Gillray's Prints

A Cognocenti Contemplating ye Beauties of ye Antique. Courtesy of the Trustees of the British Museum
A Cognocenti Contemplating ye Beauties of ye Antique [1801]
© Trustees of the British Museum


The British Museum/Library collection of Gillray's prints and drawings is still the largest and most comprehensive in the world. And thanks to the work of M. Dorothy George, it is also the best documented. But as more universities and museums begin to recognize and appreciate the historical and cultural value of 18th century prints and drawings, collections of Gillray are becoming better known and more of them are starting to become available either wholly or partially online.

In the table below, I list the collections of which I am aware, the numbers of prints and drawings they appear to have, and the current status (as of May, 2015) of their online access. When counting prints, I have NOT included copies of the same print in different states or with different colors. As with everything else in this unofficial site, the information is only as good as my poor efforts have made it. I welcome any feedback to correct my errors of omission or commission.

I have included the Bohn/Wright edition of The Works of James Gillray in my list as a convenient point of reference because 1) it is reasonably comprehensive, including in most cases 582 plates plus 45 plates that were suppressed because their content was considered too racy for Victorian tastes, 2) because one can find a copy in some public and many university libraries, and 3) because, even in this digital age, it is still a very good way to see Gillray en masse.

Collection Drawings Prints Online Status
Bohn/Wright 0 627 Printed Edition. Because the copies are all uncolored, one can more easily examine the etching and engraving techniques.
British Museum 267 917 From what I can tell, 267 drawings have been catalogued; about 30 of them have been digitized (as of 05/04/2015). Most of the non-digitized images were originally attributed to Philip James de Loutherbourg, and were created in 1793 when Gillray accompanied de Loutherbourg on a trip to Belgium and France to gather material for de Loutherbourg's painting of the Siege of Valenciennes. About 12 appear to be preparatory studies for existing prints.
The 917 prints are all digitized, and many are available in multiple versions, colored and uncolored. Each digitized copy of a print is available as a thumbnail and in a larger version. Plate (?) sizes are listed in millimeters. Unlike the Lewis Walpole or Princeton collections, however, there is no zoom capability to obtain a closer look at details.
Columbia University 0 740 This is a beautifully preserved collection in 10 bound volumes, at one time possibly belonging to Gillray's friend, John Sneyd. The collection is organized by the size of the prints and then in roughly chronological order. But the individual prints have not been catalogued (except on this site) nor have they been digitized. In addition to the 10 volume collection of 720 prints, there is also an excellent bound copy of Hollandia Regenerata including 20 more prints.
Fitzwilliam Museum 16 617 As of 03/18/2017 it appears that there are 142 prints digitized. Of those currently digitized images, a substantial number are uncolored. In addition to a thumbnail of the print, one can examine the image in two larger sizes. In a few cases, sizes (in millimeters) and a description are provided.
Frick Art Reference Library 3 724 This is a collection in 11 bound volumes. The first six volumes are devoted to political caricatures in roughly chronological order. The next five volumes are devoted to miscellaneous prints (also in roughly chronological order), including some that are not caricatures at all, such as A Stranger in Sparta and a pair of sentimental prints, Absence and Remembrance. The final volume also includes three preparatory studies: one of A Calm, and two of The Graces in a High Wind. The individual prints have not been catalogued (except on this site) nor have they been digitized.
House of Lords Library 1 877 Added 03/17/2017. This is a collection in 11 bound volumes assembled by Sir William Augustus Fraser (1826–1898). In addition to a comprehensive set of prints in mostly chonological order, it includes two manuscript letters of Gillray and a Gillray drawing. The collection has now been carefully catalogued by Tim Clayton and Rebecca Risbridger. One of the most interesting things about the catalog is that it includes the markers for Gillray prints that Sir William was not able to obtain. So it represents a complete list of the prints that an informed collector had reason to believe were Gillray's. Alas, it does not appear to have been digitized yet. My total includes only the listed prints in the collection attributed to Gillray, not the markers.
Lewis Walpole Library 4 656 This is the largest US collection of Gillray's prints that is both catalogued and available online. Like the British Museum, it has the advantage of housing prints by many of Gillray's contemporaries so one can see his prints in context. In addition to providing thumbnails, the digital site also provides an excellent zoom feature enabling you to examine the prints in minute detail. Sizes (in centimeters) are only inconsistently provided.
Library of Congress 0? 680 Catalog online. 135 images digitized. In addition to viewing a thumbnail of the print (when available), one can examine the image in a larger size.
National Portrait Gallery (Britain) 0? 846 Not just portraits. After the British Museum, this seems to be the most comprehensive collection of Gillray's prints that is both catalogued and available online. Plate and/or paper sizes are available in inches and millimeters. Most of the subjects are listed if not specifically identified. The prints are mostly colored and seem to be in excellent condition. Thumbnail and larger images are available for all. It also include a very useful zoom capability to obtain a closer look at the details of a print.
New York Public Library 8 85 A small collection along with an informative exhibition site. All of the prints and drawings are catalogued and digitized. In addition to viewing a thumbnail of the print, one can examine the image in a larger size.
Princeton University 0 275 This is a relatively small collection of mainly later Gillray prints, but in addition to providing digitized thumbnails of all the prints, it also provides a zoom feature which allows you to closely examine Gillray's printmaking techniques. Sizes (sometimes plate, sometimes paper, sometimes both, sometimes neither) are inconsistently provided in centimeters.

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