Category Archives: prints and drawings

prints and drawings

Graphic Illustrations of the Miseries of Human Life


One of the rarest items of British caricature can only be found with a visit to the New York Public Library’s outstanding Arents collection (under the book division, not prints). Although many collections, including Princeton’s, hold various prints around the popular book Miseries of Human Life drawn by Rowlandson, Gillray, Cruikshank and other lesser known artists, only NYPL holds the entire set of prints and wrappers for the series commissioned by Thomas Tegg from the artist George Woodward.

Isaac Cruikshank transferred Woodward’s drawings to copper plates and printed them on a biweekly schedule until the entire set was published. Dull blue paper wrapper open to a surprisingly bright and complex title page, finally explaining a project that has never been fully described in collections worldwide.


Queen Gertrude: “One woe doth tread upon another’s heel, So fast they follow; your sister’s drown’d, Laertes.” —The Tragedy of Hamlet by William Shakespeare

cruikshank-miseries11“Then hey! for the groan and the sigh. / ‘Tis fine frisk and fun to be grieving. / And since we must all of us die. / Let us take no enjoyment while living.” –Charles Dibdin “Sound Argument” from The Wags, 1791.




Isaac Cruikshank (1756?-1811?) after designs by George Moutard Woodward (1760-1809), Graphic Illustrations of The Miseries of Human Life: Partly Taken from the Popular Work of that Title [by James Beresford (1764-1840] (London: T. Tegg, 1807). 3 parts ([6] leaves): all illustrations; 28 x 43 cm. Each part (no.) in the original slate blue paper covers, as issued biweekly. Publisher’s advertisements on p. [4] of covers of parts. Engraved t.p. in pt. 1, dated Feb. 2, 1807. “To be published regularly every fortnight … until completed”–Covers of parts.

cruikshank-miseries7Thanks to the NYPL staff for their help.

Sound Argument by Charles Dibdin

We bipeds, made up of frail clay,
Alas! are but children of sorrow;
And though brisk and merry to-day,
We all may be wreathed to-morrow, —
For sunshine’s succeeded by rain:
Then, fearful of life’s stormy weather,
lest pleasure should only bring pain,
Let us all be unhappy together.

I grant, the best blessing we know
Is a friend—for true friendship’s a treasure;
And yet, lest your friend prove a foe,
Oh taste not the dangerous pleasure:
Thus friendship’s a flimsy affair;
Thus riches and health are a bubble;
Thus there’s nothing delightful but care,
Nor anything pleasing but trouble.

If a mortal would point out that life
Which on earth would be nearest to heaven,
Let him, thanking his stars, choose a wife
To whom truth and honour are given:
But honour and truth are so rare,
And horns, when they’re cutting, so tingle,
That, with all my respect for the fair,
I’d advise him to sigh and live single.

It appears, from these premises, plain
That wisdom is nothing but folly,
That pleasure’s a term that means pain,
And that joy is your true melancholy;
That all those who laugh ought to err,
That ’tis fine frisk and fun to be grieving,
And that since we must all of us die,
We should take no enjoyment while living.

One of the finest Venetian illustrated books of the Settecento

Giovanni Marco Pitteri (1703-1786) and Francesco Bartolozzi (1727-1815), after Giovanni Battista Piazzetta (1682-1754), Studi di pittura già dissegnati da Giambatista Piazzetta ed ora con l’intaglio di Marco Pitteri [Painting Studies Drawn by Giambattista Piazzetta and Now Together with Marco Pitteri’s Engravings] (Venice: [Giambattista Albrizzi], 1760). 28 pp. text and 48 engravings after 24 drawings. Includes Alcuni avvertimenti per lo incamminamento di un Giovani alla pittura di Gian Pietro Cavazzoni Zannotti (Giampietro Zannotti, 1674-1765). Graphic Arts Collection 2017- in process

In 1750, the celebrated painter and draftsman Giovanni Battista Piazzetta was appointed director of the Academy of Fine Arts in Venice but at the same time, came under increasing financial difficulties. His good friend, leading Venetian publisher Giambattista Battista Albrizzi commissioned a series of instructional life drawings for aspiring artists.

