a drawing by baston on vellum, dated 1710

More on Thomas Baston
fl 1690-1730 (?)

go to baston 1
go to baston 2
baston's sovereign

the same, after engraving and issue as a print

Searching the net for additional information about Baston has produced several more interesting details. A website [here] provides the above images. These images are well-annotated, and much of the following commentary draws on this site, with permission, posted by Mr J.H.Niemeyer, PadingbŁttel bei Bremerhaven, Germany. The shipwreck scene, at top of page, was executed on vellum in pen and brown ink with grey wash. This original drawing and copper plate engraving are extant. An inscription reads: TBaston F. 1710, with a line from Virgil: Tres Notus abreptas in faxa latentia torquet.

The print at left, also with companion plate and drawing on vellum, and offered for sale by Niemeyer, is described as Burning the Enemy Fleet. The drawing is inscribed: TBaston F. 1720. The Latin tag reads: Furit Imissis Vulcanus habenis, Transtra per et remos et pictas abjete puppes. It is number 21 of the 22 prints issued by Bowles in 1721.

The composition closely resembles a print by Rayner: see below, left.

Baston's print may be intended to represent the Battle of Malaga, 13 Aug 1704
See print, probably 1738, following Baston, by William Rayner, here.
Rayner's print has clearly been copied from Baston's print: not from his drawing on vellum (above right)

Left: Rayner's print             Right: Baston's print

The dates inscribed on these prints of 1710 and 1720 may be significant. In 1716, 15th December, there is a petition, apparently to the Lord Chancellor, from Thomas Baston, a penman and draughtsman and now a bankrupt, from King's Bench prison. The petition states that he had been incarcerated for six years, ie since 1710, partly as a result of having been cheated of his just dues from his drawings. The apparent absence of any print-making by Thomas Baston between 1710 and about 1720 does tend to suggest that for some, or most, of this period he was, like Hogarth's father, languishing in a debtor's prison. After 1720 there is a significant outpouring of at least 22 prints, and substantial further evidence of other work

It appears that there were three, possibly four, individuals named Thomas Baston living in London between 1691 and 1728. It now seems most likely that the printmaker was born in Ireland, probably about 1665-1670; and that he was married to a woman named Mary, and father of a son, born 1691, christened Thomas at Allhallows, London Wall, 2nd August. It is tempting, but difficult, to connect this man with a Thomas Baston who married an Ann Grace some time prior to 11 June 1691 --- unless his wife's name is given incorrectly in the Allhallows register. This Thomas Baston was "of St. Anne's, Westminster", and Anne his wife was a widow, who had property in Shoreditch. This couple had at least 5 children, christened at St Anne's, Soho, and St Martin's-in-the-Field, Westminster. It has become clear that this was a different family.

The following comes from the London Gazette of 25th-29th September, 1701, and I am indebted for it to Alison Barnes, who received it from Timothy Clayton: "Mr Baston has been obliged to delay the Publication of his new Piece of Penmanship depicting his Majesty's Royal Navy with several Embellishments. So good an Engraving that it exceeds the Original in many Particulars. This is an Opportunity for a great number of people to subscribe to it." This sounds like the "large print of the royal navy, on a sheet and a half" engraved by Michael van der Gucht, mentioned by Horace Walpole in his Catalogue of Engravers, 1798, p.106. Baston's address is given as: "At Mr. Hart's, Linendraper, Litchfield Street, Off Porter Street, Near Covent Garden." Porter Street is now part of the Charing Cross Road, London.

There is then a record of a Thomas Baston, assuredly the same man, who petitioned the King in 1702 for payment for draughts of the Eddystone lighthouse and other drawings. He complained that "he was reduced with his wife and children to great want and poverty." The record states that he was paid £30 on 29th January 1702.

Whereas I formerly imagined that the printmaker had been born in 1691, the petition makes it clear that he had been active as a draughtsman since before 1702; and the child born 1691 could possibly have been his son. This son may then have been the father of yet another Thomas born in 1728. There is no evidence that this putative son was also a draughtsman. He was, however, probably a musician.

