Link: The origin of peer review23 Apr 2016
Nature has an essay by Alex Csiszar recounting the first episode of peer review by the Royal Society, negotiated between William Whewell and John Lubbock on a paper about orbital motions by George Airy in 1831: “Peer review: Troubled from the start”. It went about as well as you would expect:
Feeling that they had reached an impasse, Lubbock went to the author himself to deliver his suggestions for improvement. Airy was understandably irritated that his manuscript was being subjected to this strange new procedure. “There the paper is,” he wrote to Whewell, “and I am willing to let my credit rest on it.” He had no intention of changing his text. Lubbock threatened to pull out, but ultimately relented and swallowed his criticisms, acknowledging that this was “the first report which the Council have ever made” and trying to see the bigger picture. He thanked Whewell for putting his “shoulder to the wheel” and signed his name to the report.
Seems like the first instance of the referee trying to horn his way in as an author.