Frank Kidson writes (in 1900)
John Preston, the founder of the firm, was according to the directory of 1774, then established at 9, Banbury Court, Long Acre, as musical instrument maker, and possibly as music publisher, though I have as yet found no music bearing this address on the imprint. In 1776, he was at 105, Strand, near Beaufort Buildings, publishing books of Lessons for the guitar, etc. He advertises “the greatest variety of new music and musical instruments, ruled paper, etc., wholesale and retail.”
In 1778 he had removed to 98, Strand, a mistake in the directory possibly for 97, for at this latter number the firm remains from before February, 1781, till about 1822. John Preston’s business soon became an important one, and he published a great quantity of the best music of his day. In 1789, Preston, who had just taken his son Thomas into partnership, bought the whole plates and stock-in trade of Robert Bremner, and had additional premises at Exeter Change.
Between 1798 and 1801, John Preston disappears from the firm (though in some instances the old style, Preston & Son, is used), and Thomas alone remains. In 1823 Thomas Preston had left the Strand and was at 7 1, Dean Street, Soho, where he remained until after 1833. In 1837, Messrs. Coventry & Holliers have possession and are re-publishing from Preston’s old plates. Coventry & Hollier are advertising in 1848, but their names are not in the Musical Directory for 1853; Novello & Co. were large purchasers at the sale of their effects.
The Preston publications are very numerous. They include a great number of the English operas in oblong folio and the usual popular sheet music, besides a long series of Country Dances in yearly sets of twenty-four for the violin in oblong 8vo. This series started with the set for 1786 and reached down to at least 1818. The dances are numbered (with occasional mistakes) continuously, reaching at the end of the 1818 set to No. 861 ; printed on both sides of the paper. They also published Country Dances in folio and oblong 4to.
Other more important works were Bunting’s ” Ancient Irish Music,” vol. i (1796)-the original publication, freely pirated by Irish music printers. “Twelve Original Hibernian Melodies,” Miss Owenson, folio, Shakespeare’s Dramatic Songs,” W. Linley, 2 books, folio, Musica Antiqua,” J. S. Smith, 2 vols., folio. They were also the London publishers and printers of George Thomson’s 11 Scottish, Irish, and Welsh Collections.”