An extremely rare engraving of Edinburgh by the renowned Wenceslaus Hollar (1607-77). In the annals of English copper plate engraving few hold such a high reputation as Hollar. It is the seventeenth century in which he contributed so much. He is one of the first to record in such great detail and quantity the English way of life at the time. The breadth and depth of his work is remarkable. He was born in Prague 13 July 1607 as Václav Hollar which he would later anglicise. His childhood was a life of some privilege which enabled him access to some of the finest art works of the era, including that of the principal court engraver Aegidius Sadeler with whom it is believed Hollar learnt to engrave. Hollar’s early work was in Prague but the turmoil at home encouraged him to go to Stuttgart, Germany in 1627. Two years later he appears to have moved further west to Strasbourg. His natural talent flourished alongside the likes of Jan van de Velde and shortly after Matthaus Merian in Frankfurt. He worked all along the River Rhine including the Dutch towns.
It was in 1636 that a fortuitous meeting occurred with the English envoy Thomas Howard, the Earl of Arundel. Hollar joined the entourage and was employed to record their travels. At the end of the year the Earl of Arundel returned to England and was joined by Hollar. For the next six years he worked closely alongside him. The Earl and his circle were fervent Royalists which it appears matched Hollar’s own sympathies. According to the eighteenth century engraver George Vertue, he fought during the Civil War being present at the garrison of Basing House in 1644 with other notable artists such as Inigo Jones and William Faithorne. During this period some of his engravings were published by the largest printseller at the time, Peter Stent. The Arundel’s had left London for Holland just before the outbreak of the Civil War. Sometime later in 1644, Hollar joined them. He would spend the next eight years in Antwerp about which we know relatively little.
The date of the original drawing for this print survives in the Royal Library, Windsor Castle, is unknown. However, the image illustrates buildings at Holyrood House destroyed in 1650, nearby is stated ‘now the Palace’. It does record parliament House which was completed in 1639. The Tron Church whose construction commenced in 1632 and first opened in 1647 is also shown. Barrott stated that Heriot’s hospital was notably omitted, despite construction starting in 1632. It was halted however during the period 1639-42. It has been noted elsewhere that the hospital was placed incorrectly to the east of Potterow Port, rather than the west. It is suggested that a likely date for the image being drawn would be c.1640. A total of 27 numbered references are keyed below and the whole is dedicated by John Ogilby to the city councillors. The city’s arms are depicted upper left.
Provenance: Sotheby’s London 7 December 1993 lot 185, a five volume composite ‘History of England’ by David Hume 1806 with 1,644 plates! It had the bookplate of Richard Henry Alexander Bennet. The prints were collected by the noted Richard Bull (1721-1805) whose daughter was Elizabeth Bull of North Court Manor, Isle of Wight (1749-1809). She left her books to R. H. Alexander Bennet of Beckenham, Kent. The lines round the sheets are typical of Richard Bull, who had put the collection together. Barrott (2000) pp. 8, 11-12; Pennington (1982) 973.