John Bartlett (June 14, 1820-December 3, 1905), US author and publisher

Bartlett is primarily remembered as the compiler of Bartlett's Familiar Quotations. First published in 1855, it has been in print ever since. It is currently in its 16th edition and is the foremost reference work of its type.

Bartlett was the son and grandson of sea captains. At age 16, Bartlett began working at the Harvard University bookstore. By 1849, he was the owner. He became a bibliophile and developed such a reputation as a source of information among those who frequented the store that the phrase “Ask John Bartlett” was popular on campus. Seeking to help his customers and live up to his reputation, he kept a commonplace book of quotes which was the genesis of his Familiar Quotations: Being an Attempt to Trace to Their Source Passages and Phrases in Common Use. He would go on to publish nine editions of his collection during his life.

When the Civil War started, he sold the bookstore and briefly served as a volunteer paymaster for the Union Navy. His book of quotations had attracted the attention of Little, Brown and Company and he joined the publishing firm in 1863, becoming a senior partner in 1878.

Besides literature, Bartlett’s passions included chess, whist, and angling. While at Little, Brown, he penned and compiled a number of books on those topics: New Method of Chess Notation (1857), The Shakespeare Phrase Book (1882), Catalogue of Books on Angling, including Ichthyology, Pisciculture, Etc. (1882), and Complete Concordance to Shakespeare's Dramatic Works and Poems (1894).

Among his friends was poet James Russell Lowell, who commemorated him and his passion for fishing in the poem “To John Bartlett, Who Had Sent Me a Seven Pound Trout

Gale Contemporary Authors Online database
Gale Dictionary of American Biography database
Introduction, Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations, 16th edition