames was seized with a violent fit of coughing, which brought on a profuse perspiration, and lasted near a quarter of an hour. When he had recovered himself, his friend asked him to come into his house in Clement's-lane, and sup with him. Mr. Ames complied with his invitation, in order to rest himself, and sat himself down on the first thing which presented itself in the shop. His friend desired him to remove into a chair in the counting-house, which he had no sooner done, than he expired without a sigh or groan. He was immediately put into a warm bed, and medical assistance called in; but without effect. He was removed to his own house the next day; and from thence to the church-yard of St. George in the East, Oct. 14, 1759, where he was deposited, at the depth of eight feet, in virgin earth, in a stone coffin, on the lid of which was the following inscription, by his friend and neighbour the Rev. Dr. Richard Flaxman:
• Depositum A
Exquirende studiosissimè addictus,
indefesso labore et diligentiâ
* Mr. Ingham Foster, an eminent collector of antiquities.
per annos viginti quinque accuratè edidit.
currente vitâ se gessit.
Over the grave was placed a ledger-stone, having on the under side the following inscription, drawn up by another friend, Mr. William Massey :
“Hic conditä jacent
qui Antiquitatibus exquirendis studiosissimè deditus
indefessó labore, parique diligentiâ, Historiam apud Britannos Typographicam
per annos viginti quinque concinnavit, annoque Domini 17.49 in vulgum edidit. Modestiâ, Probitate, et Benevolentiâ, per totum vitæ curriculum sese gessit. Tussi tandem violentâ correptus,
quâ tamen paulò post sedatâ, subitò sed placidè mortem obiit
Nonis Octobribus, A. D. 1759, suæque æt. 71. Arobarwy cle 2aasilcem. Ileb. xi. 4." And on the upper side of the lodger-stone this in English:
“ Here lie interred the mortal remains of Mr. JOSEPH AMES, F.R.S.
likewise Fellow and Secretary
to the Antiquarian Society of London, author of the History of Printing in Great Britain,
who died Oct. 7, 1759, aged 71. · He being dead, yet speaketh.”