Watson, John (d. 1769), bookseller and bookbinder. Nothing is known of his early life. He married (21 April 1722) in St Audoen's church, Dublin, Elizabeth (d. 1753), daughter of Peter Lawrence (d. 1709), bookseller and freeman since 1697. Three months later he petitioned for freedom of the city, which was granted on payment of a fine. He immediately went into partnership with his mother-in-law, Mary Bow Lawrence (d. 1727), who had been running her husband's business since his death in 1709, from premises on Merchant's Quay, near the Old Bridge. Watson and Lawrence produced an Almanack an Gaoidheilg in Irish and English in 1724, and on Lawrence's death in 1727 Watson ran the business solely. He concentrated on producing almanacs; his Gentleman's and Citizen's Almanack first appeared in 1727 and was then issued continuously by the Watson family for the next hundred years. His other areas of interest were bookbinding – in 1731 he charged 9s. 6d. (£0.475) for binding and gilding a manuscript of Caesar's commentaries – and correcting figures for tables of exchange. He published tables of interest and of exchange from 1727 and offered a free copy ‘to the finder of a single mistake in upwards of 100,000 figures’ (Dublin Journal, 24 June 1735). On 24 August 1734 he was sworn free of the guild and thereafter paid quarterage through to his retirement in 1767. After the death of his wife in 1753, he petitioned the house of commons on 6 November 1755 for recompense for compiling and improving the annual almanack and the tables of exchange, on the grounds that the profit was small and he had many children; the gratuity was granted on 10 March 1756. He died in Dublin in early January 1769. His son, also John Watson, had entered into partnership with him in 1765 but died two years later in December 1767, so Watson sr left his business to his sons-in-law, Thomas Stewart and Samuel Watson.
Samuel Watson (c.1739–1801), bookseller, was no blood relation to John Watson. He was the son of Francis Watson (d. 1749), saddler, and had been apprenticed in 1752 to his older brother, Thomas Watson (c.1731–1782), a bookseller with premises in Capel St. (1753–6) and Bridge St. (1758–71). In 1759 Watson began a solo practice after taking over the house and stock of a late bookseller, James Rudd in Virgil's Head, near Trinity Lane, 48 Dame St. (1759–84). After marriage (27 January 1765) to John Watson's daughter, Elizabeth, he began selling in 1768 with Thomas Stewart the Gentleman's Almanack, and they continued to sell this until 1794; from 1770 the almanack was compiled by Samuel Watson. He retired in 1789 in favour of his wife's nephew George Draper, son of John Watson's daughter Margery, but as Draper went bankrupt by November 1793, Watson was back in business the following year and continued publishing and selling works until 1798. He died in Grafton St., Dublin, on 1 January 1801.
The almanack had been compiled since 1794 by his wife's nephew, John Watson Stewart (c.1762–1822), who now took over his uncle's business. Stewart was the son of Thomas Stewart (c.1735–1801) and John Watson's daughter Mary. After his uncle's and father's deaths in the same year he was the sole proprietor of the Gentleman's Almanack. He continued publishing it from premises in 1 Church St. until his death on 10 April 1822 in Dundrum, Co. Dublin.
Interest in the Watson family lies in their long association with the bookselling profession, which began in 1697 with John Watson's father-in-law, Peter Lawrence, and continued uninterrupted until 1822 with the death of John Watson Stewart. It is also noteworthy, as Mary Pollard (1922–2005) pointed out, that the business was inherited for three generations through the female line.