The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume XIV. The Victorian Age, Part Two.

VI. Caricature and the Literature of Sport

§ 3. Boydell

Hogarth and his fellows had won for the artist copyright in his own engravings; but the market remained for some years restricted to England. Duties on prints entering France were so high as to close the French market to English artists; meanwhile, French prints found their way in large quantities to London. The removal of this disability of English engravers was chiefly due to the artist and print-seller, John Boydell. Boydell began his successful career by engraving small landscapes, which, because print-shops were few, he exhibited in the windows of toy-shops. From small landscapes he went on to large views of London, Oxford and Cambridge and other places; and, in 1751, having done well with a volume of views in England and Wales, he set up as a print-seller. Ardent in his encouragement of British talent, and aided in the early years of the reign of George III by a bounty allowed to English prints for sale in France, Boydell succeeded in turning the print-trade with that country from an import trade to an export trade with an annual revenue of £200,000. The impulse given to English engraving was, naturally, very strong; and it lasted after the outbreak of the French revolution had destroyed the trade with France. Boydell’s illustrated edition of Shakespeare was published in 1802; but he had begun to collect materials for it so early as 1786. His object was to encourage English painting, as he had encouraged English engraving; and he employed the most eminent artists of his day.

With Boydell, the print-seller first developed into the patron and employer, and the development was to have an important, if indirect, influence upon the relations of pictorial art to literature. The large number of capable artists whom the new conditions had brought into being gave pictorial art the power, as it were, of dictating to literature. These artists were accustomed (amid the barrenness and mock-antique solemnity of the academic art of the day) to deal freely and naturally with the common scenes, whether topographical or human, of the world about them. They worked for the people, not for connoisseurs; and, in time, they came to find the need of a literature that should form a vehicle for their productions.