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A Collection Of Prints, From Pictures Painted For The Purpose Of Illustrating The Dramatic Works Of Shakspeare, By The Artists Of Great-Britain. Volume I. (II.)

RA Collection: Book

Record number



London,: Published By John And Josiah Boydell, Shakspeare Gallery, Pall-Mall, And No. 90, Cheapside. Printed By W. Bulmer And Co., Cleveland-Row, St. James's., MDCCCIII.

Physical Description

2 vols. ; 686 mm.

General Note

Vol. I: [12] p., frontis. (port.), [46] pl.: [1] illus. (vignette). The pl. do not carry numbers; but 'A List Of The Large Plates' lists the frontis., the t.p. vignette and pl. I-XLVI; and a note following 'A List Of The Large Plates' in Vol. II calls for a total of 48 pl. in Vol. I. Some copies (including the first of the Royal Academy's two copies) are early issues and have only [6] rather than [12] pages of text [i.e. they lack the 1805 dedication and Preface]. - Vol. II: [8] p., frontis. (port.), [50] pl.: [1] illus. (vignette). The pl. do not carry numbers, but 'A List Of The Large Plates' lists the frontis., the t.p. vignette and pl. I-L; and a note calls for a total of 52 plates in this volume - making a total of 100 plates in the two volumes. Some copies (including the first of the Royal Academy's two copies) are early issues and have only [6] rather than [8] pages of text [i.e. they lack the 1805 dedication]. - In the first of the Royal Academy's copies the plate listed as pl.[48] of Volume II has been bound in after the 'List Of The Large Plates' in Volume I.


Vol. I: [Frontis, t.p., dedic. (dated 1805)] - Preface [by Josiah Boydell, dated 1805] - A List Of The Large Plates To Illustrate The Shakspeare. Vol. I. - [Plates]. (Note that the first of the Royal Academy's two copies, an early issue, has the frontispiece bound in after the t.p. and lacks the 1805 dedication and Preface.) - Vol. II: [Front., t.p., dedic. (dated 1805)] - A List Of The Large Plates To Illustrate The Shakspeare. Vol. II. - [Plates]. (The first of the Royal Academy's copies lacks the 1805 dedic.)

Responsibility Note

The frontispiece portraits of both volumes are signed as painted by W. Beechy. The two title-page vignettes are signed as modelled by A.S. Damer. The other plates are signed as painted by I. Banks (I:1), G. Romney (I: 2, 3, II: 34, 48), H. Fuseli (I: 4, 20, 21, 37, II: 8, 12, 38, 44), J. Wright (I: 5, 34), F. Wheatley (I: 6, 29, 30, 35), A. Kauffman (I: 7, II: 35), R. Smirke (I: 8, 12, 13, 18, 22, 28, 40-46; II: 5), W. Peters (I: 9, 10, 16, II: 26, 28), J. Durno (I: 11, II: 9), T. Kirk (I: 14), I.F. Rigaud (I: 15; II: 7), W. Hamilton (I: 17, 19, 27, 32, 36, II: 36), W. Hodges (I: 23, 25), J. Downman (I: 24), R. West (I: 26), H. Ramberg (I: 31), J. Opie (I: 33, II: 13, 16, 32, 42), R. Westall (I: 38, II: 6, 27, 30, 49), J. Reynolds (I: 39, II: 17), J. Northcote (II: 1, 3, 15, 18, 21-24, 43), M. Brown (II: 2), R. Smirke and J. Farington (II: 4), Jos. Boydell (II: 10, 11, 14, 19, 50), Wm. Miller (II: 20, 41), T. Stothard (II: 25, 46), G. Hamilton (II: 29), H. Tresham (II: 31), T. Kirk (II: 33), J. Hoppner (II: 37), B. West (II: 39, 45), J. Barry (II: 40), J. Graham (II: 47).

