Frederick Standridge Ellis was the sixth son of Joseph Ellis, a Richmond hotel-keeper. He married Caroline Augusta Flora Moates in 1860, daughter of William Moates of Epsom, and they had two sons and a daughter, who, with his wife, survived him.
Frederick Ellis was an author, publisher and book-seller. After training in publishing houses from the age of 16, in 1860 he went into business for himself at 33 King Street, Covent Garden. In 1871 he went into partnership with G. M. Green (1841-1872). Also in this year, he published Whistler's A Series of Sixteen Etchings of Scenes on the Thames, 1871 (the 'Thames Set') (K.38-44, 46, 52, 66, 68, 71, 74-76, 95) (excat 4). After Green's death, Ellis took premises at 29 New Bond Street and carried on a large and successful business, chiefly in old books and MSS. He was official buyer for the British Museum for many years and published himself on a limited scale. He brought out the works of William Morris and Dante Gabriel Rossetti, with whom he formed close friendships. A. C. Swinburne had introduced Ellis to Morris in 1864, and he was a great supporter of the Kelmscott press. They remained close to the end of Morris's life, and Ellis was one of the poet's executors.
Among other friends were Sir Edward Burne-Jones, and John Ruskin, whose Stray Letters to a London Bibliopole were addressed to Ellis and republished by him in 1892; Ruskin called him 'Papa Ellis'. His next partner was David White, who retired in 1884 and the next year Ellis himself retired, devoting himself to his own literary efforts. His stock of rarities was sold by Sotheby's for about £16,000.
Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford, 2004; Mackail, J. W., Life of W. Morris, [n. p.], 1899, vol. 1, p. 193; Cook, E. T., Life of John Ruskin, [n. p.], 1911, vol. 1., p. 371.