John Overton (Biographical details)

John Overton (publisher/printer; British; Male; 1639-1640 - 1713)

Also known as

Overton, John


(1665-6) The White Horse in Giltspur Street without Newgate (1666-8) The White Horse, Little Britain, next door to Little St Bartholomew's Gate (1668-1707) The White Horse without Newgate, at the corner of Little Old Bailey near the Fountain Tavern


Print publisher. Overton was the son ofThomas Overton, a tailor in Covent Garden, and was apprenticed to Thomas Gould in the Stationers' Company in 1655 for eight years; he was freed in 1663. In 1665 he bought the shop and stock of Peter Stent, after his death that year; to do this, he must have been given a significant capital by his father. To judge from Robert Walton's jibe in his catalogue of c.1674, he did not know much about prints before this date (Overton and others are called 'intruders into that they were never brought up to'), and relied on his printer 'T.C.' (Thomas Cockerill: see Tyacke p.xii).
In 1665-6 Overton used Stent's sign and address at the White Horse in Giltspur Street without Newgate. In 1666 the Great Fire forced him to move the White Horse sign to Little Britain, next door to Little St Bartholomew's Gate. In 1668 he moved back again to the White Horse without Newgate, but no longer in Giltspur Street, but instead at the corner of Little Old Bailey near the Fountain Tavern against St Sepulchre's Church. (For the complexities of Overton's early addresses, see the discussion in Tyacke, pp.131-3, supplemented by Globe pp.218-9.) In 1677 Overton married, in a second marriage, Sara, sister of the printseller John Garrett who is known to have been a friend of his (qv). A presumably related Henry Overton was a bookseller in Pope's Head Alley. Overton issued five catalogues between 1667 and c.1672, and there is an anonymous mezzotint portrait of him (CS IV p.1699, no.78) made in 1708. He issued many mezzotints in collaboration with Edward Cooper.
John Overton retired in 1707, and sold his stock to his second son Henry who had married Sarah Baker in 1706. He died in 1713. His will, signed in 1711, shows that he, his wife, and two of their children (Henry and Sarah), were all living in the White Horse. His bequests amounted to over £1,500 - a very large sum - and included capital sums to two other sons, Philip and James, to enable them to set up in trade; a fourth son Thomas had last been heard of in America in 1702.
Later members of the family and their successors, Robert Sayer, Robert Laurie, James Whittle, Robert Holmes Laurie and R. M. Laurie (qq.v.) continued in the trade until the mid-19th century. A history of the firm from 1748 onwards is given in the entry for Robert Sayer.


Tyacke pp.130-4