Gallery Bookshop Index Queries Contact home AmerInd Americana Maps NatHist Fine Vanity Views Historical British Sporting Marine Rare

The Philadelphia Print Shop

British Caricature

Drawing on themes of archetype and folklore, caricatures employed easily recognizable setups that let the viewers in on the joke. British caricature artists were merciless, lampooning both general types and specific personalities. By manipulating recognizable faces and forms into comical distortions, artists employed by England's publishing houses helped the public poke fun at figures from every level of society. Imagination was the key to successful caricatures, and different artists imagined different exaggerations for their subjects. Artists like Thomas Rowlandson infused ordinary situations with ridiculous figures, like Dr. Syntax, in order to criticize popular ideas and trends. Famed satirist James Gillray, in contrast, often inserted well-known personalities into fanciful scenarios, making pointed observations about character flaws or public foibles. Exaggerating features and costumes, they created humorous prints that sold primarily to the educated well-to-do. Though some English publishers exported their wares, caricatures by Gillray, Rowlandson, and others were most popular at home, where viewers could easily identify and laugh at the subjects. For those who could not afford the two-shilling price tag on a colored print, printsellers created colorful window displays, allowing every passer-by to share the joke. These displays were a prominent feature of the London commercial landscape that mirrored the interests and concerns of popular society. The lively prints that came out of them offer modern collectors a fascinating glimpse into eighteenth- and nineteenth-century British culture.

[ Henry Alken | Henry Bunbury | George Cruikshank | Isaac Cruikshank | Isaac Robert Cruikshank | HB (John Doyle) | Robert & Richard Dighton | James Gillray ]
[ Henry & William Heath | Theodore Lane | Lewis Marks | Peter Pasquin | P. Roberts | Thomas Rowlandson | George Woodward | Unattributed ]


Henry Alken (1785-1851)

Henry T. Alken is one of the most renowned and popular of British sporting and genre artists and engravers. He was the son of another engraver, Samuel Alken--known for his topographical as well as sporting scenes--, and father of Samuel Henry Alken, who followed in the steps of his forbearers as an engraver and artist. Alken is famous for his sporting prints (indeed on some of his early plates he used the name 'Ben Tally-Ho') as well the many humorous series he produced in the 1820s.

Steeple Chase Steeple Chase Steeple Chase Steeple Chase
"The First Steeple Chase on Record." Set of four prints. Oxford: Ben Brooks, March 1, 1839. Second edition. Aquatints. Original hand color. Very large margins. Very good condition. Lane, Sporting Aquatints and their Engravers, p. 60.

This set of four prints is a second edition with the initial publication being issued by Ackerman in the same year. The vivid compositions and the quality of the etching make these classic British sporting prints highly desirable. $1,600

Popular Songs

While happy....
From Illustrations to Popular Songs. London: Thomas M'Lean, 1822. Octavo. Soft-ground etchings. Original hand color. Octavo. Very good condition.

Illustrations of popular songs of the day, Alken's imaginative vignettes illustrate the songs line by line. Their fine execution and hand-color make them wonderful examples of Alken's work. $125 each

Symptoms of Being Amused

A dose after dinner
From Symptoms of Being Amused. London: Thomas M'Lean, 1822. Octavo. Soft-ground etchings. Original hand color. Very good condition.

A series of caricatures of people in different situations. Each plate has a number of delightful vignettes, showing Alken's wit and skill. $125 each

Fine Arts

A Forcible Effect
From A Touch at the Fine Arts. London: Thomas M'Lean, 1824. Octavo. Soft-ground etchings. Original hand color. Very good condition.

Another series exhibiting Alken's humorous, yet sensitive view of his fellow man. $65 each


From Ideas. London: Thomas M'Lean, 1826-1827. Octavo. Soft-ground etchings. Original hand color. Very good condition.

