HEATH, James (1757-1834) — London
Line and stipple engraver and etcher. Aquatinted A view [of Chester] from the balloon at its greatest elevation for Thomas Baldwin, “Airopaidia: containing the narrative of a balloon excursion from Chester, the eighth of September, 1785” 1786; illustrations for William Frederick Martyn’s The Geographical Magazine 1782-1785, etc. Chiefly known for his illustrations engraved from the designs of many of the leading artists of the day. Among his portraits is that of Samuel Johnson, after Sir Joshua Reynolds, which was included in Boswell’s life of Johnson.
Born in London 19 Apr 1757 at Butcher Hall Lane off Newgate Street, Heath was baptised 13 May 1757 at Christ Church, Newgate Street. He was a son of George Heath, bookbinder, and his wife, formerly Mrs Mary Jacob. Apprenticed (Stationers) to Joseph Collyer on 1 Oct 1771 for a fee of £21. Free (Stationers) 6 Jul 1779. He married Elizabeth Thomas (1761-1835), seventeen-year-old daughter of David Thomas, a Welsh stocking presser, at St. James Clerkenwell 3 Oct 1778. Their son George Heath (1779-1852) became a Serjeant at Law. After his wife deserted him three years later, Heath lived with Mary Phillipson (1757-1819), by whom he had five daughters and a son, the son being Charles Heath above. Heath exhibited at the Royal Academy and the Society of Artists 1780-1834 and was elected A.R.A. in 1791. He was appointed Historical Engraver to the King in 1793 and held the position until his death. He attended the Bank of England with Francesco Bartolozzi in May 1797 to pronounce on a new “inimitable” banknote. Despite losing much in a damaging fire at his house in 1789, Heath became a wealthy man, his friends including Sir Thomas Lawrence, Richard Brinsley Sheridan, Sir Joshua Reynolds, Mrs Siddons and Richard Kemble. He had more or less retired by 1823, disposing of his stock at auction in that year. He died in Great Coram Street 15 Nov 1834 and was buried at St. Mary, the parish church at Acton, 20 Nov 1834. (For all names in bold — see BME 2011).
Long Acre — 1768
Norman’s Buildings, Parish of St. Luke — 1779
Norman Street, Old Street — 1780
Long Acre — 1785
13 Leicester Street — 1788
42 Newman Street, Marylebone — 1795-1799
15 Russell Place, Fitzroy Square — 1802-1830
24 Seymour Place North — 1831-1833
Ravensbourne Villa, Lewisham — 1833-1834
Apprentices: Walter Thomas 1779; Bartholomew Howlett; Richard Duppa 1785; Henry Edwin 1788; Henry Taddy Wadell (£100) 1788; William James Pettit (£105) 1798; Charles Heath (son) 1799; George Corbould 1800; Joseph Palmer 1806 (£48); Richard Brinsley Peake 1807.
Alexander. BBTI. BM. Bryan. Graves (1901) (1905) (1907). Hake. John Heath, “The Heath family engravers” 1993. Mackenzie. Maxted (1977) (1983). McKenzie. ODNB.