July, 2007. More information about "one Baston", the "unimportant" English marine print pioneer, is coming to hand, and I am most grateful to Gillian Williamson, co-author and editor of Littlebury: A Parish History, published 2005, for pointing it out to me. Thomas Baston is clearly the same man who published Thoughts on Trade in 1716. It must have been written during his incarceration in the debtor's prison, from c 1710. In some of the later editions the title was changed to Observations on Trade. Here is a description of his opus, from John Drury, antiquarian bookseller:

Thoughts on trade and a publick spirit. Consider'd under the following heads, viz. I. Companies in trade. II. Stock-jobbers. III. Projectors. IV. Corruptions in the law and public offices. V. Of a public spirit. Humbly dedicated to all lovers of their country. [BASTON, Thomas] London: printed for the author. 1716. 8vo., (16) + 212pp. This was once thought to have been edited or revised for the author by Daniel Defoe.

2nd edition; 1728

It was republished in 1728, and again in 1732 with the title Observations on trade and a publick spirit, and with the author's name. This is a blistering tirade against joint-stock companies and stock-jobbers in general. It is of particular interest because the attack on financial corruption on Exchange Alley is concurrent with the inexorable progress of the South Sea Bubble which was to burst with such spectacular results four years later.

'From this corruption of Companies in trade,' writes Baston, 'breeds the vermine call'd Stock-jobbers, who prey upon, destroy, and discourage all industry and honest gain, for no sooner is any trading company erected, or any villanous project to cheat the publick set up, but immediately 'tis divided into shares, and then traded for in Exchange Alley, before 'tis known whether the project has any intrinsick value in it, or no; if there is any real value (which very few of them ever had) the consequence of stock-jobbing it is, that instead of carrying on the design of art and labour, which is wholly neglected, all the wicked artifice is us'd (of which these gentlemen are great masters) to put a counterfeit value where there is no real one, and so in effect pick the blind, unwary, ignorant peoples pockets. If a design was never so solid to promote industry and trade, stock-jobbing will effectually damn it in its infancy.'

The author also hits out at place-selling, the abuse of Parliamentary suffrage, and fraud and corruption in general. There is a long section on the care of the poor debtors whom he sees as the victims of growing capitalism, and also a chapter on the hardships of seamen. Baston himself seems to have been connected with the sea and published a collection of prints of ships.

Horace Walpole's petty notice begins to fall into place, and it is not solely because of Baston's offence in being English, and patronized by William III. As pointed out, the date of first publication of his attack on profiteering by Stock Exchange manipulation, and corruption in government, coincides with the rise of the South Sea Bubble, in which Robert Walpole made such a killing. Walpole, of course, had been committed to the Tower for embezzlement and misappropriating public money in 1711. The re-issue in 1728 coincides with the disaster suffered by Admiral Hosier and his 4,000 seamen in the Caribbean. Hosier's ghost had its revenge at Porto Bello in 1739. The third issue in 1732 coincides with the crescendo of opposition to Walpole's Customs & Excise Bill.

In the Getty Provenance Database there is a record of "Two large drawings of men of war by Baston", auctioned in London on February 1, 1754, fetching a respectable £2-5-0.

I have also become aware of another pair of brothers called John and Thomas Baston, who were active in London at the same time as Thomas the print-maker and his brother John. These, however, were musicians, and are described as: Thomas Baston (fl. 1708-1727); English musician. Brother of John Baston. Musician at Stationers' Hall and Coachmakers' Hall (1708-14); and John Baston (fl. 1708-1739); English composer and recorder player. Musician on recorder at Stationers' Hall (1708-14) and Coachmakers' Hall. 172(2)-33: Musician at Drury Lane Theatre. Extant works Six Concertos in Six Parts for Violins and Flutes (1729). See here, and other sites.

August 2007. It has now been stated, with considerable certainty, that these musicians, Thomas and John, were the sons of Thomas Baston, marine print designer. Thomas the musician was doubtless the child baptised 2nd August, 1691. These boys were mentioned in a newspaper, c 1707, as "sons of the well-known Mr Baston."

Baston's Sovereign

go to baston 1
go to baston 2
baston's englische schiffe
a closer look at baston's drawings on vellum

kirkall's prints

back to prints, prints, prints
mezzotints       line prints
monamy website index


© Charles Harrison Wallace 2005, 2007
all rights reserved