In August 1668, Charles Colbert arrived in London to become French ambassador to the Court of St James in coach with glass windows. Such ‘glass coaches’ were seen in France, but not known in England. They would become fashionable. The manufacture of plate glass took off and the Vizitelly family were major suppliers.
The name is an anglicised form of Vizzetelli, an Italian immigrant family of glassmakers. They had settled in England probably in the 1690s. With the decline of their glass business in the eighteenth century, they set up as printers and publishers. The first notable figure was James Henry Vizetelly who ran his business from no. 76 Fleet Street and issued annuals such as ‘Cruikshank’s Comic Almanack’ and the ‘Boy’s Own Book’.
His son Henry formed his own company in 1882. He published translations of Flaubert, Tolstoy, and other European authors. For publishing translations of Émile Zola, he was fined and jailed on charges of obscenity in 1889. Two of his sons made a name for themselves: Edward Henry was a war correspondent for the London Daily News and The New York Times; Francis Horace [Frank] was a lexicographer who moved to the United States in 1891. There he formed a lifetime association with the publishing house of Funk & Wagnalls. The Vizetelly Papers are held at the University of Sussex.