In this series, Alken combines his expertise in sporting prints and caricature. $175 each


Henry William Bunbury (1756-1811)

Henry William Bunbury, known as the "gentleman draughtsman," was a graduate of Cambridge and equerry to the Duke of York. As one of the most popular caricaturists of his time, Bunbury produced gently satirical illustrations of social life that were used by many of the leading engravers of the day, including Bartolozzi, Rowlandson, Dickinson and Gillray. Because his caricatures were not as caustic as some, he was able to appeal to the most fastidious of connoisseurs, such as Horace Walpole. His illustrations, however, show wit and insight.

Prints by H.W. Bunbury. London, ca. 1780. Stipple and etching by William Dickinson. Printed in brown. Full margins. Very good condition.

The precise stipple work, softly printed in brown, adds to the elegance and appeal of these delightful prints. [Denver] $165 each


George Cruikshank (1792-1878)

As a child, George Cruikshank learned to etch and draw from his father Isaac, a caricaturist who was credited as the first to lampoon Napoleon Bonaparte. At 19, George replaced his father, who was completing James Gillray's final, unfinished work. With this auspicious project, the younger Cruikshank began a working career that would span over 70 years and earn him the title "Gillray's heir." Among his noted works are caricatures of Napoleon's exploits as well as the exaggerated fads and fancies of the English gentry. In addition to his humorous topics, Cruikshank used his art to address concerns about alcohol and its effects on society and the family. Today, art historians view him as the last great master of the etched caricature.

Cruikshank: Flying Artillery
"Flying Artillery, or A Horse Marine, . ___" Credit to "Geo[rge] Cruikshank fect." And "Pubd. By Js. Robins & Co. Ivy Lane R.R. Row." London, 1811-1815. Etching (original hand coloring). 8 x 5 5/8 (image) plus text and borders. Framed to archival specifications. A bright piece.

An example of the early productivity of George Cruikshank (1792-1878) when he was closely imitating James Gillray's style, but before he had such a factory of artists that later included his father and son. From 1811 to 1816, the height of the Napoleonic Wars, this prolific caricaturist produced etched satires for Town Talk and later more for The Meteor. This comic scene capitalized on military terminology about light or horse artillery and illustrates how, indeed, military horses can fly. $225

Life in London

Life in London
From Pierce Egan's Life in London; or, The Day and Night Scenes of Jerry Hawthorn, Esq. and his elegant friend Corinthian Tom, accompanied by Bob Logic, The Oxonian, in their Rambles and Sprees through the Metropolis. London: R. Ackermann, 1813. Aquatints. Octavo. Very good condition.

In these wonderful prints, Jerry Hawthorn and Corinthian Tom are shown in various scenes of Regency London. Not only are these charming examples of the Cruikshanks' work, they also provide an insightful glimpse of 'Life in London.' $65 each.

GoGo to our page of rare British books to see a set of volumes: The Genius of George Cruikshank.


Isaac Cruikshank (1764-1811)

Isaac Cruikshank, Scottish painter and caricaturist, was born in Edinburgh. His sons Isaac Robert and George also became artists, and the latter in particular achieved fame as an illustrator and caricaturist. Cruikshank is known for his social and political satire.

Cruikshank: Necessary War
Isaac Cruikshank. "A Necessary War, or Quixotism Revived or the Knight of the Little House." London: Jno. Sqabble [sic] Oxford St, March 12, 1792. 8 3/4 x 13 (image). Engraving. Original hand color. Full margins. George 8165.

Sir George Younge holds a pen (instead of a match) to the touch hole of his cannon so that he can blast the door off an outhouse. One pane is already blown off, and a young lady prepares to chop the door with a huge axe. An elderly lady resists the other one. Dorothy George relates that this caricature depicts a squabble over possession of a house that Younge sold to Sir John de la Pole. Possibly the property is the Great House at Colyton, which is reduced here to a "necessary house." A wonderful image intended to feed gossip and mirth. $850

A Magisterial Visit
Attributed to Isaac Cruikshank. "A Magisterial Visit." London: Fores, 1795. 11 7/8 x 8 3/4. Etching. On laid paper with fleur de lis watermark. Hand color. Very good condition. George 8686.

