The Lewis Walpole Library is currently working to digitize and catalog its collection of over one thousand prints by and after William Hogarth (1697–1764), thus providing widespread access to these important holdings for scholars, students, and the public via Orbis and Quicksearch, the Yale University Library Catalog, and the Library’s Digital Collections.
The library’s outstanding collection of prints by William Hogarth has been described by Ronald Paulson, author of Hogarth’s Graphic Works, as “unparalleled, at least in the United States.” These Hogarth collections were formed by W.S. Lewis and Annie Burr Auchincloss Lewis following on their primary interest in Horace Walpole (1717-1797), who himself had been an enthusiastic collector of Hogarth. In his biographical essay on Hogarth in Anecdotes of Painters, Walpole characterized the artist as “that great and original genius.” With this essay, Walpole included the first published inventory of Hogarth’s prints, based largely on his own collection. W.S. Lewis similarly came to think of Hogarth, after Walpole himself, as “a second subcontinent in the eighteenth century.”
The LWL’s holdings of prints by Hogarth are particularly deep and rich, with examples of rare early prints, trial proofs, early states, unique impressions, numerous copies and forgeries, and other ancillary material. Most notable among the Library’s holdings are two early collections, one compiled by George Steevens (1736-1800) and a second by Charles, eighth Lord Kinnaird of Inchture (1780-1826). Additional materials include a group of prints acquired from the New York dealer M.A. McDonald, and two collections comprising sets issued by Mrs. Hogarth: that of Frederick Edward Sotheby of Ecton, Northamptonshire (1837-1909), and a folio volume containing the collection of Queen Charlotte (1744-1818). Additional prints were acquired individually, including some from Horace Walpole’s own collection.
The George Steevens collection of 705 prints is exceptional in its inclusion of early items, rare and variant states of major series, tracings, copies, and other ancillary materials, all of which are mounted in three elephant folio volumes. This collection remains in its original bindings and is relatively intact but for some prints removed from the volumes and stored separately for preservation reasons. The volume pages are copiously annotated by George Steevens, who, with John Nichols, compiled an early catalog of Hogarth’s prints that was published as part of The Genuine Works of William Hogarth. The collection includes a loose list in Steevens’s hand designating prints “published in ridicule of Hogarth” and those “not to be reckoned as the work of Hogarth.” Steevens’s collection, together with that of Nichols’s (now at Cambridge), formed the basis of their early cataloging efforts. Ronald Paulson used the Steevens collection as an important resource in his definitive catalog Hogarth’s Graphic Works.
George Steevens bequeathed this collection to William Windham (1750-1810). At Windham’s death, the collection was put up for sale on 20 July 1810, and was bought in by Mrs. Windham at 292 guineas; by descent through the Windham family; Sotheby’s, 17 February 1919, to Dyson Perrins for £400; Sotheby’s sale including Property of the Late C.W. Dyson Perrins, Esq., 11 June 1959, lot 100 purchased by Maggs Bros. for W.S. Lewis for £1300.
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Charles, eighth Lord Kinnaird of Inchture (1780-1826) was a politician and notable art collector. His Hogarth collection includes 220 prints, including many early states and a unique impression of the fourth plate from A Rake’s Progress retouched by the artist. Purchased in Kinnaird’s original binding with his bookplate on the inside cover, the collection was disbound in 1984 by conservators at Sterling Memorial Library. The original boards with Kinnaird’s bookplate were preserved and remain at the Lewis Walpole Library. An inventory of the prints records the order and layout of the prints before they were removed from Kinnaird’s volume.
The Kinnaird collection was acquired in 1940 from the Edinburgh bookseller John Grant for £20.
Among the earliest Hogarth prints to enter the Lewis Walpole Library collection is a group of thirty-nine prints bought from the New York dealer M.A. McDonald in 1941 for a lot sum of $600. A note on an early inventory list indicates that these prints were individually mounted, but vestigial evidence of sewing suggests that they were once bound in a volume.
This collection of ninety-seven engravings is a fine example of the sets of prints, often bound, that were issued by the Mrs. Hogarth. After the artist’s death in 1764, his widow carried on a lucrative business offering prints to satisfy a mania for Hogarth collecting. Many of the prints are later states or reissues but are generally fine impressions.
The Sotheby Collection was formerly the property of Frederick Edward Sotheby of Ecton, Northamptonshire (1837-1909). It was sold as lot 251 in the Sotheby’s sale of November 21, 1955, where it was acquired for Lewis by Maggs Bros. Ltd. at the “very reasonable figure of £11.” The prints were removed from the original volume in 1984 by conservators at Sterling Memorial Library. An inventory records the original appearance of the prints, and the binding is preserved at the Lewis Walpole Library.
Queen Charlotte’s Hogarth Collection
Like the Sotheby collection, Queen Charlotte’s Hogarth prints are a further fine example of sets of prints put together and offered by Mrs. Hogarth after her husband’s death. This collection of eighty-four prints remains in Her Majesty’s three-quarter calf binding with marble boards.
Queen Charlotte’s collection was purchased at the sale of Miss M.A.E. Crofton at Sotheby’s on November 15, 1960.
Manuscript and Primary Resources
In addition to the collections of prints, the library also holds important manuscripts and other primary resources connected to William Hogarth. These include: