Newspaper publisher Giovanni Antonio Galignani was born in 1757 in Palazzolo, near Brescia. His name was probably derived from the village of Gallignano, near Cremona. Printing ran in the family history (Simone Galignani printed a Latin grammar in Venice in 1520). Giovanni may have been a courtier in his younger days. By 1793 he had settled in Paris where he taught Italian, German, and English.
Two years later he moved to London. Together with his wife Anne Parsons, the daughter of an English printer, he ran a (linguistic) tea room for Anglo-Italian conversation. On 20 January 1795 he published a prospectus for ‘The New Lyceum of Arts, Sciences, and Languages, held at the Assembly Rooms, Hanover Square’. This initiative led in 1796 to the publication of Grammar and Exercises in Twenty-Four Lectures on the Italian Language (a second enlarged edition of this work was issued by Antonio Montucci in 1806).
His sons John Anthony and William were born in London. Returning to Paris in 1799, he and his wife established a foreign bookshop with reading cabinet and a circulating library (the oldest English language bookstore on the Continent). In 1801 they started a monthly Repertory of English Literature. On the fall of Napoleon in 1814 the couple founded Galignani’s Messenger. A tri-weekly publication at first, it soon became a daily paper that circulated among English residents all over Europe. Giovanni died in 1821.
His sons continued the business (Anthony kept his British nationality; William became a naturalised Frenchman). They created an establishment at no. 18 Rue Vivienne (from 1855: Rue de Rivoli) which served as a ‘club’ for English residents with a reading-room containing British and continental newspapers and many thousands of books. To this day, Galignani remains a haven for booklovers.