William Hogarth (1697-1764) is considered by many to be the greatest English caricaturist of all time. He was an perceptive observer and his illustrations of the social and political conduct of his day are fascinating historical documents and humorous depictions of human foibles, which have remained much the same over the last two centuries. Hogarth was a painter of considerable accomplishment, but it is for his remarkable prints, which he both composed and engraved, that he is best known.
Originally, Hogarth sold his prints in his own shop, as well as through other print sellers in London. In the mid-1730s he began also to sell his prints in bound form. Hogarth's fame spread and his popularity grew. However, while his prints sold well, Hogarth was constantly bothered by the sale of cheap copies. In response, he was instrumental in the 1735 passage of the Engravers' Copyright Act, often called "Hogarth's Act," which prohibited the unauthorized copying of a print for fourteen years following its publication. Early in his career, a number of Hogarth's plates were acquired by other print sellers, but most he retained in his possession until his death, leaving them in his will to his widow, Jane Hogarth. Jane continued to issue prints from these plates and she was able to secure an extended copyright of 20 years beginning in 1767. Upon Jane's death in 1789, the plates passed into the possession of printmaker, John Boydell. Boydell sold prints taken from these original plates as separate images "suitable for framing," but also in 1790, the year he was Lord Mayor of London, Boydell issued an atlas folio with 103 prints entitled The Original Works of William Hogarth.
Boydell reissued the folio twice, and the plates were later acquired by Baldwin, Cradock & Joy in 1818. They were then reissued after being "restored" by James Heath, and were continued to be run off throughout the nineteenth century. Besides these many reprints of Hogarth's original plates, there were many copies done in different sizes by different engravers from Hogarth's time through the following centuries. The prints from the Boydell folios, which have become quite rare, are the last done from the original plates in the eighteenth century, and these from the 1790 edition, retain the detail and richness of impression which marks them as early strikes.
"Tail Piece: The Bathos." 10 1/4 x 12 7/8. $950
"Mr. Garrick in the Character of Richard 3d." Engraved by Hogarth & Grignion. 15 1/4 x 20. $450
[Crowns, Mitres, Maces, etc] (Subscription ticket) Fourth State. 7 1/4 x 9 1/4 (plate mark). $150
[Hymen and Cupid.] Oval 6 x 7 1/2. $125
"The Politician." 13 x 10 1/2. $650
T. Cook. "Harlot's Progress." London: G.G. & J. Robinson, 1798. Set of six. Each 11 3/4 x 14 3/4. $750
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©The Philadelphia Print Shop, Ltd. Last updated November 15, 2010