Piazzetta died in 1754 and over the next six years, Francesco Bartolozzi and Marco Pitteri each engraved their own representations of his drawings, which Albrizzi published both sets in 1760 as a manual for painting students; 48 engraved plates after 24 drawings. Bartolozzi emphasizing the line and Pitteri the light and shadow.

Piazzetta, Male Nude in a Landscape. Black chalk on paper. Morgan Museum and Library, Gift of the Samuel H. Kress Foundation. 1961.12:53

This rare volume of virtuoso talent also includes the only surviving etched self-portrait of Piazzetta dated 1738 and a biography of the artist written by Albrizzi. The Graphic Arts Collection is honored to now hold one of the only complete first editions reproducing Piazzetta’s master drawings. Half a generation older than Giambattista Tiepolo, Piazzetta exercised a profound influence on the work of the younger artist, which continues into the 21st century.

Print historian Suzanne Boorsch wrote, “Giambattista Albrizzi’s final tribute to Piazzetta is the Studj di pittura, a sort of model book reproducing twenty-four drawings of nude figures by Piazzetta. During much of his life Piazzetta directed an art school, and Albrizzi’s aim was to put into a more lasting form Piazzetta’s role as teacher. The book, not published until six years after Piazzetta’s death, includes two plates reproducing each drawing, one by Francesco Bartolozzi, which is quite conventional, with outlines and cross-hatching, and the other in Pitteri’s singular, arresting manner.” –Venetian Prints and Books in the Age of Tiepolo (1997). Marquand (SA) NE2052.4.V46 B66 1997



Natives of Oonalashka (or Unalaska)

John Hall (1739-1797) and Samuel Middiman (1751-1831) after a design by John Webber (1751-1793), Natives of Oonalashka and Their Habitations, plate 57 from James Cook, A Voyage to the Pacific Ocean (London: Nicholl and Cadell, 1784). Graphic Arts Collection GC 106

While Firestone Library owns multiple sets of Captain James Cook (1728-1779), A Voyage to the Pacific Ocean; Undertaken by Command of His Majesty, For Making Discoveries in the Northern Hemisphere . . . (London, 1784) including the Atlas volume of maps and engravings, the Graphic Arts Collection holds three additional prints with hand coloring.

John Webber (née Wäber, 1751-1793) served as official artist on James Cook’s third voyage from 1776 to 1780, charged to “observe the genius, temper, disposition of the natives… showing them every kind of civility and regard.” Webber traveled aboard the HMS Resolution to Australia, New Zealand, the Hawaiian Islands, and other Pacific locations before arriving safely (unlike Cook) back in London. Over the next four years, Webber worked with multiple printmakers to translate his watercolors to engraved plates for the British Admiralty’s account of the expedition.

Unalaska is an island in the Fox Islands group of the Aleutian Islands of Alaska. The Unangan people were the first to inhabit the island of Unalaska, which they named Agunalaksh meaning ‘Near the Peninsula’. When the Russian fur traders arrived, they renamed the island Ounalashka and when Captain Cook visited the island, he spelled it Oonalashka in his journal. Webber repeated this in his sketches and the resulting print. See more at:

Possible self-portrait of Webber in the boat.
Samuel Smith (1743/47–1808) after a design by John Webber (1751-1793), A View of the Habitations in Nootka Sound, plate 41 from James Cook, A Voyage to the Pacific Ocean (London: Nicholl and Cadell, 1784). Graphic Arts Collection GC 106

William Sharp (1749-1824) after a design by John Webber (1751-1793), The Inside of a House in Oonalashka, plate 58 from James Cook, A Voyage to the Pacific Ocean (London: Nicholl and Cadell, 1784). Graphic Arts Collection GA 106

See also the bound volume: James Cook (1728-1779), A Voyage to the Pacific Ocean. Undertaken, by the command of His Majesty, for making discoveries in the Northern hemisphere, to determine the position and extent of the west side of North America; its distance from Asia; and the practicability of a northern passage to Europe. . . . Illustrated with maps and charts, from the original drawings made by Lieut. Henry Roberts … with a great variety of portraits … views … and historical representations … drawn by Mr. Webber (London: Printed by W. and A. Strahan, for G. Nicol, & T. Cadell, 1784). 3 v. plates (part fold.) and atlas. Rare Books (Ex) Oversize 1003.265.2e atlas

