Hardy, Philip Dixon (1794–1875), printer, bookseller, and author, was probably born in Dublin of protestant parents; nothing else is known of his origins. In 1818 a Philip Dixon Hardy was a wine merchant at 20 Great Longford St.; this was probably either the subject or his father. By the mid 1820s Dixon was an established printer at 3 Cecilia St., with a private residence at 37 St Stephen's Green North, and had already published a number of books of poetry: Wellington (1814); Bertha, a tale of Erin in six cantos (1824); and The pleasures of piety (1827). During the 1830s he became involved with editing and printing periodicals. In 1831 he was asked to take over the editorship of the National Magazine, founded the previous year as the Dublin Literary Gazette. The former editor, Charles Lever (qv) had printed an article in praise of Shelley, which was felt to be subversive, and Hardy was seen as more orthodox. He edited the paper for less than eighteen months.
In August 1833 he announced that another paper, the Dublin Penny Journal (DPJ), had ‘fallen into his hands rather unexpectedly’ (DPJ, 3 Aug. 1833). The DPJ, started by Caesar Otway (qv) and edited by George Petrie (qv) (1832–3), was a key Irish publication. It disavowed politics but proclaimed Ireland's distinct cultural identity, and is generally seen as an important forerunner to the Nation. Its early contributors included William Carleton (qv), James Clarence Mangan (qv), and John O'Donovan (qv), and it had quickly achieved a characteristic style and wide circulation. Hardy was not only editor, but also proprietor and printer, and ran the paper more professionally than Petrie – the steam press was introduced and distribution was improved – but it lost some of its edge. Hardy had neither Petrie's scholarship nor his literary connections, and the paper's distinctive national focus was diluted with more general information. Mangan, for instance, wrote no more for the magazine, though O'Donovan continued to contribute. One of Hardy's innovations was an obsession with the printing press, which he loved to describe and illustrate.
Samuel Ferguson (qv) mounted a furious attack on Hardy's editorship in the Dublin University Magazine in 1840, lampooning his ‘uneasy egotism and awkward jocularity’ (DUM, xv, 126) and blaming him for introducing stage-Irish poems to a once erudite publication. Hardy's reputation has never recovered from this attack; Barbara Hayley, for example, in 300 years of Irish periodicals (1987) wrote that he turned the DPJ into ‘a cheap and snippety ragbag of extracts’ (Hayley, 38). However, under Hardy circulation did reach a high of 40,000 – a staggering figure compared with the Dublin University Magazine's top figure of 4,000.
Hardy gave up the DPJ in 1836, apparently because of ill health, and it ceased circulation. He continued as publisher and bookseller and was forced after September 1836 to comply with the rules of the new Irish typographical union, which restricted his apprentices to four. He complained to a parliamentary committee that he had encountered so many trade union restrictions that he was disheartened and was taking on less work. Nevertheless he was successful enough to move into a larger premises in Upper Sackville St., and to change residence to Richmond Place North. Among his publications was the best-selling Facts from Gweedore (1846), by Lord George Hill (qv), about Hill's modernising programme in Donegal. Hardy continued to write himself; most notable was Legends, tales and stories of Ireland (1837), which was among the first books – after the seminal work by Thomas Crofton Croker (qv) – to collect folk tales and bring them to a wider audience. Otherwise he concentrated on religious tracts, including The philosophy of Christianity (1847), Popery in Ireland in 1846–47 (1847), and The Maynooth grant considered religiously, morally and politically (1853). Around Dublin he was known for his evangelical zeal, his active business habits, and his small size.
After retiring in 1860, he moved at some stage to 2 Frankfort Place, Upper Rathmines, where he died 1 January 1875. He married (a. 1826) Marianne Hall; they had several children. Two of his sons went into partnership with him – one of them, also Philip Dixon Hardy, graduated from TCD in 1847. A daughter, Eliza Jane, married the Rev. William Henderson (1826–68) of the Second Armagh Presbyterian Church.