Three British drinkers are alarmed when a magistrate exercises his license to disperse meetings by drinking their punch. The greater implication of the law is under the table where a dog labeled "Pitt" (Prime Minister William Pitt) snatches a bone from a muzzled "John Bull" dog. $1,200

Cruikshank: Young Roscius and his Pappa...with John Bull
Attributed to Isaac Cruikshank. "Young Roscius and his Pappa in company with John Bull." London: S.W. Fores, January 4, 1805. 8 1/8 x 12 5/8. Etching. On laid paper with fleur de lis watermark. Original hand color. Very good condition. George 10458.

John Bull with Master Betty Roscius and his father. They are presented as rivals on the British stage to Mrs. Siddons and J.P. Kemble on the wall. The triple ostrich feathers on Master Betty's chair indicate patronage by the Prince of Wales. $800

Isaac Robert Cruikshank (1789-1856)

Like his brother George, Isaac Robert Cruikshank learned his trade from his father, Isaac. Originally setting himself up as a portrait and miniature painter, he later returned to printmaking, often collaborating with George. In 1830, he left caricature work to focus on book illustration.

Jumping in Sacks
"Jumping in Sacks." Etched by Robert Cruikshank, drawn by W.H. Pyne, engraved by G. Hunt. London: Pyall & Hunt. 8 1/4 x 12 1/4. Hand colored. Paper has browned somewhat; some spotting, smudging in margins. George, 15009. [Denver]

A merry image populated with nearly every sort of British citizen, from farmer to soldier to gentleman. Seven men race, potato-sack style, as the diverse crowd alternately cheers and jeers. As with Rowlandson's "Dr. Syntax" prints, this scene includes a fine, fully realized background with well-rendered landscape and architecture - perhaps a clue to the exact subject that Cruikshank lampoons. $250

Cruikshank: Who's Affraid!!
"Who's affraid!! Or Great & Glorious news for Old England!!!" London: J. Johnstone, August 1809. 8 3/4 x 12 3/4. Etching. Original hand color. Very good condition. George, 11353.

As a comic leitmotif for poets and satirists, Sir William Curtis (1752-1829) appeared often in caricature prints throughout his political career. Born into a family of sea biscuit-bakers in Wapping, Curtis was first alderman and then Lord Mayor of London. A personal friend of George IV, he appeared nonetheless as a boor to the public. Stout and illiterate, Curtis' speaking skills were said to have led, unintentionally, to the expression, "three R's: reading, 'riting, and 'rithmetic," which he used as a banquet toast (not intending the pun now implied). Here, the then-alderman Curtis sails on his yacht, accompanying the British fleet en route to an embarrassing defeat at Walcheren. Adding to the disgraceful nature of the expedition was the attitude of Curtis, who sailed his sumptuous yacht with the warships as though on a pleasure trip. The artist takes aim here at the alderman's gluttony (showing empty bones, bottles, various glasses, and larder), his poor speech (writing incorrect syntax and pronunciation), and indiscretion (juxtaposing the man of leisure with naval vessels, seen outside the window) with the wit and detail that distinguish Cruikshank caricature. $600


HB [John Doyle] (1797-1867)

By writing his initials twice-over, John Doyle manipulated the letters to create the pseudonym signature "HB". Born in Catholic Dublin, HB arrived in London in 1821, after the death of James Gillray. Thomas Rowlandson had aged, as well, and with him the era of biting, pointed caricature in London. As HB began his career, he introduced a gentler sort of satire, making soft jokes calculated to avoid strong offence. Rather than exaggerating physical features and pushing the bawdy laugh, Doyle employed reasonable likenesses with circumstantial humor. Even the subtle, sketchy appearance of his lithography marked a change from the loose, brash lines of colored etchings, a medium that had dominated caricature printing for the previous half-century.

John Bull Trying on New Breeks
HB [John Doyle]. "John Bull trying on his 'bra' new' Grey Breeks." London: Thomas McLean, 26 March 1831. 9 1/2 x 14 1/2. Lithograph. Hand color. George 16609.

