James Heath 1757-1834 The Engraver

Portrait of James Heath by Lemuel Francis Abbott

Born: 19 April 1757 and died 17 November 1834.
Son of: George Heath (?-1773), the Bookbinder, and Mary (previously Mrs Jacob, possibly Humball?).
Brother of:
1. Joseph Heath who became a bookbinder (1754-1820?) and never married.
2. William Heath (1755-1758).
3. Hannah Heath (1758-1774).
4. Sarah Botheroyde (nee Heath) (1759-?) who married in 1779 John Botheroyde (?-1813).
5. Robert Heath (1761-1765).
6. William Heath (1763-1774).
7. George Heath (1766-1821) who trained as a bookbinder and then became a builder (1766-1821).  George married in 1790 Mary Fielding (1760?-1843).
8. Ann Heath (1768-?) who died before 1774.
James married:
1st Eliza (or Elizabeth) Thomas (?-1835) October 1778, St Luke's Church, Old Street.
2nd lived with Mary Phillipson (1757-1819).  Mary appears to have been the sister of Amelia Petch and they were the daughters of Thomas Phillipson and Mary (or Elizabeth).
James and Eliza had issue:
1. George Heath (1778-1852) who married Ann Raymond Dunbar (1787-1842).
James and Mary had issue:
2. Caroline Hamilton (nee Heath, 1784-18??) who married Samuel Hamilton.
3. Amelia Clara Dollman (nee Heath, 1794-18??) who married Rev Frank (or Francis?) Dollman.
4. Charles Heath, the engraver (1785-1848) who married Elizabeth Petch (?-1861).
5. Harriet Dollman (nee Heath, 1789-18??) who married Edward Dollman.
6. Matilda Sophia Heath (nee Heath, 1792-1864) who married her second cousin William Tyler Heath  (1787-1852).


James Heath was very well known in his time and we find references to him in many books that cover art and engraving in the 18th and 19th century.  Possibly the best reference is the three book set 'The Heath Family Engravers' by John Heath, published in 1993 and 2000, copies of which can still be obtained from the family.


James Heath was apprenticed to the Engraver Joseph Collyer in 1771 and the earliest known engraving bearing James's name was published in 1779 for the poems of 'John Hughes' part of the series 'Poets of Great Britain' arranged by John Bell and published by Apollo Press for Martin & Blain, Edinburgh.  The engraving itself was often referred to as the Piping Boy.  It had originally been drawn by the artist Thomas Stothard and was the begining of a very fruitful partnership that was to last all through their lives, the unofficial partnership of Thomas Stothard the artist and James Heath the engraver.

Engraving by James Heath of the title page of Hughes Poems

As James progressed through his career he was to come into contact with many of the other famous artists of the time including; Sir Joshua Reynolds, Benjamin West, Sir Thomas Lawrence, Thomas Gainsborough, Sir Henry Raeburn, JMW Turner, John Copely, James Barrie, Richard Westall and numerous others.

James's initial works were predominantly book illustrations for a variety of publications.  His major early success was with the 'Novelist' Magazine', which ran for 23 volumes from 1780-1788 and presumably established his reputation.  James produced approximately 100 engravings for this series and was paid 5 guineas (5 pounds and 5 shillings) for each engraving and an extra guinea for plates that were retouched.  These volumes were published by Harrison & Co and many similar works followed including the 'Ladies Poetical Magazine' and 'British Classicks'. 

Engraving by James Heath from Triumps of Temper by William Hayley

In 1788 James Heath completed the engraving of two plates for 'The Triumphs of Temper', a book of poetry by William Hayley, published by T Cadell & W Davies, 6th edition (First published in 1781).  A receipt has survived, dated 25 June 1788, recording that James received 10 Guineas for engraving one of the plates.  This could be a part payment but is more likely to have been the full cost to engrave one plate.  The book contained 7 plates all from drawings by Thomas Stothard and 2 of these were engraved by James Heath, the others being by J Neagle and W Sharpe.

The scope of James's work widened as he gained commissions for work from many other publishers including; J Johnson, T & W Lowndes, Charles Dilly, John Stockdale, T Cadell & W Davies, GGJ & J Robinson and J Boydell.  Good examples of his engraved illustrations for books would include The Pleasures of Memory by Samuel Rogers 1794 and The Pleasures of Hope by Thomas Campbell 1801.  On occasions James also published in his own name and one of his biggest projects was the six volume set titled 'Heath's Shakespeare', 1802.

