The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 14.2242 Thursday, 27 November 2003
Date: Wednesday, 26 Nov 2003 11:31:38 -0800
The Lewis Walpole Library Digital Collection at Yale
(http://lwlimages.library.yale.edu/walpoleweb/) specializes in 18C
British images, specifically political satires and caricatures.
Searching on Shakespeare I found some fascinating images including an
anonymous 1789 color print called "Shakespeare-sacrificed;-or-the
Offering to Avarice":
This is a typical editorial-cartoon conglomeration of images but the
subject matter is cultural. Among the larger figures is a
fierce-looking man burning some Sh. material at the foot of a monument
whose dim inscription I can't read, and some figures in the Heaven above
definitely include God, BVM, Bottom, and perhaps Falstaff and Othello.
Atop a giant bound volume that includes the word "Subscribers" is a
gremlin holding a couple fat bags of money. There's some Greek-to-me
along the lower edge.
Thanks to someone's penciled "Boydell" above the print title (which
helps make sense of the print's long tiny subtitle), I found what this
is all about. It's an attack on John Boydell (1719-1804), a London
alderman and publisher who made a fortune with illustrated editions of
Sh. and Milton. The Sh. project began in 1786 with the intent on
commissioning the best British artists (who tended to make their living
painting portraits) to illustrate the plays. As explained by Emory's
Harry Rusche (at his Shakespeare Illustrated website,
this changed the course of English painting toward historical scenes.
Boydell opened a gallery on Pall Mall in 1789 and released the first
engravings in 1791. A nine-volume folio was published in 1802, a
two-volume elephant folio edition the next year.
Rusche comments, "Because of the Boydell prints, some images of scenes
from Shakespeare were indelibly fixed in the public mind. The paintings
commissioned by Boydell were used repeatedly to illustrate the works of
Shakespeare, and they appear in all sorts of modified, adapted, and
borrowed forms in engravings and drawings that accompany the plays."
Both the Walpole digital collection and Rusche's collection of Sh.
illustrations are worth bookmarking.
Cheers, and happy turkey day,
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