Remembered by historians for his staunch support of the Reform Act of 1832, English Whig Lord John Russell appears here as a tailor, proffering a new style of breeches for the stout (and presumably slow-to-change) John Bull. $240


Robert Dighton (1752-1814) & Richard Dighton (1795-1880)

Robert Dighton was a painter of portraits and decorative subjects and also an etcher of caricatures. Many of his portraits were made into prints by Carrington Bowles and beginning in the 1790s, he began to draw and etch caricatures, mostly humorous portraits. His son, Richard, followed in Robert's footsteps, producing caricatures in the same style after his father's death in 1814. Robert Dighton achieved some notoriety when he was found to have taken some Rembrandt etchings, without permission, from the British Museum.

Dighton: View from Magdalen Hall, Oxford
Robert Dighton. "A View from Magdalen Hall, Oxford." London: Robert Dighton, June 1808. Etching on wove paper. 10 x 7 (image) plus borders. Hand color. Very good condition. George, Brit. Mus. Catalogue, 11074.

A nice example of Dighton's caricature portrait style. Depicted is Dr. Henry Ford wearing his academic gowns. He matriculated in 1776 and from 1788 to 1813 was a professor of Arabic. $325


James Gillray (1756-1815)

One of the best-known British caricaturists, James Gillray made a name for himself through his witty compositions, capable draftsmanship, and exquisite detail. Through his copious political satires, he set a new standard for the genre, becoming a measure by which his successors were judged. The prints he published through Hannah Humphrey's shop in London have become archetypes for caricaturists and include such famous images as world rulers carving up the globe at dinner.

Every Rogue is a Coward
Attributed to James Gillray. "Every Rogue is a Coward." London: Hannah Humphrey, 6 June 1801. Etching. Hand color. 10 x 14 (neat lines and plate marks). Full margins. Excellent condition.

Two riders on the road to Hounslow when Hounslow Heath was famous as a dangerous area due to highwaymen. The joke here is that each man is a highwayman and so each spontaneously assumes that the other is about to rob him. Being cowardly robbers, they spontaneously surrender to each other. A fine comedy of men, manners and understanding. $750

Gillray: PEN-etration
James Gillray. "PEN-etration." London: H. Humphrey, 1799. 10 1/4 x 7 1/8. Etching.Original hand color. Trimmed to neat lines. George: 9441.

Portrait of John Penn, grandson of the founder of Pennsylvania preening in a silly round hat and pantaloons; he is depicted as a particularly dim bulb. $675

Gillray: Juge de Paix
James Gillray. "French Habits No. 10. Juge de Paix." London: [H. Humphrey, May 15, 1798-] Bohn ed. 1849. 10 x 7 1/2. Etching. Original hand color. $125

The Magisterial Bruisers
Attributed to James Gillray. "The Magisterial Bruisers." London: W. Humphrey, 1779. 8 x 12 3/4. Etching. Heavy laid paper. Very good condition. George 5616.

A brawl amongst magistrates in the Old Bailey. Samuel Plumbe is the Lord Mayor and William Plomer is his antagonist. A man behind Plomer resembles John Wilkes. $900

Gillray: Cymon & Iphigenia
James Gillray. "Cymon & Iphigenia." Etching. Original hand color. On J Whatman paper watermarked 1815. 8 1/4 x 12 1/2. George 8908A.

A puzzle. In 1796, Gillray published a burlesque of the discovery of Cymon by Iphigenia from Garrick's adaptation of Dryden's version of the Boccaccio tale (George 8908). THis print is a reverse copy without an imprint on paper watermarked 1815. $650

Judge Thumb
James Gillray. "Judge Thumb." London: W. Humphrey, No. 227 Strand; [27 November 1782]-1818. 6 3/4 x 5 1/16. Etching. Hand color. On wove paper watermarked 1818. Excellent condition. George, 6123.

