Anderson, John (1815–1905), woollen merchant, geologist, bibliographer, and local politician, was born 8 July 1815 near Coleraine, Co. Londonderry. After moving to Belfast he entered (1840) the woollen business in Donegall St. founded by James Young in 1795. Anderson's eminence was in Belfast literary and scientific circles and as a local dignitary at Holywood, Co. Down. He published papers on geology and was treasurer of the Belfast Natural History and Philosophical Society and president of the Belfast Naturalists’ Field Club. He was a leading member of the Belfast Society for Promoting Knowledge (better known as the Linen Hall Library), acting as treasurer and (1873–1902) as secretary. His History of the Belfast Library (1888) was based largely on the minutes of that institution since its foundation in 1788. Anderson's reputation rests on his Catalogue of early Belfast printed books, 1694–1830 (1886), a pioneering and enduring work influenced by the bibliographer Henry Bradshaw (qv), based very much on the library's collection of Belfast-printed books Anderson had been forming since the 1870s, and due in some measure to assistance from another collector, Lavens Ewart. The Catalogue went into second and third editions (1887, 1890), two supplements following (1894, 1902). From 1858 Anderson lived at Holywood, where he was a prominent magistrate and, for a period of sixteen years when major municipal improvements occurred, chairman of the town commissioners. There he died (17 September 1905). He married Jane Young, in whose father's firm he was a partner, and, after her early death, Jane Jones (1822–91), an Englishwoman, who bore him two sons. The first died in infancy (1857); the second, William Jones Anderson (1858–79), was drowned in Lough Allen in a boating accident. John Anderson was a presbyterian.
Belfast News Letter, 18 Sept. 1904; Northern Whig, 19 Sept. 1905; [J. S. Crone?], ‘John Anderson, J.P., F.G.S.’, IBL, xiv (1924–5), 19–20; J. S. Crone, ‘John Anderson, J.P., F.G.S.’, The Belfast Natural History and Philosophical Society centenary volume (1924), 61; R. S. J. Clarke, Gravestone inscriptions, vol. 4: Co. Down (1969), 26; John Killen, A history of the Linen Hall Library (1990), passim (esp. portr. and p. 153); A. C. W. Merrick, Old Belfast families (1991), 6, 306