George Woodfall - (1767-1844) printer, son of Henry Sampson Woodfall (q.v.), and was his father’s partner in the printing business till December 1793, when the father retired. George afterwards removed to Angel Court, Snow Hill, where he carried n his father’s business by himself till 1840, when his eldest son, Henry Dick Woodfall, who was the fifth eminent printer of that name, became his partner. George Woodfall was esteemed as a typographer. A copy of the Bible from his press in 1804 is said to contain but one error. Dibdin styles him ‘the laborious and high-spirited typographical artist to whom we are indebted for the quarto reprints of our “Old Chronicles” and for the reprint of “Hakluyt’s Voyages” (Bibliographical Decameron, ii. 406). When Queen Elizabeth dined at Guildhall on 9th November, 1837, being five months after her accession, she was presented with a quarto volume, ‘beautifully printed and illustrated by George Woodfall’ containing the words of the music then sung. Two copies only were produced, the second being deposited among the city archives. (TIMPERLEY, Encyclopaedia of Printing, p. 952). Woodfall’s eminence as a printer was recognised by his brethren; he was usually chosen chairman at the meetings of London master
printers. In 1812 he was elected a stock-keeper of the Stationers’ Company; in 1825 member of the court of assistants, and master of the company in 1833-4 He was re-elected stock-keeper in 1836, and in 1841 he was elected master for the second time. In 1823 he became a fellow of the Society of Antiquaries, and in 1824 of the Royal Society of Literature. He served on the general committee of the Royal Literary Fund from 1820 to 1828, and, on his resignation, was elected  to the council, an office which he filled till his death, with the exception of the period between March 1835 and March 1838, when he was treasurer to the corporation. He was a commissioner for the lieutenancy of the City of London.

When König, the inventor of the steam printing-press, visited London in the autumn of 1806 in quest of the financial help which had been denied to him in Saxony, Austria, and Russia, he found a sympathetic listener in Thomas Bensley [q.v.], who requested his fellow printers, Woodfall and Taylor, to join him in examining König’s invention. Woodfall pronounced against it, little dreaming that its adoption in his own office would afterwards increase to an extraordinary extent the amount of printing executed within a given time. The work by which Woodfall is best known now, and upon which he prided himself, was an edition of “Junius Letters”, printed in 3 Vols in 1812. Several years were occupied in compiling the work, for which John Mason Good [q.v.] wrote a preliminary essay and notes. John Taylor (1757-1832) [q.v.] went through the files of the ‘Public Advertiser’ at Woodfall’s request, ‘in order to see if there were any works of Junius previous to his signature under that name’ (TAYLOR , Records of my Life, ii. 254). One hundred and forty letters were marked, and of these 113 were printed as being ‘by the same writer under other signatures. A few of them were
authentic; but there was no other evidence for the others than the personal opinion of Woodfall and Taylor (Woodfall MSS. In British Museum). Woodfall has left it on record, on his father’s authority, that Junius wrote the ‘Letters’ signed ‘Lucius’, ‘Brutus’, and ‘Atticus’, and such testimony commands the same respect as his father’s affirmation that, to his personal knowledge. ‘Francis did not write a line of Junius’.

Among Woodfall’s manuscripts in the British Museum is a detailed review of John Jaques’s ‘Junius and his Works’, in which Woodfall combats the notion that Francis either did or could have written the letters with that signature. Many of Junius’s letters in manuscript, which his father had preserved, passed to Woodfall, who printed the unpublished ones and added facsimiles of the handwriting. Woodfall left these papers to his son Henry D. Woodfall, from whom they passed through Joseph Parkes [q.v.], to the British Museum.  In the notes of Woodfall’s career, written by James Fenton, who was long a corrector for the firm now represented by Woodfall & Kinder, it is written: ‘Never, even to his son Henry D. Woodfall, did he ever divulge the author of Junius’s “Letters”; he said so in his will (which I saw at Doctors’ Common myself, J. Fenton)’. The only reference to Junius in the will, which is now in Somerset House, is the following: ‘And I also give to him [H. D. Woodfall] all my manuscript correspondence and letters, including those from the author Junius’.

George Woodfall died on 22nd December, 1844 at his house in Dean’s Yard , Westminster.

 The above article was extracted from Dictionary of National Biography, p. 860-861, {Annual Reg. lxxxvi. 291; Timperley’s Encyclopaedia of Printing; Taylor’s Records of my Life; Literary Gazette, 1844; and information supplied by Messrs. Woodfall & Kinder].

 

The following is an edited version of the Obituary Notice in ‘Gentleman’s Magazine’ February, 1845 p. 206-207

George Woodfall, Esq. F.S.A.

December 26th. In Deans-yard, Westminster, in his 78th year, George Woodfall, Esq. F.S.A.

. . . . . His talents as a printer are pleasantly noticed by Dr. Dibdin, in his “Bibliographical Decameron” . “Mr Woodfall is the laborious and spirited typographical artist to whom we are indebted for the quarto reprints of our Old Chronicles, and for the reprints of Hakluyt’s Voyages; of which latter there were 50 copies executed upon larger paper—all, now, gone astray, and reposing, within their Russia-coated surtouts, upon the shelves of the curious. I could swell the list of specimens of Mr. Woodfall’s ‘handyworks;’ but there is a gaieté-de-cæur about this worthy character, that makes us think ‘no calling’ is like the typographical one. May he long enjoy that sunshine of good opinion, among the most respectable of society, which has a prodigious influence in softening down the rubs and rebuffs of human morality. His name is not new in public estimation; and it is quite pleasant to see how becomingly the mantle of the father sits upon the shoulders of the son.”

In private life he was much endeared to a very large circle of friends; and his character could not be better summed up than in the words inscribed on his father’s tomb, which says, “He was a gentleman of a liberal mind and education; the associate and patron of many distinguished literary characters; and exemplary in his discharge of his duty of husband, father, and friend.”

 

Below is a copy of the Register of the Westminster School 1852 Edition