Early Soviet Sheet Music Online

Last spring, the Graphic Arts Collection, together with Thomas Keenan, Slavic, East European, and Eurasian librarian, purchased 100 pieces of illustrated Early Soviet sheet music:

Over the year, the collection has been conserved, catalogued, rehoused, and digitized. We are happy to announce these fragile sheets are now available online at:

The collection includes music scores published from 1920 to 1937, with numerous composers and lyricists (primarily Russian but also European and American) represented. Most scores were published in Moscow or Leningrad. Other imprints include Rostov-na-Donu, Kiev, Kharʹkov, and Tiflis; and most are popular music, jazz or dance music. The covers were designed by many different artists.

Many staff members worked on this project but thanks in particular to Joyce Bell, who did the coding in record time so that the collection would be ready for the spring semester.

Here is the call number if you would like to come to our reading room and see them in person: Graphic Arts Collection. F-000050. Here is a pdf list of the complete set of 100 pieces of music: Link

Taufenpatenbrief or Godparent’s letter, 1781

Baptism Certificate. Folding, stencil-colored, engraved, and letterpress congratulatory “baptism letter” from a godparent ([Bavaria or Austria], July 20, 1781). Graphic Arts Collection 2017- in process

A square half-sheet (158 x 155 mm) with letterpress text on the inner side and nine stencil colored engraved scenes, each in its own compartment, on the outer side. The certificate is filled in with a place name (?) abbreviated Hoh., a date: 20 July 1781 and a name: Maria Sabina Schneiderin.


The Graphic Arts Collection is fortunate to have acquired a very well-preserved devotional ephemeron: a Taufbrief or Taufenpatenbrief, i.e., “Baptism letter” or “Godparent’s letter.”

It was customary in Germany for godparents to send their godchildren painted, handwritten, or printed good luck wishes on the occasion of their baptisms. These folded paper objects often contained small coins, and served as both a certificate of blessing and as religious instruction for young children: illustrated with scenes related to the meaning of baptism, they were preserved for the child’s edification when he or she reached an appropriate age.

In the 18th century printers developed a gamut of formats for these delightful paper-toy documents, which are now understandably rare. The earliest engraved folded baptism letters known to Spamer, as well as similarly presented marriage greetings, dated from the mid-18th century. See Adolf Spamer, Das kleine Andachtsbild, vom XIV. bis zum XX. Jahrhundert. Mit 314 Abbildungen auf 218 Tafeln und 53 Abbildungen im Text (München, F. Bruckmann, 1930). RECAP  Oversize N7640.S78q p. 242.

Earlier examples were usually handwritten on parchment. See also Michael Twyman’s chapter on ‘Baptismal Papers’ in: Maurice Rickards (1919-1998), The Encyclopedia of Ephemera… edited and completed by Michael Twyman (GARF  Oversize NC1280 .R52 2000q)


To see the letter in action, play this very short video. Thanks to Patrick Crowley, Project Cataloging Specialist, for his help unfolding the sheet.

Hieronymus Schürstab, Mayor of Nuremberg

Hanns Lautensack (ca. 1520-1564/66), Portrait of Hieronymus Schürstab, 1554. Etching. II/II. Graphic Arts Collection GAX 2017- in process.

The German printmaker, draftsman, and medalist Hanns Lautensack used the printer’s mark H.S.L. (under the Latin text), which has led to confusion in his name. Some assume the mark included his middle name, often written as Hans Sebald Lautensack, but recent sources suggest that his name and mark ought to be read Ham Lauten-Sack. For now, the Getty’s Union List of Artist Names uses Hanns alone and so do we.

