Battersby, William Joseph (1794/5–1873), catholic bookseller and writer, is first mentioned in 1825, in Wilson's Dublin Directory, as a printer at 33 Winetavern Street, Dublin. He was to flourish in the 1830s, 1840s, and 1850s, a period of rapidly growing catholic consciousness in Ireland, as a bookseller, bookbinder and stationer at 5 Essex Street, and later at 10 Essex Bridge, specialising in catholic books and acting as general agent to the Catholic Book Society.
An active catholic catechist and social worker, he wrote several letters advocating the formation of a catholic book or tract society, which resulted in an invitation from a priest, William Yore (qv), to join him in promoting such a body, in mid 1824. The catholic bishops eventually agreed to sponsor a ‘Catholic Book Society for the diffusion of useful knowledge throughout Ireland’ in February 1827. Battersby became registrar and general salesman, and his house in Winetavern Street became the store for the cheap, popular books published by the society. He was the principal contributor to the Catholic Penny Magazine (15 February 1834–25 April 1835). It was the first popular Irish catholic periodical, a small-format rival to the protestant Dublin Penny Journal, started some eighteen months earlier by George Petrie (qv) and Caesar Otway (qv). Battersby's first effort was succeeded by the Irish Catholic Magazine, whose first number appeared on 2 January 1836. It was sponsored by the Catholic Society of Ireland, of which Battersby was secretary. Later, with a popular, controversial, and reckless priest, Daniel William Cahill (qv), he founded the Catholic Defence Association (1851), but its mouthpiece, the Catholic Advocate, ceased publication after four issues.
Battersby was himself the author of a large number of popular catholic works. The first, A church not without religion (1822), was a reply to a ‘charge’ by the protestant archbishop of Dublin, William Magee (qv); it was followed by Miracles defended (1823), a vindication of Prince Alexander von Hohenlohe, popularly believed to have effected miraculous cures. A firm supporter of Daniel O'Connell (qv), Battersby wrote a political tract, The repealer's annual (1833; third edition, 1837). Later writings by him of religious interest are Monasticon Hibernicum; or the complete monastical history of Ireland (1839), The conversion of the men of Oxford (1845), Life of the Rev. Dr Gentili (1848), History of the order of St Augustine in Ireland (1856) and Authentic life and acts of the Very Rev. Dr Spratt (1871). Prosographical in treatment was his The Jesuits in Dublin (1854). In imitation of Cobbett, he toured Ireland in 1840 and published anonymously in the Catholic Luminary (12 September–24 October), under the heading ‘A rural and ecclesiastical ride’, his impressions of the flourishing state of the catholic church. Battersby wrote two volumes of verse, The glories of the Great Irish Exhibition of . . . 1853 (1853) and Les Napoleons; or the present and future glories of France (1857). Beyond doubt his most substantial and lasting achievement was as the founder and compiler, in 1835, of the annual publication that became known as the Irish Catholic Directory. He continued to edit it until 1861; his name appeared as part of the title from 1846 to 1864. William Joseph Battersby died, aged seventy-eight, on 3 February 1873 in South Circular Road, Dublin. His grave, at Glasnevin, was unmarked. Nothing has been ascertained of his family.