Tooke, Benjamin (c.1642–1716), bookseller and printer, was born in England, probably the son of the Rev. Thomas Tuke, vicar of St Olave's, though he always spelt his name Took or Tooke. In 1657 he was apprenticed to John Crooke (qv), who had recently married Tooke's sister Mary Crooke (qv). Three years later John Crooke was named king's printer in Ireland, and when he died in 1669 this office was granted to Tooke in trust for Mary and her young children. The following year Tooke was one of only two stationers among the twelve members of the guild of St Luke the Evangelist in Dublin who were granted the royal charter by Charles II. In 1671 the patent of king's printer was reissued in the name of Tooke and his nephew John Crooke, jun. (c.1657–1683) who was only a titular partner and never trained as a printer; after his early death he was succeeded by his younger brother Andrew Crooke (qv). Although Tooke continued as the nominal king's printer in Ireland until 1693, the last Irish imprint bearing his name was in 1685. He possibly partnered Robert Thornton to publish the Williamite paper Dublin Intelligence in 1690. The output during his tenure as king's printer (1669–85) was prodigious and included numerous government acts, statutes, proclamations, and sermons as well as an edition of the Book of Common Prayer (1680), Bourke's Almanack (1683–4) and Plunkett's New Almanack (1679–84). However, the bibliographer Mary Pollard (1922–2005) holds that Tooke, who continued to operate in London, took little part in running the Irish business, which was largely handled by his sister from premises in Skinner's Row.
From 1687 Tooke was treasurer of the private publishing monopoly of the Stationers' Company (called the English Stock), resided in St Martin Ludgate parish, and was discouraged from publishing on his own account. He was dismissed from this position for ‘irregularities’ in 1702 and was fortunate to obtain the position of steward of St Bartholomew's Hospital, which he held 1705–10. He died in 1716 and was survived by at least two sons.
Since his death Tooke has enjoyed a good reputation, based principally on his being thought to be the English bookseller and friend of Jonathan Swift (qv). However, a seminal article by Michael Treadwell in Author/publisher relations (ed. Myers & Harris, 1983) disputes this and shows conclusively that Swift's ‘honest Ben’ was Tooke's son. Benjamin Tooke , jun. (1671–1723), bookseller and printer, was apprenticed to the bookseller William Rogers in September 1687 and set up independently of his father in Middle Temple Gate, Fleet St., London, from about May 1695 until his death in 1723. His connection with Swift began in July 1701, when the author gave him a volume of Sir William Temple's papers and the third part of his Miscellanea, which were published in October 1701. The following year Tooke paid £50 for the third part of Temple's Letters and was almost certainly the publisher of the first edition of the Tale of a tub (1703). Treadwell concludes that virtually all of Swift's works from 1701 to 1709 were published by Tooke; but for reasons of concealment, relating to their controversial nature, many of them bore the imprint of the trade publishers John Nutt and John Morphew, who took on this responsibility in return for a fee. Swift's last publication with Tooke was the fifth revised edition of Tale of a tub (1710), which, on Tooke's advice, had foot- rather than end-notes. Thereafter John Barber became Swift's principal printer; however, relations between author and former publisher remained close and Tooke benefited from the association. In July 1711 Swift had Tooke and Barber appointed editors of the Gazette; the next year he persuaded Lord Rivers, new master of the ordnance, to name them stationers to the ordnance; and the following year he arranged for them to take over the patent of queen's printers at the expiration of Baskett's patent in 1740, although in the event Baskett bought back the reversion. Tooke acted occasionally as Swift's business agent, agreeing to be creditor to Esther Van Homrigh (qv) (‘Vanessa’) as well as making a present to the 2nd duke of Ormond (qv) on Swift's behalf in 1714. He died in England on 24 May 1723, apparently unmarried, and left a considerable estate to his younger brother, Andrew Tooke (1673–1732), who was master of Charterhouse School. His health had been poor for years; Swift wrote of him in 1716: ‘he has in his life been so splenetic that it was past a jest . . . he should ride and live in the country and leave off trade for he is rich enough’ (Williams, i, 190).