Walter Scott


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William Home Lizars (1788-1859)

Born in Edinburgh in 1788, William Home Lizars was the son of Daniel Lizars, a well known copperplate engraver and printer. Lizars was first apprenticed to his father then, from 1802 to 1805, studied under John Graham at the Trustees' Academy in Edinburgh, an institution established in 1760 to teach drawing and design for use in manufacture. Lizars sought to establish himself as a painter, frequently exhibiting both portraits and genre paintings between 1805 and 1815. In 1812, he sent two pictures, 'Reading the Will' and 'A Scotch Wedding' to the Royal Academy in London, which met with great success. They were engraved by Charles Turner and may well have influenced the identically titled works by Sir David Wilkie (a contemporary of Lizars at the Trustees' Academy). In the same year, however, the death of Lizars's father forced him to abandon painting. In order to support his mother and family, he was compelled to take over the family printing and engraving business.

Lizars, who had extensive experience already co-producing book-plates with his father, first made an independent reputation by producing notes for local banks. In 1818, he was employed, together with Andrew Geddes, William Allan, and the Revd. John Thompson, to make a pictorial record of the Regalia of Scotland following their rediscovery by a Royal Commission headed by Scott (see the page on Andrew Geddes's Discovery of the Regalia of Scotland). He went on to work prolifically for the book trade. An early success was J.G. Lockhart's Peter's Letters to His Kinsfolk (1819), a satirical guide to the Edinburgh literary world for which Lizars engraved the portraits including a derivation of Raeburn's 1808 portrait of Scott (click on thumbnail right). His work covering a wide variety of genres: landscapes for such publications as Views in Lancashire after N.G. Phillips (1822-24) and Feldborg's Denmark Delineated (1824); anatomical plates for his brother John Lizars, and natural history for J.J. Audubon's The Birds of America, 1827-30.
Corson P.3441

He contributed extensively to the growing number of publications catering for the Scottish tourist trade (that had received such an impetus from the success of Scott's novels), notably Picturesque Views of Edinburgh, The Scottish Tourist, and Robert Chambers's The Picture of Scotland. For the latter, he engraved Loch Katrine (made famous by The Lady of the Lake), Melrose Abbey (made famous by The Lay of the Last Minstrel), Fast Castle (often seen as the model for Wolf's Crag in The Bride of Lammermoor), and one of the earliest images of Scott's Abbotsford home. He published a further image of Abbotsford, after his own design, in 1832.

Corson P.13330
Click on the thumbnails for Lizars's 1828 (left) and 1832 (right) images of Abbotsford.
Corson F.3.b.MOR.1

Lizars constantly experimented with new techniques and, in 1821, perfected a method of etching away the background of a copper plate to produce a relief surface similar to that in a wood engraving. In 1826, he was a founder member of the Royal Scottish Academy and in 1834 was elected an Honorary member. He died 30 March 1859 in Jedburgh.

Corson P.2901A prolific engraver and an energetic presence on the Edinburgh publishing scene, Lizars contributed to numerous editions of Scott's works. He produced title-page vignettes for Novels and Tales of the Author of Waverley and The Poetical Works of Sir Walter Scott (both 1821), an engraving of Crichton Castle for Provincial Antiquities and Picturesque Scenery of Scotland (1826), title-page vignettes and frontispieces for Tales and Romances of the Author of Waverley (1827-28), title-page vignettes and frontispieces for all four series of Tales of a Grandfather (1828-31), frontispieces to Letters on Demonology (1830) and to Scott's Miscellaneous Prose Works (1835-36), and an engraving of Scott's dedicatory letter to the King in vol. I of the Magnum Opus edition of the Waverley Novels. Among many derivative works, Lizars produced the title-page vignette for Illustrations of the Novels and Tales of the Author of Waverley from Designs by William Allan (1821; click image, right) and frontispieces for Dramas from the Novels and Tales of the Author of Waverley (1823).

Corson P.1785
Click on the thumbnail above to see a full-size image of W.H. Lizars engraving of the title-page vignette and frontispiece for vol. III of Tales of a Grandfather, Second Series.

For more engravings by Lizars, search the Image Database.


  • Dictionary of National Biography (London: Oxford University Press, 1921)
  • Guy, John C. Edinburgh Engravers, Book of the Old Edinburgh Club, vol. IX (Edinburgh: Old Edinburgh Club, 1916)
  • Hunnisett, Basil. A Dictionary of British Steel Engravers (Leigh-on-Sea: F. Lewis, 1980)
  • McEwan, Peter J. M. Dictionary of Scottish Art & Architecture (Woodbridge, Suffolk: Antique Collectors' Club, c1994)
  • Russell, Francis. Portraits of Sir Walter Scott: A Study of Romantic Portraiture (London: The Author, 1987)
  • Todd, William. B., and Ann Bowden. Sir Walter Scott: A Bibliographical History, 1796-1832 (New Castle, DE: Oak Knoll Press, 1998)

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Last updated: 4-Sept-2009
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