William Longman was the third son of the outstanding publisher of the time, Thomas Norton Longman III, and he was the great-great-nephew of another Thomas Longman, the founder of the Longman publishing house in the early 18th century. William was born on the 9th February 1813, and went to school in Totteridge, north London. At the age of 16 he joined the family publishing firm, of which his father was now head, in Paternoster Row, London, , and worked in all the different aspects of the business. In 1839 he became a partner in the firm and attached himself to the literary and publishing departments of the business.
The dynasty has its own coat of arms:
William’s interests were wide-ranging and included physical exercise, literature, travel, foreign languages and the natural sciences, and entomology in particular. He explored the Alps extensively and was one of the earliest members of the Alpine Club, which was established in 1857, and of which he eventually became President between 1871 and 1874. He promoted the publishing of the club’s activities and excursions in ‘Peaks, Passes and Glaciers’ in 1859-62. He also wrote and published a number of other mountaineering volumes, including ‘Suggestions for the Exploration of Iceland’ (1861), ‘Six Weeks in North and South Tyrol’ (1872) and ‘Modern Mountaineering and the History of the Alpine Club’ (1878). Wiliam Longman’s other published works include ‘History of the Life and Times of Edward the Third’ (1863), ‘A History of the Three Cathedrals dedicated to St Paul in London’ (1873) and various lectures on the history of England. He was heavily involved in the movement to complete and decorate St. Paul’s Cathedral, which was close to his offices in Paternoster Row, acting as chairman of the finance committee administering the funds raised for this work.
William Longman continued his father’s success by acquiring other publishing businesses, and in so doing secured the rights to T.B. Macauley’s prestigious work, the ‘History of England’. This was the most famous publishing coup of the day, enabling William Longman to pay Macauley the sum of £20,000, – then the most famous cheque issued in the history of publishing. William Longman’s last great publishing coup was successfully to negotiate the rights to the first two novels of Anthony Trollope’s Barchester Chronicles. He was noted for his courtesy to men of letters and to his brethren of ‘the trade’.
In 1843 William Longman married Emma Pratt Barlow, who was the sister of the son-in-law of John Dickinson, of Dickinson’s paper business in Apsley. William and Emma had nine children: three boys and six girls. Unfortunately, their eldest son, Frederick, was crippled in a riding accident while at university. William Longman’s love of the countryside led him to spend as much time as he could outside of London, moving first to Chorleywood and then, around 1860, to Ashlyns in Berkhamsted, although still retaining their residence in Hyde Park Square, London. William became involved in the affairs of the local community, and at one point William joined eminent ex-Berkhamsted resident Augustus Smith MP in successfully resisting the attempt by Lord Brownlow of to enclose Berkhamsted Common. Longman was an influential local magistrate, and was also at one time involved in raising funds for the creation of a memorial to the poet William Cowper, another ex-resident of Berkhamsted. As a notable local family, their activities were regularly covered in the local press. One such article in the Bucks Herald, in October 1874, gives an account of the wedding of the Longmans’ second daughter, Emmiline:
‘A fashionable wedding was celebrated, the occasion being the marriage of the Rev. Arthur Puller to Miss Emmiline, second daughter of Mr William Longman, of Ashlyns Hall, Berkhampstead. The bride was accompanied by her father, and wore a white satin dress, trimmed with wreaths of orange blossoms, and tulle veil. The bridesmaids were Miss Puller, Miss Eleanor Austen, Miss E Longman, and the bride’s four sisters. They were attired in white silk dresses, trimmed with white muslin, puffed sleaves, and Turkish red sashes and Charlotte Corday caps, trimmed with red bows and jassamine sprigs. The wedding presents were about 120 in number, and very costly, and as they were spread out int he billiard-room, presented a rich display. During the afternoon the happy pair started for the West of England, via Amersham, on their wedding tour.’ Bucks Herald, October 1874
Apart from William’s marriage to Emma Longman, there are several other significant connections between the Longman family and the family of John Dickinson, of paper-making renown. One of William and Emma’s sons, Charles James, married Harriet Evans, one of John Dickinson’s granddaughters, and William’s nephew, Thomas Norton Longman V married another of Dickinson’s granddaughters, Florence Ann Pratt Barlow. But the links between the two families go back much further than that. In 1809 William’s uncle, George Longman, became a partner in John Dickinson’s paper business. John Dickinson was a great inventor-pioneer-entrepreneur but he needed the contacts and financial backing of the Longman family to make a commercial success of the world’s first paper machines. When George died in 1822 he bequeathed his share in the partnership to his nephew, Charles Longman, who was brother to William (and who in 1856 built and lived in Shendish Manor). The ownership connection ended around 1895 when the paper company went public but the family connections continued and so did trade: the Dickinson mills remained a major supplier to Longman’s until 1980 when their Croxley Mill closed. 
William Longman died at Ashlyns in 1877, after a 12-month illness. His funeral was well-attended and reported in the press around the country. He was succeeded by two of his sons, CJ and HH Longman.
In the north aisle of St. Peter’s church in Berkhamsted can be found a memorial to William in the form of the Longman Window, created by the Victorian stained glass artists Heaton and Butler. Its theme is based on Holman Hunt’s painting ‘The Light of the World’:
The inscription below it reads: “To the Glory of God and In Loving Memory of William Longman who died at Ashlyns August 13th 1877”:
 Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 34
‘ Berkhamsted: An Illustrated History’ by Scott Hastie
 Courtesy of Apsley Paper Trail archives