They carry the names of the engravers B. Smith (v.I. frontis., pl.1-3; II:2, 48), T. Ryder and T. Ryder jun. (v.I frontis., pl.21), W. Leney (vol. I t.p. vignette and pl. 24, 45; II: 8, 20, 47, 50), J.P. Simon (I: 4, 8, 10, 14, 16, 17, 20, 22, 27, 29, 33, 44, 46; II: 6, 43), R. Thew (I: 5, 9, 28, 36, 39, 42; II: 1, 3, 5, 10-13, 15, 22, 26, 27, 32, 37, 44), C. Watson (I: 6; II: 16), L. Schiavonetti (I: 7; II: 35), T. Ryder (I: 11, 19, 31; II: 7, 9, 46), Isaac Taylor jun. (I: 12; II: 25), T. Ryder and C.G. Playter (I: 13; II: 18), C.G. Playter (I: 15), J. Ogborn(e) (I: 18, 41, 43; II: 14, 19), T. Ryder and T. Ryder jun. (I: 21), J. Browne (I: 23), S. Middiman (I: 25, 34; II: 4), W.C. Wilson (I: 26), G.S. and J.G. Facius (I: 30; II: 31, 41, 42), F. Bartolozzi (I: 32), J. Fittler (I: 35), J. Caldwall (I: 37; II: 29), J. Parker (I: 38), P.W. Tomkins (I: 40), T. Hellyer (v.II. t.p. vignette), C.G. Playter and R. Thew (II: 16), J.B. Michel (II: 21), F. Legat (II: 23, 34, 40, 45), W. Skelton (II: 24), J. Collyer (II: 28), Ed. Scriven (II: 30), T. Kirk (II: 33), T. Burke (II: 36), R. Earlom (II: 39), T. Gaugain (II: 49).

All plates carry the publishers' imprint of J. and J. Boydell and the publication-date [but in the Royal Academy's first copy these are lacking from the frontispieces and pl. I: 12.].

The volumes are dedicated by Josiah Boydell, the first to the King [George III], the second to the Queen [Charlotte]. [These dedications, both dated 25 March 1805, are lacking from the Royal Academy's first copy.]


W. Pope and F. Benwick, edd., The Boydell Shakespeare Gallery (1996); W.H. Friedman, Boydell's Shakespeare Gallery (1976).

On Boydell see T. Clayton, The English print, 1688-1802 (1997); S. Bruntjen, John Boydell (1985); D. Alexander and R. Godfrey, Painters and engraving: the reproductive print from Hogarth to Wilkie [exhibition catalogue] (1980).

On Shakespeare's plays in art are S. Sillars, Painting Shakespeare The Artist As Critic 1720-1820 (2006); H. Hammerschmidt-Hummel, Die Shakespeare-Illustration 1594-2000 (3 vols., 2003); J. Martineau et al., Shakespeare in art (2003); Shakespeare in western art [exhibition catalogue] (1992); G. Ashton, Shakespeare and British art [exhibition catalogue] (1981); W.M. Merchant, Shakespeare and the artist (1959).

Summary Note

The publication-date of 1803 is carried by the title pages of both volumes. But these had been preceded by the plates, which were issued serially from 1790, and were followed by the two frontispieces (dated 1804 December 1) and by the two dedications and Preface (dated 1805 March 25). The plates carry the follwing publication-dates:

Volume I: 1790 Jun 4 (pl. 16, 17); 1791 Mar 1 (18), Sep 29 (27); 1792 Aug 1 (7, 35), Sep 29 (25); 1793 Jun 4 (19, 33, 36), Dec 24 (8-10); 1794 Jun 4 (28, 30, 31, 34); 1795 Jan 1 (12, 29), Dec 1 (6, 22, 23); 1796 Jun 4 (1), Sep 1 (14), Sep 29 (20); [1797 Sep? (32)], 1797 Sep 29 (3, 4); 1798 Apr 23 (13, 37), Dec 1 (26); 1799 Sep 29 (2); 1800 Jun 4 (5, 11, 15, 24, 38); 1801 Jun 4 (40-46); 1802 Dec 1 (39); 1803 Jun 4 (t.p. vignette), Dec 1 (21); 1804 Dec 1 (frontis.);

Volume II: 1790 Jun 4 (23); 1791 Mar 1 (22), Jun 4 (42); 1792 Jan 2 (41), Feb 2 (43), Aug 1 (17, 38, 40); 1793 Mar 25 (39), Dec 24 (15, 33); 1794 Jun 4 (19); 1795 Jan 1 (14, 34, 35), Mar 25 (8), Jun 4 (6, 10, 21, 24), Sep 29 (36), Dec 1 (31); 1796 Jun 4 (5, 7, 13, 26), Sep 29 (18, 44); 1797 Sep 19 (4), Sep 29 (20), Dec 1 (16); 1798 Apr 23 (11, 25, 27), Dec 1 (1, 9, 12); 1799 Sep 29 (32, 46, 47); 1801 may 1 (49), Jun 4 (2, 3, 37); 1802 Dec 1 (30, 45); 1803 Jun 4 (t.p. vignette, 28, 29), Dec 1 (48, 50); 1804 Dec 1 (frontis.).

