The commercial maecenas : a study of the life and principal business concerns of John Boydell.
With the passage of time John Roydell has been all
but forgotten. An independent, patriotic, highly acclaimed
and. successful businessman for most of the latter half of
the eighteenth century, he rose from a moderate background
to become a prominent man of commerce, a Lord Mayor of the
City of London, a benefactor and the founder of an art
gallery which alerted the public to the wealth of British
artistic talent. He also promoted native artists and
engravers to the extent that the market for the endeavours
of their foreign counterparts was nearly annihilated, to
the distinct advantage of Britain's own balance of trade.
This study, in tracing Boydell's life and importance,
reveals the impact he made on British art and British
cultural society, principally through his utilisation of
the literature and history of the country for major book,
publications and the issuing of individual prints of
significant, generally contemporaneous, subject matter.
Initially, success was assured and the legacy Boydell could
have left to Britain would have been inestimable. Unfortunately,
circumstances, not least the French Wars, dictated that his
name fell into near-obscurity when, more fairly, he ought to
have retained a reputation as being the equal of any of the
great businessmen of his time.
The exploration of Boydell's commercial acumen,
motivation and achievements has the effect of showing that
he was an unusual entrepreneur and, more widely, that the
importance of printselling in the Industrial Revolution is
underestimated. Certain accepted notions of eighteenthcentury
trading and tradesmen are either emphasised or
questioned when related to Boydell, conclusions therefrom
suggesting that, in his ability to conform and yet be
outstanding, he was a significant - albeit now forgotten -
personality of the artistic, commercial and civic worlds.