Boston Public Library

Boydell’s Shakespeare Gallery

The infant Shakspeare
Detail from: The infant Shakspeare
Boydell's Graphic Illustrations of the Dramatic Works of Shakspeare represents the final chapter in a three-part, decades-long commercial publication venture undertaken by John Boydell. Between 1786 and 1804, Boydell prepared a sumptuous, illustrated edition of the works of Shakespeare, along the way commissioning scores of the finest and most accomplished artists in Britain to paint scenes from the plays. Boydell displayed their work in a spectacular gallery at 52 Pall Mall, which opened in 1789. Throughout the 1790s, Boydell employed a team of engravers and printmakers to adapt the paintings for publication -- though difficulties in financing the project, particularly in the face of declining subscriptions, eventually led to the collapse of the project.

Critical funding to support long-term preservation of and enhanced public access to Boston Public Library collections, including this one, was provided by the Associates of the Boston Public Library.

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