In Volume I 'A List Of The Large Plates' lists 48 plates - the frontispiece, the title-page vignette and plates I-XLVI, as follows: Frontis.: portrait of George III; vignette: Coriolanus; 1. Alto-relievo in front of Shakspeare Gallery, Pall Mall; 2. the infant Shakspeare; 3-6. Tempest; 7. Two gentlemen of Verona; 8-12. The merry wives of Windsor; 13, 14. Measure for measure; 15. Comedy of errors; 16-18. Much ado about nothing; 19. Love's labour lost; 20, 21. A Misummer Night's dream; 22, 23. The merchant of Venice; 24-27. As you like it; 28, 29. The taming of the shrew; 30. All's well that ends well; 31, 32. Twelfth Night; 33-36. The winter's tale; 37-39. Macbeth; 40-46. As you like it, II:7: the seven ages of man.

In Volume II 'A List Of The Large Plates' lists 52 plates - the frontispiece, the title-page vignette and plates I-L, as follows: frontis.: portrait of Queen Charlotte; t.p. vignette: Antony and Cleopatra; 1. King John; 2, 3. Richard II; 4-7. Henry IV pt.1; 8-11. Henry IV pt.2; 12. Henry V; 13-15. Henry VI pt.1; 16, 17. Henry VI pt.2; 18-21. Henry VI pt.3; 22-24. Richard III; 25-28. Henry VIII; 29. Coriolanus; 30. Julius Caesar; 31. Antony and Cleopatra; 32. Timon of Athens; 33. Titus Andronicus; 34, 35. Troilus and Cressida; 36, 37. Cymbeline; 38-40. King Lear; 41-43. Romeo and Juliet; 44, 45. Hamlet; 46, 47. Othello; 48. Shakspeare Nursed By Tragedy and Comedy; 49. Cymbeline; 50. Othello. The last three are described in the List as 'not engraved from the large Pictures, but may be added to Vol. II'. Plate 48 of Volume II is smaller than the others.

John Boydell was a successful print-seller in London when in 1786 he conceived the idea of publishing a series of prints to illustrate the works of Shakespeare. The text was to be edited by G. Steevens and printed by W. Bulmer; and would be accompanied by two series of prints (one in large, and one in smaller format), engraved after newly commissioned paintings. The prints and paintings (exhibited in a special gallery in Pall Mall) were intended not to show theatrical performances but to proclaim the merits of a British school of history painting. But although the project attracted public interest (a rival scheme was soon set up by J. Woodmason in Dublin), it failed in its aim. Some objected to having any familiar story set in unfamiliar ways: 'What injury', declared Charles Lamb,'did not Boydell's Shakespeare Gallery do me with Shakespeare! ... light-headed Fuseli's Shakespeare, wooden-headed West's Shakespeare, deaf-headed Reynolds' Shakespeare, instead of my and everybody's Shakespeare. ... To confine the illimitable!' Others found the representations stagey or melodramatic. When the paintings were sold, they fetched low prices; and, for all their enormous dimensions, it was not as history paintings but as illustrations that they had any influence - being reproduced or adapted in several editions of Shakespeare throughout the nineteenth century.


Volume I of the Academy's first set is inscribed in ink on a preliminary page, 'To Benjamin West Esqre. President of the Royal Academy; The Council; The Royal Academicians, and Students; This Collection of Prints Engraved after Pictures, Painted principally by the Members of their Academy, for the Shakspeare Gallery in Pall Mall, is presented by their humble Servant John Boydell. Cheapside April 26. 1804.' One of the Royal Academy's two sets is recorded in RAA Library, Catalogue, 1821.

