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If my slight muse do please these curious days,
-Sonnet, xxxviii, 5.
THE STORY OF THE BOYDELL SHAKESPEARE.
JOHN BOYDELL (a name which all lovers of Art have
learned to reverence) was one of the most remarkable selfmade men of the eighteenth century. Born at Dorrington, in
1719, he was brought up by his father for a land surveyor, but at a very early age, his mind was directed toward engraving by the sight of a print in Baddeley's Views of different Country Seats. An extremely indifferent plate it happened to be, executed by Toms, but his mind was fired and his determination soon taken to follow the trade of engraving. At twenty-one years of age, he bound himself apprentice to Mr. Toms, whom after six years of hard work he bought out and started business for himself by issuing a book of six plates entitled, The Bridge Book, from the fact that there was a bridge in each plate. These were all of his own workmanship, and this book he was wont to say proudly in after years was the first that had made a Lord Mayor of London. This was his start, and upon the profits of this, he based his future enterprises. I say enterprises, for his life was full of them and always on the grandest scale. It was his liberal patronage of the Fine Arts, however, that distinguished him from other and even more successful business men. Although possessed of the rarest, faculties for coining money, he always made purely selfish considerations of personal gain secondary to the great purpose of his life—the encouragement and furtherance of home industry and art. And as schemes of such a nature, properly conducted, were almost sure of profitable returns, it so came about that by the year 1786, when the Shakespeare enterprise was set on foot, he was a wealthy and universally respected Alderman, of London.