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SHAKESPEARE, William - WIVELL, Abraham.

An Inquiry into the History, Authenticity, & Characteristics of the Shakspeare Portraits,

in which the criticisms of Malone, Steevens, Boaden, & others, are examined, confirmed, or refuted. Embracing the Felton, the Chandos, the Duke of Somerset's pictures, the Droeshout print, and the monument of Shakspeare, at Stratford; together with an exposé of the spurious pictures and prints. [With supplement.]

London: by the author, and sold by all booksellers, 1827 Stock Code: 84953
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Shakespeare's portraits

First edition, published three years after James Boaden's work on the same subject. Wivell had risen from impoverished beginnings and an apprenticeship to a wigmaker and hairdresser, before reaching public notice as an artist with portraits of the Cato Street conspirators awaiting trial. This led to a commission to draw portraits of the participants in the "trial" of Queen Caroline in the House of Lords, thence to abundant portrait commissions from the royal family, the aristocracy, and leading theatrical figures. This publication, however, brought his prosperity to a sudden end, as its sales failed to cover the expense of producing the plates, reducing Wivell "from affluence to comparative poverty" (Art Journal, 206). He was rescued by an uncle's legacy and his own ingenuity, subsequently inventing a rope fire escape that was credited with saving hundreds of lives. Jaggard notes that the edition size was 500 copies, of which 50 had plates on India paper and 25 were printed on large paper.

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Octavo (207 x 135 mm), in 2 parts, the supplement with separate title. Mid 19th-century red half calf, contrasting green labels, low raised bands attractively gilt, marbled sides, blue-green endpapers, red sprinkled edges.


Engraved frontispiece of the Stratford monument, 20 engraved plates.


A little stripping to one corner, one plate (the Gilliland portrait) torn across and repaired, else a very good copy.


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