Copy Note

The first of the Royal Academy's two sets appears to be an early issue. Its Volume I lacks the 1805 March 25 dedication and Preface (pp. [3]-[8]). The frontispieces of both volumes and pl. [12] of Vol. I lack signatures of source-artist and engraver and publishers' imprint and publication-date. The frontis. of Vol. I. has been bound in after the title-page; pl. [48] of Vol. II has been bound in in Volume I after 'A List Of The Large Plates'. Several notes have been pasted onto guard-sheets in this set: in Vol. I, facing the t.p. a note reading 'Shakspeare. Vol: I. King George the 3rd. Title Dedication. Address. List of the Prints'; on the sheet carrying pl. 48 of Vol. II wrongly inserted before pl. 1 of Vol. I, a note listing briefly the following seven plates; on guardsheets facing pl. 8, 15, 22, 31, 40 notes listing briefly the following groups of plates; in Vol. II, facing the frontispiece a note reading 'Shakspeare. Vol: II. Portrait of Queen Charlotte Title & List of the Prints. 1804'; facing plates 1, 4, 12, 22, 29, 41 notes describing briefly the following groups of plates.

The Academy's second set is imperfect, lacking plate 49 of Volume II. Moreover plate 48 of this volume has been placed after plate 50.

Binding Note

[First set:] 19th-century brown roan, upper and lower covers decorated with gilt, neoclassical border, incorporating lyres, Shakespeare-heads and the arms of the City of London; gilt-decorated spine lettered 'Shakspeare - Boydell. Vol. I. (II.)' and 'R.A.'

[Second set:] 19th-century half green morocco, marbled-papered boards; spines lettered 'Shakspear Plates Part I. (II.)'.

Name as Subject

William Shakespeare, 1564-1616


English drama - Great Britain - 16th century - 17th century
Pictorial works - Illustrated books - Great Britain - 19th century


John Boydell, publisher, previous owner, donor
Josiah Boydell, publisher, source artist
Robert Smirke RA, 1752-1845,, draughtsman
Henry Fuseli RA, 1741-1825,, draughtsman
James Northcote RA, 1746-1831., draughtsman
William Shakespeare
Mrs Anne Seymour Damer, source artist
George Romney, source artist
Henry Fuseli RA, source artist
Joseph Wright ARA, source artist
Francis Wheatley RA, source artist
Angelica Kauffman RA, source artist
Robert Smirke RA, source artist
Revd Matthew William Peters RA, source artist
James Durno, source artist
Thomas Kirk, source artist, engraver
John Francis Rigaud RA, source artist
William Hamilton RA, source artist
William Hodges RA, source artist
John Downman ARA, source artist
Raphael Lamar West, source artist
Johann Heinrich Ramberg, source artist
John Opie RA, source artist
Richard Westall RA, source artist
Sir Joshua Reynolds PRA, source artist
William Satchwell Leney, engraver
Benjamin Smith, engraver
John Peter Simon, engraver
Robert Thew, engraver
Caroline Watson, engraver
Luigi Schiavonetti, engraver
Thomas Ryder, engraver
C. G. Playter, engraver
John Ogborne, engraver
Thomas Ryder, engraver
John Browne ARA, engraver
Samuel Middiman, engraver
W.C. Wilson, engraver
Georg Siegmund Facius, engraver
Johann Gottlieb Facius, engraver
Francesco Bartolozzi RA, engraver
James Fittler ARA, engraver
James Caldwall, engraver
James Parker, engraver
Peltro William Tomkins, engraver
William Bulmer, printer
Mather Brown, source artist
Joseph Farington RA, source artist
William Miller, source artist
Thomas Stothard RA, source artist
Gavin Hamilton, source artist
Henry Tresham RA, source artist
John Hoppner RA, source artist
Benjamin West PRA, source artist
James Barry RA, source artist
John Graham, source artist
Thomas Hellyer, engraver
Jean-Baptiste Michel, engraver
Francis Legat, engraver
William Skelton, engraver
Isaac Taylor the younger, engraver
Joseph Collyer ARA, engraver
Edward Scriven, engraver
Thomas Burke, engraver
Richard Earlom, engraver
William Sharp, engraver
Thomas Gaugain, engraver
Sir William Beechey RA, source artist
George III King of Great Britain, dedicatee
Charlotte Queen, Consort of George III, King of Great Britain, dedicatee

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