Joseph Moxon (8 August 1627 - February 1691), Hydrographer to Charles II, was an English printer of mathematical books and maps, a maker of globes and mathematical instruments, and mathematical lexicographer. He produced the first English language dictionary devoted to mathematics. In November 1678 he became the first tradesman to be elected as a Fellow of the Royal Society.
Between the ages of around 9 and 11, Moxon accompanied his father, James Moxon, to Delft and Rotterdam where he was printing English bibles. It was a this time that Moxon learned the basics of printing. After the First English Civil War the family returned to London and Moxon and his older brother James started a printing business which specialized in the publication of puritan texts, with the notable exception of A Book of Drawing, Limning, Washing or Colouring of Mapps and Prints of 1647 which was produced for Thomas Jenner, a seller of maps.
In 1652 Moxon visited Amsterdam and commissioned the engraving of globe-printing plates, and by the end of the year was selling large celestial and terrestrial globes in a new business venture. He specialized in the printing of maps and charts, and in the production of globes, and mathematical instruments made of paper.
In January 1662 he was appointed hydrographer to the King, despite his puritan background.
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Joseph Moxon – a few additional details
Moxon’s first publication was “A Tutor to Astronomy and Geography; or, An Easie and Speedy way to Understand the Use of both the Globes, Celestial and Terrestrial”. (1654) a translation from William Blaeu. Later he published under his own name “Astronomie and Geographie: Or an Easie and speedy way to Know the Use of both the Globes, Celestial and Terrestrial. In Six books” (1659)
He is, however best known for his “Mechanick Exercises,” one of the most famous works on typography an for forty years the first manual of printing in any language covering absolutely all that was known about the subjects at the end of the C 17th., and first put into writing a knowledge that was wholly traditional. “He did his work so well that it was appropriated by compilers of technical encyclopedias and printers’ grammars; so that parts of Moxon, disguised under other names, remained a standard work until the great part of printing had ceased to be a ‘handy work’ and his doctrine had a less obvious application to it.”
There is a full biography printed in the introduction to the modern standard edition:-
Mechanick Exercises on the Whole Art of Printing (1683 – 4) Edited by Herbert Davis & Harry Carter, Oxford: OUP, 1962 (2nd . ed.) (rpr. NY: Dover, 1978) pp. xix -lv
Joseph Moxon, hydrographer to Charles II. was an excellent practical mathematician. He composed, translated, and published, a great variety of books relative to the sciences. He particularly excelled in geography, and was a great improver of maps, spheres, and globes, the last of which he carried to a higher degree of perfection, than any Englishman had done before him. Besides his treatises of geography, astronomy, navigation, &c. he published a book of "Mechanick Exercises, or the Doctrines of Handy-Works," &c. This book, which is in two volumes quarto, is uncommon. Dr. Johnson often quotes him in his Dictionary, as the best authority for the common terms of mechanic arts. There is a pack of astronomical playing cards invented by him, "teaching any ordinary capacity, by them, to be acquainted with all the stars in heaven, to know their place, colour, nature, bigness: as also the poetical reasons for every constellation."— He was living at the sign of the Atlas, in Warwick-Lane, 1692.
---A Biographical History of England. J. Granger, 1775.
Chart showing the number of references in each month of the diary’s entries.