In 1782, Judge Francis Buller ruled that a man was allowed to beat his wife, provided that the instrument of violence was no larger around than his thumb. Even in the eighteenth century, this ruling was controversial, provoking Gillray to produce this satirical cartoon. According to one contemporary source, the artist's rendering of Buller's face was "a very striking likeness." Indeed, it is remarkably well-rendered and is clearly the object of Gillray's joke. As the working-class man in the background beats his wife with a regulation-sized stick, they serve as foils for the judge's folly. $325

Posting in Ireland
James Gillray. "Posting in Ireland." Etching. Ca. 12 x 15. Original printing, London: Hannah Humphrey, 5 April 1805; these from a later strike. Hand color. George 10478. Trimmed to title and laid down on period paper. Overall, very good condition. [Denver]

Showcasing Gillray's great humor and visual wit, this print plays off English stereotypes of Irish peasants. $650

Gillray: Revolution of 1831
James Gillray. "The Revolution of 1831. As Prophecyed by that learned Astrologer General, Ikey Wether-bridge. to whom this plate is dedicated, (Ex officio) by his Admiring Friend the Publisher -- 'die hard, die nobly, die like demi-Gods!!!' 'It is supposed, if the dog Johnny were permitted he would soon destroy the whole Breed.'" London: S.W. Fores, 1831. 8 1/4 x 12 3/8. Etching. Original hand color. George 16690.

Left to right, William IV protruding from Windsor Castle observes Lord Grey with a broom and a Bul Dof (John Bull) sweeping reform through rat burrows (Borough politics). One rat (Wetherell) has a human head. $850

James Gillray. "The Death of Admiral Lord-Nelson, in the moment of Victory!" 13 1/2 x 10 1/2. Etching. Original issue, London: Hannah Humphrey, 23 December 1805. This strike, London: Henry G. Bohn, [1849]. Hand-colored. Conserved: backed with rice paper. Overall, very good condition. George 10442. [Denver]

In a departure from his usual wit and satire, British caricaturist James Gillray drew this memorial image, commemorating the death of Admiral Lord Nelson on the HMS Victory at the Battle of Trafalgar. As a talented and popular satirist, Gillray built his reputation on his keen interpretations of current events - a skill he employed here to help England mourn a national hero. Details are plentiful: in the distance, the French ship Redoubtable is yet visible after firing the fatal shot. British marksmen take aim from the left rear ground of the print, continuing the battle even as allegorical figure of Immortality sounds his trumpet over Nelson. Behind the fallen admiral, Britannia weeps as sailors arrive with the banner of the enemy: victory has been secured.

During his lifetime, London publisher Hannah Humphrey printed most of Gillray's caricatures. The business and the plates remained in the Humphrey family until 1835, when London publisher Henry G. Bohn saved the plates from the scrap heap. Bohn subsequently reprinted Gillray's images and issued them in a single volume of 582 plates, including this print. $600

Back View of the CapeSpacerNeck or Nothing

Miss Keate, a society lady [Gillray?]. "A Back View of the Cape." [and] "Neck or Nothing." 9 1/2 x 7 1/8. Etching. Original issue, London: Hannah Humphrey, 23 March 1792. This strike, London: Henry G. Bohn, [1849]. Hand-colored. Overall, very good condition. George 8190 & 8191.

A pair of fashion satires of a gentleman. In the back view wearing half boots with breeches tied below the knees, powdered hair and a cape collar and in the facing view wearing pumps, striped stockings and a profusion of scarves hiding his neck. $475


GoGo to next page of of British caricatures


OrderPlace Order Order

British color plate books

British Spacer GallerySpacer HomeSpacer Site MapSpacer Book shop


For more information call, write, fax or e-mail to:

PPS Logo The Philadelphia Print Shop
8441 Germantown Avenue
Philadelphia, PA 19118 USA
(215) 242-4750 [Phone]
(215) 242-6977 [Fax]
PhilaPrint@PhilaPrintShop.comMail Box

©The Philadelphia Print Shop, Ltd. Last updated May 16, 2014