The Graphic Arts Collection recently acquired one of the last works Lautensack etched before leaving Nuremberg for Vienna, a lifetime portrait of Hieronymous (or Jerome) Schürstab (1512-1573). “Schürstab was a prominent member of the Nuremberg city council,” writes Jeffrey Chipps Smith. “From 1545 he served as the bürgermeister and from 1558 as the alter bürgermeister (elder or senior mayor).” —Nuremberg, a Renaissance City, 1500-1618 (Marquand Oversize N6886.N9 S64q).

For a Schurstab-Rheticus-Copernicus connection, see chapter 6, pages 86-87 of The First Copernican by Dennis Richard Danielson (Firestone QB36.R38 D36 2006).


The church in the distance is identified as the St. Leonhard church and infirmary, located southwest of Nuremberg. St. Leonhard was established by one of Schürstab’s early relatives and several years after the portrait was published, he was appointed one of its overseers.

However, when this portrait was etched, Schürstab was a guardian of St. Peter’s and it has been suggested that the building in this landscape actually represents St. Peter’s. Five years later, when Schürstab transferred to St. Leonhard, he hired an artist to add the inscription to the plate and a second edition of his portrait was printed. See F.W.H. Hollstein, German Engravings, Etchings, and Woodcuts. XXI, no.68.


Latin text:
Hieronymus Schürstab
Octo lustra, duos annos mea tempora vidi
Cum talis nostro vultus in ore fuit,
Et patriae clades, et tristia bella potentum
Lugebam: Sed tu da meliora Deus,
Sic patriam nostramque Domum Regesque guberna,
Vt pia tranquillae tempora pacis agant,
Vt late magnum currant tua regna per orbem
Et crescant verbi semina vera tui.

Hieronymus Schuerstab
For forty-two years I saw my times,
While such an aspect of things was always before us.
I have mourned the calamity of the homeland, the bitter wars of the powerful.
But give us better things, o God!
So govern our land, our homeland and our kings,
That they might bring about such faithful times of tranquil peace,
That far and wide, throughout the great earth, Thy domains should run,
And the true seeds of Thy word should thrive.
(translation by Mark Farrell)

Liberty Suspended!

George Cruikshank (1792-1878), Liberty Suspended! with the Bulwark of the Constitution!, March 1817. Published London: J Sidebortham. Etching with hand coloring. Graphic Arts Collection Cruikshank GC 022. Gift of Richard W. Meirs, Class of 1888.

Two hundred years ago, Cruikshank drew this radical and now rare, satirical print highlighting a loss of liberty by the “green bag committee” and the temporary Seditious Meetings Bill (passed on March 25, 1817) suspending the Habeas corpus in cases of persons committed for treason. Read more in Katrina Navickas, Protest and the Politics of Space and Place, 1789-1848 (2015 Firestone JN329.P7 N38 2016)

Dorothy George, the great British print historian wrote, “the base of a dismantled printing-press, ‘BRITISH PRESS’, Castlereagh, Eldon, and Ellenborough display to armed ranks of Sinecurists* below, the body of Liberty, gagged and bound, hanging from a gibbet which projects to the right from the press, which suggests a guillotine.”

John Scott, 1st Earl of Eldon (1751-1838) [above] has the Purse of the Great Seal around his neck and in his left hand a large green bag inscribed: “Evidence ags LIBERTY—Spencean’s Plan Spa fields Plot An Old Stocking full of Gunpowder 3 or 4 rusty fire arms & a few bullets too large to fit the barrels!!”

Robert Stewart, Viscount Castlereagh and 2nd Marquess of Londonderry (1769-1822) [top] holds up Liberty’s broken staff and declaims, “It is better to do this, than “Stand Prostrate” at the feet of Anarchy.”

*Sinecure (ˈsaɪnɪˌkjʊə): A paid office or post involving minimal duties.


Drawn from the Antique

In 1885, The British Museum acquired a small album of 110 drawings by Thomas Rowlandson (1756-1827), depicting Roman busts, labeled “Sketches of the Antique.” It was a donation by Edward Gilbertson (1813-1904) who

“apprenticed at the age of eighteen to an artist and engraver, Mr. Wright (probably Thomas Wright the engraver, q.v.). He travelled to Russia with the Wrights before returning to live briefly with the Paget family in Anglesey. This early career as an artist was abandoned for a career in banking. In 1860 he was appointed secretary to the Ottoman Bank and was later appointed director of the bank in Constantinople. During this period he was awarded honours by the Sultan for his services to the Turkish economy.” –British Museum database.

