The print version, executed in etching and aquatint, evidently was one of a series of at least six engravings of ships by William Wallace and T. Soutter published by Laurie & Whittle between 1794 and 1800; examples of the six are in the collection of the Cambridge University Library in England. The National Maritime Museum in Greenwich, England, has the final version of “Greyhound” in its collection, numbered “3” in the upper right corner, and another from the series numbered “4,” published April 4, 1795, and titled The Baileys Cutter, Capt. Sutter — Passing the Eddystone-Lighthouse.
The “Greyhound” set offered here includes:
• Watercolor inscribed in ink, lower margin: “The Greyhound Excise Cutter Capt. W. Watson on a Wind Chasing. Drawn by T. Soutter” and signed lower right margin “Tho’s Soutter fecit.”
• Color-printed etching and aquatint, possibly finished in color by hand, proof before letters, the title and “Drawn by T. Soutter” handwritten in lower margin.
• Black and white etching and aquatint with title and publication information: “The Greyhound Excise Cutter, Capt. Wm. Watson — on a Wind, Chasing. Drawn by T. Soutter. Published 1 Sept. 1794 by Laurie & Whittle, No. 53 Fleet Street, London.”
• Hand-colored etching and aquatint, possibly initially color printed, with additional hand coloring, with title and publication information identical to the black and white version, as above.
A set of various states of an 18th century etching, together with the original watercolor — as offered here — is exceedingly scarce, mostly confined to museum and large library collections. Often the proof states and even the original watercolor were not retained — certainly not with multiple variations and kept together. Thus it might be posited that the above examples were obtained from the printing studio of Laurie & Whittle, though perhaps recovered many years later. The set is accompanied by an auction label, almost certainly British and from the earlier part of the 20th century, where they were once sold as a lot.
Revenue and excise cutters patrolled the British coastline for the government, intercepting smugglers and privateers and often engaging in naval battles with them. With their proportionally large sail areas, cutters were a fast type of craft and nearly all customs vessels were of that type, in order to keep up with the similar boats of the smugglers. The “Greyhound” was one of the fastest of the excise fleet and also one of the largest, at 200 tons, 43 men and 16 guns. It patrolled the ground between Beachy Head and the Start and was stationed at the Port of Weymouth. It also captured or destroyed three vessels operated by French privateers during the French Revolutionary Wars in 1793, including a 50-ton ship.
Robert Laurie (1755-1836) and James Whittle (1757-1818) were London map, chart and printsellers active from 1794 to 1812 trading variously as Laurie and Whittle or Whittle and Laurie. Laurie began his career as a fine mezzotint engraver and exhibited at the Society of Artists from 1770 to 1776. As a partnership with Whittle, they took over the large map and print business of Robert Sayer. Laurie & Whittle published many atlases and maps and products used for jigsaw puzzles. Robert’s son, Richard Holmes Laurie, succeeded him upon his retirement in 1812, and after Whittle’s death in 1818 carried on the business alone until at least 1840. The firm still exists as Imray, Laurie, Norie and Wilson Ltd., which has long specialized in marine charts.
“Album of Engravings of Ships.” Worldcat.org. http://www.worldcat.org/title/album-of-engravings-of-ships/oclc/54322031&referer=brief_results (12 June 2013).
Chatterton, E. Keble. King’s Cutters and Smugglers 1700-1855. London: George Allen & Co., 1912. Online at Project Gutenberg: http://www.gutenberg.org/files/17563/17563-h/17563-h.htm (11 June 2013).
Maxted, Ian. “The London book trades 1775-1800: a preliminary checklist of members.” Exeter Working Papers in British Book Trade History. 2001. http://bookhistory.blogspot.com/2007/01/london-1775-1800-l.html and http://bookhistory.blogspot.com/2007/01/london-1775-1800-w-z.html (14 June 2013).
Norie, John William. The Naval Gazetteer, Biographer and Chronologist: Containing a History of the Late Wars [1793-1815]. London: J.W. Norie & Co., 1827. pp. 478-480. Online at Google Books: http://books.google.com/books?id=JVwpAQAAMAAJ&pg=PA478 (11 June 2013).
“The Baileys Cutter, Capt. Sutter — Passing the Eddystone Lighthouse.” Royal Museums Greenwich. http://collections.rmg.co.uk/collections/objects/102812.html (11 June 2013).
“The Greyhound Excise Cutter, Capt Wm Watson — on a Wind, Chasing.” Royal Museums Greenwich. http://collections.rmg.co.uk/collections/objects/102798.html (11 June 2013).