Author. He is best remembered for his work "Bartlett's Familiar Quotations" which was published in 1855. Known for his memory for quotations and trivia, "Ask John Bartlett" became a byword in the community whenever someone was stumped. His father was a descendant of the Mayflower Pilgrims Love Brewster, one of the founders of the town of Bridgewater, Massachusetts. He was reading by the age of three, finished school when he was sixteen, and went to Cambridge, Massachusetts where he worked for the University Bookstore that served Harvard University and by the age of 29 he owned the store. He started keeping a commonplace book of quotations to answer queries and in 1855 privately printed the first edition of his "Familiar Quotations," that contained entries from 169 authors. One-third of the book was quotations from the Bible and from the works of William Shakespeare, most of the balance being lines from the great English poets. In 1862 he sold the bookstore and became a paymaster in the US Navy during the Civil War. He returned to Boston in 1863 and joined the firm Little, Brown and Company, becoming its senior partner in 1878 and retired from the firm in 1889. He received an honorary degree from Harvard University in 1871 and in 1892 he was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. In addition to work on quotations (he oversaw nine editions of his book), he wrote on fishing and chess, and compiled a massive concordance of playwright William Shakespeare, published in 1894, that is still the standard work of its kind. He died at his home at the age of 85. His "Familiar Quotations," now in its 17th edition, is still published today.
Bio by: William Bjornstad
Hannah Staniford Willard Bartlett