Gilbertson donated several Rowlandson albums during his lifetime and his collection of 980 coins was later bequeathed to the museum.  A second album of “Sketches of the Antique,” made it’s way separately into the Victoria & Albert Museum.

In 2008, a third album of Rowlandson drawings depicting 50 classical busts came onto the market and was acquired by the Graphic Arts Collection. Diogene, Antinous, Ariadne, Hypocrite, Miltiades, Epicure, Alcibiade, Hermes, Themistocles, and Xenophon are among those depicted. Captions and explanatory notes are written in English on corresponding pages, with some additional notes in French. The watermarks in the sheets on which the drawings were executed (as well as the album leaves themselves) are dated 1820-21.

The drawings are not based on actual busts but were copied from Thomas Piroli’s engravings in Johann Gottfried Schweighaeuser (1776-1844), Monumens antiques du Musée Napoléon (Pairs, 1804). Rare Books Ex NB69 .P5. Presumably, Rowlandson owned a copy.

Thomas Rowlandson (1756-1827), Rowlandson’s sketches of the antique, [not before 1820]. Sketchbook with 50 drawings; 24 cm. Graphic Arts collection GAX 2008-0205

Matching a Thomas Rowlandson sketch to its finished print

In trying to match our collection of Thomas Rowlandson drawings with published prints and books, it took nine copies of Henry Bunbury’s Academy for Grown Horsemen, before the Ackermann edition turned up with a match. Note: Geoffrey Gambado is a pseudonym for Henry William Bunbury.

Henry William Bunbury (1750-1811). An Academy for Grown Horsemen: containing the completest instructions, for walking, trotting, … illustrated with copper plates, and adorned with a portrait of the author by Geoffrey Gambado, Esq. [pseud.] (London: Printed for R. Ackermann, 1825). xxvii, 30-75, lxxx-xcix, 102-201 p., [27] col. plates: ill.; 15 cm. Graphic Arts Collection (GA) Rowlandson 1787.33 and Rare Books: Laurance Roberts Carton Hunting Coll. (ExCarton SF301 .xB93 1825


The match was first discovered by Joseph Rothrock (former curator of graphic arts) and documented in the Princeton University Library Chronicle 36, no. 2 (winter 1975): 87-110:   This was not an easy attribution to make since Bunbury’s book comes in many shapes and sizes, not to mention the variations of plates inside. Here are a few on our shelves:

Henry William Bunbury (1750-1811). An Academy for Grown Horsemen; containing the completest instructions for walking, trotting, cantering, galloping, stumbling and tumbling.: The annals of horsemanship: containing accounts of accidental experiments and experimental accidents, both successful and unsuccessful; communicated by various correspondents to the author, Geoffrey Gambado, Esq. … Illustrated with cuts, by the most eminent artists (London: Printed for Vernor, Hood, and Sharpe; Longman, Hurst, Rees, and Orme; J. Walker; J. Harris; and W. Bayne; at the union printing-office, … by W. Wilson., 1808). [2], xvi, 28, xvi, 69, [3] p., [29] leaves of plates: col. ill.; 18 cm.  With 29 leaves of hand-coloured satirical plates.; plates signed: H. Bunbury esq. delin. Some plates with imprint: London. Pub. by T. Tegg, May 4-1808. Graphic Arts Collection (GA) Rowlandson 1787.32


Henry William Bunbury (1750-1811). An Academy for Grown Horsemen: containing the completest instructions for walking, trotting, cantering, galloping, stumbling, and tumbling: illustrated with copper plates, and adorned with a portrait of the author / by Geoffrey Gambado [i.e. H. W. Bunbury]. 2d ed. (London: Printed for Hooper and Wigstead, 1796). xx, 36 p., [12] leaves of plates: col. ill.; 34 cm. Graphic Arts Collection (GA) Oversize Rowlandson 1791.5q and  Rare Books (Ex) 2011-0036Q