In addition to engraving plates for books, James produced separate prints for framing.  Many of these were small portraits but he also produced a number of major works some of which took years to complete:

1787, 'The Apothesis of Handel' by Rebecca, 35cm x 25cm.
1788, 'Three Soldiers' by Salv Rosa, 22cm x 28cm.
1789, 'Archery at Blackheath' by Joseph Slater, 58cm x 33cm.
1789, 'Adam & Eve in Paradise' by Breughel, 47cm x65.
1790, 'The Riot in Broad Street' by Francis Weatley, 42cm x 59cm.
1792, 'Jupiter & Semele' by Cipriani, 26cm x 37cm.
1792, 'Diana & Endymion' by Cipriani, 26 cm x 37cm.
1795, 'The Dead Soldier' by J Wright, 46cm by 61cm.
1796, 'The Death of Major Pierson' by John Singleton Copley, 55cm x 76cm.
1811, 'The Death of Lord Viscount Nelson' by Benjamin West, 48cm x 64cm.
1817, 'Pilgrimage to Canterbury' by Thomas Stothard, 93cm x 27cm.
1820, 'The Drowned Fisherman' by Richard Westall, 43cm x 58cm.
Not dated, 'Mary introducing Jesus to John the Baptist' by Rafael, 61cm x 43cm.

Engraving by James Heath after Benjamin West of the Death of Nelson

In 1817 James completed Thomas Stothard's 'Pilgrimage to Canterbury' which had originally been started by the engraver Louis Schiavonetti.

Of the large number of portraits completed by James during his career, possibly the most well known was of 'George Washington', after the painting by Gilbert Stuart, 1800, (50cm x 33cm).  Some of the other portraits include:

1796, 'John Bannister in the charactor of Walter' by Richard Westall, 38cm x 46cm.
1799, 'Samuel Johnson' by Joshua Reynolds, 16cm x 13cm.
1799, 'Carlos Lawson' by W M Craig, 30cm x 25cm.
1800, 'George Washington' by Gilbert Stuart, 50cm x 33cm.
1801, 'Lord Nelson' by Lemuel Francis Abbott, 42cm x 33cm.
1804, 'Richard Colley Wellesley ', Governor General of India' by Robert Home, 64cm x 46cm.
1804, 'Robert Roy' by M A Shee, 43cm x 34cm.
1805, 'William Henry West Betty as Hamlet' by James Northcote, 58cm x 40cm.
1807, 'William Henry West Betty as Young Norbal' by John Opie, 50cm x 34cm.
1807, 'William Wilberforce' by J Russell, 30cm x 25cm.
1813, 'Robert Blair of Avontoun' by Sir Henry Raeburn, 44cm x 36cm. 
1813, 'Sir Joseph Radcliffe Bart' by W Owen, 50cm x 32cm.
1815, 'William Pitt, High Stewart of the University of Cambridge' by EF Burney, 55cm x 25cm.
1815, 'Titian's Daughter' by Titian, 31cm x 26cm.
1830, 'William Markham, late Archbishop of York' by John Hoppner, 43cm x 34cm.
Not dated, 'George Brookes' by Woodforde, 28cm x 22.
Not dated, "Rev'd Thomas Jones MA, late Fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge" by Morland, 30cm x 25cm.

Engraving by James Heath after Gilbert Stuart of George Washington

James Heath by Henry Jacob Burch

James Heath by Gilbert Stuart

James Heath by Thomas Kearsley

James Heath from the Monthly Mirror

Portrait of James Heath by Drawn by W Behnes 1819  Etched by Mrs Dawson Turner

James Heath by W Behnes

James Heath by Lemuel Francis Abbott

James Heath by Henry Edridge

James Heath by John Jackson

James Heath by John Lonsdale

James Heath by Thomas George

A small card exisits advertising James Heath's services as a drawing master available for tuition in Bath (8 Chapel Row, Queen Square).  While it is assumed that James was predominantly an engraver, presumably he did give lessons from time to time but only infrequently as there is no other record of him as a drawing master.

The information on this website is copyright JJ Heath-Caldwell.  Should you wish to copy any of this information for commercial purposes, please contact JJ Heath-Caldwell.

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