Caroline Watson, engraver to Her Majesty the Queen

Posted on 10th May 2019 by simonbeattie

Less than a month to go until Firsts: London’s Rare Book Fair, and we find ourselves busily putting together our fair list. This year we have a variety of material we hope you will enjoy, including one of my current favourites: a striking example of copperplate engraving printed à la poupée on silk:


The silk print depicts Elizabeth Margaret Hay-Drummond, née Marshall (d.1798), and her two children Caroline Edith (c.1788–1865) and Robert William (1786–1861).

The plate was engraved by Caroline Watson (1761–1814), ‘a remarkably talented pointillist (dry point) and mezzotint engraver’ (Benezit). She was one of the few women who maintained an independent practice as an engraver and signed her own work, rather than working anonymously in the family business. She also, it would seem, cultivated a largely female clientele; many of her prints were dedicated to women and engraved ‘with a female audience in mind’ (Oxford DNB). Watson was also the engraver to Queen Caroline.

Together with the silk print, we are pleased to be offering two of its ‘siblings’, as it were: a proof and a print, both on paper, from the same plate, forming a delightful little snapshot of late eighteenth-century illustration processes:

From L to R: the silk, the proof, and the print

For more info on Watson and to see our other highlights, stay tuned for our Firsts London fair list; and if you plan on attending the fair, do stop by stand G09 and say hello!

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