Ray, Joseph (d. 1709), printer, bookseller, newspaper publisher, and ‘deputy king's printer’, was son of Giles Ray, of London, woodmonger; nothing is known of his mother. Serving his apprenticeship under his kinsman John North, bookseller, Ray was made free of the London Stationers’ Company (July 1675) and arrived in Dublin in 1676 or 1677. Sworn free of the Dublin Stationers’ Guild of St Luke (1677), he acted as North's agent in London (1680), returned to Dublin, and bought a printing press.
Ray infringed the patent rights of the ‘king's printer in Ireland’, a title held jointly by Benjamin Tooke (qv) and John Crooke (qv) (d. 1683), who petitioned the lord lieutenant against him in December 1680. Ray retorted that the existing patent violated the rights of the Stationers’ Company of London, and moreover that the granting of the patent was never intended to constitute the creation of a monopoly. It is unclear how the authorities adjudicated the dispute, though some compromise must have been reached as Ray's output continued through the year. Ray's ending of the king's printer's monopoly ‘was of immense importance to the Dublin book trade, resulting as it did in freedom to expand to match the growth of population of the 18th century’ (Pollard, Dictionary (2000), 482). Made a freeman of the city (January 1681) and appointed the first printer to Dublin city (1681–1709), he also seems to have served as deputy king's stationer (1705–9). Appointed printer to the Dublin Philosophical Society (c.1685), and also undertaking work for TCD and the commissioners of revenue, he commissioned and used a coat of arms for each of these appointments.
As a new printer's patent was being drawn up in April 1685, Ray challenged the proposed continuance of restrictions and sought the backing of the guild, which agreed to finance and lead the challenge, but to no avail. Ray published on 25 July 1685 the first ‘modern’ Irish newspaper, the News-Letter, which ran until February the following year. He also published the Dublin Intelligence from July 1702.
During 1688 anglican, catholic, and quaker pamphlets without imprints appeared from Ray's press; he seems to have been a member of the Society of Friends but parted company with them in 1701 for no known reason. Ray had printed William Stockdale's Great cry of oppression; or, Sufferings of the quakers in Ireland (1683). On occasion Ray printed polemics deemed offensive by the government, who suspected him of printing A narrative of the settlement and sale of Ireland (Dublin, 1685) by Nicholas French (qv), but never found any proof. He was briefly imprisoned by the house of commons (October 1698) for printing the unsigned and seditious Injured protestant vindicated. Eventually admitting culpability, he was released in November accepting his duty to answer for libel, though no suit was ever brought against him.
Ray served two terms as one of the guild's representatives on the common council of the city (1697–1700, 1700–03). In 1704, having served as warden twice in the past (1685–6, 1693–4), Ray served out the term (July–October) of the master of the guild, Eliphal Dobson, who refused to take the sacramental test as a dissenter. When North died (October 1697) Ray was given, and took, first refusal on the sale of his shop and stock, moving into his premises in Skinners' Row in early 1698. From here Ray printed in April 1698 the first edition of the Case of Ireland's being bound by acts of parliament in England stated, by William Molyneux (qv). Ray's premises were initially in College Green (1681–c.1696), then at the Three Naggs Head in Essex St., next door to the Custom House (1693–7) and in Skinners' Row, close to the Tholsel (1698–1709).
He died in early 1709, leaving his business to his wife Elizabeth Ray (d. 1713/14) and their eldest son John, and had requested that the city transfer the post of city printer to John, to be held in his mother's trust, which was granted in May. Elizabeth continued the printing business, though John's name alone appeared on their imprints until his death in 1712, when Elizabeth assumed sole control. She sold prayer books and Bibles to TCD, and in 1713 reissued William Penn's (qv) Treatise of oaths, containing reasons why the quakers refuse to swear, demonstrating that the family remained at least sympathetic to the quaker movement. Before her death in late 1713 or early 1714 she petitioned the city for payment due to her, which was later paid to her executors. She left the now considerable family business to Samuel Fairbrother (qv), who more than likely had served his apprenticeship with the Ray family, having acted as Elizabeth's foreman. She also left £1,200 among her four daughters, one of whom, Sarah (qv), married the bookseller John Hyde in 1714.