Henry William Bunbury (1750-1811). An Academy for Grown Horsemen; containing the completest instructions for walking, trotting, cantering, galloping, stumbling, and tumbling … By Geoffrey Gambado [pseud.] ... 3d ed. … (London, W. Baynes, 1808). xxiv, 36 p. front., plates. 33 cm. Graphic Arts Collection (GA) Oversize Rowlandson 1787.31f


Henry William Bunbury (1750-1811), An Academy for Grown Horsemen; containing the completest instructions for walking, trotting, cantering, galloping, stumbling and tumbling. : The annals of horsemanship: containing accounts of accidental experiments and experimental accidents, both successful and unsuccessful; communicated by various correspondents to the author, Geoffrey Gambado, Esq. … Illustrated with cuts, by the most eminent artists (London: Printed for Vernor, Hood, and Sharpe; Longman, Hurst, Rees, and Orme; J. Walker; J. Harris; and W. Bayne; at the union printing-office, … by W. Wilson., 1808). Graphic Arts Collection (GA) Rowlandson 1787.32


Henry William Bunbury (1750-1811), An Academy for Grown Horsemen; containing the completest instructions for walking, trotting … The annals of horsemanship, containing accounts of accidental experiments … communicated … to the author Geoffrey Gambado, esq.Illustrated with cuts, by the most eminent artists (London: Printed for Vernor, Hood, and Shape [etc,], 1809). 140 p. col. illus. 22 cm. Graphic Arts Collection (GA) Rowlandson 1787.34 and Graphic Arts Collection (GA) Rowlandson 1787.34 and Rare Books: Laurence Roberts Carton Hunting Coll. (ExCarton) SF301 .xB93 1809



A William Blake Puzzle

In the January 1921 issue of The Arts, Scofield Thayer (1889–1982) placed a challenge to readers, which also served as an advertisement for his own newly revived journal The Dial. Thayer asked readers if they could identify which woodcut was made by William Blake (1757-1827) and which was a “vulgarization of it executed to please the public.” The correct answer was rewarded with an additional month added to a Dial subscription.

The answer is simple but the background to the puzzle is more complicated. The question was originally raised in a review of William Mulready’s illustration for Oliver Goldsmith (1730-1774), The Vicar of Wakefield (London: J. Van Voorst, 1843. GAX 2003-0620N), placed in Athenaeum, January 21, 1843, p.65. Two woodcut illustrations are shown, Blake’s Virgil, no. 3 (left) and an anonymous cut after its design (right), published in The Vicar of Wakefield.

“Fine Arts,” The Athenaeum: Journal of English and Foreign Literature, Science, and the Fine Arts, January 21, 1843. Firestone Library


Robert John Thornton (1768?-1837) commissioned a series of illustrations of Virgil’s Pastorals but the work Blake completed did not please the commissioner. Geoffrey Keynes (1887-1982) describes the situation: “Dr. Thornton was not an imaginative man. He was enterprising and prolific where botany and medicine were concerned, and employed recognized artist to illustrate his works, sometimes on a lavish scale.”

Thornton had three of Blake’s designs re-engraved for the book by a professional hand, numbers 14-16. A fourth block was also recut, presumably by the same hand and the result is “an interesting example of how the originality of genius may be reduced to the conventional formula of the moment. It was not used in the book but was printed side by side with an impression form Blake’s corresponding woodblock in the Athenaeum.”


Virgil, The Pastorals of Virgil, [edited by] Robert John Thornton. 3rd ed. (London: F.C. & J. Rivingtons, 1821). Includes woodcuts illustrating Ambrose Philips’ Imitation of Eclogue I (v. 1, p. 13-18) by William Blake. Graphic Arts Collection (GAX) NE910.G7 B5 1821

See also William Blake (1757-1827), The Wood Engravings of William Blake: seventeen subjects commissioned by Dr. Robert Thornton for his Virgil of 1821, newly printed from the original blocks now in the British Museum (London: Published for the Trustees of the British Museum by British Museum Publications, 1977). Rare Books (Ex) Oversize 3631.3.3475.1977q