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John Hill Print Collection

Call Number

PR 217


[1799]-1836, inclusive



0.63 Linear feet (111 Prints)

Language of Materials

English .


Collection of aquatints by John Hill, mainly of New York City and the Hudson Valley.

Biographical Note

John Hill was born in London in 1770, and was apprenticed as a youth to an engraver in that city. He became interested in the process of aquatinting, a technique wherein a metal plate is etched several times in order to create tonal gradations, resulting in a print that is easier to hand-color due to the variety of subtle tones produced. Hill began working in London under his own name in 1798, and mainly produced aquatints that were used for book illustrations.

In 1816, in order to support his family of six children, John Hill immigrated to Philadelphia, then a major center of publishing in the United States. His earliest American engravings were mainly city views, which were, as in England, published as book or magazine illustrations. He was able to earn enough in America to bring his family to join him in 1819. Most members of Hill's family, including his wife and daughters, worked alongside him in some capacity, helping pull proofs or hand-color prints. Hill's son, John William Hill (1812-1879) became a skilled painter as well as an engraver and assistant to his father.

Aquatint was little known in the United States in 1816 and Hill quickly became the pre-eminent artist in the medium. In 1819 he began his first major commission, engraving plates after paintings of American urban and rural views by Joshua Shaw. Twenty plates of these Picturesque Views of American Scenery were published in four separate issues from 1820 to 1821. Most of these plates were hand-colored by Hill and his family. Picturesque Views of American Scenery is considered to be the first major plate book published in the United States.

Shortly after the completion of Shaw's views, Hill was commissioned by New York printer Henry J. Megarey to engrave and color views of New York after the painter William G. Wall. The resulting Hudson River Portfolio (1821-1825) contained twenty views of New York State towns, cities, and landscapes. In 1822 Hill moved to New York City in order to work more intently on the Portfolio.

While in New York, Hill engraved several city views, including one of City Hall. The practice of aquatint flourished in the 1820s and 1830s, as did Hill's reputation and business. He issued many single engravings, including sporting prints, and illustrated his own drawing book, as well as several other books. Between 1830 and 1832, Hill engraved a series of five Erie Canal views after paintings by his teenage son John William Hill. Few of these views were ever finished as completed prints.

In 1837, Hill and his wife moved to Rockland County, New York, where they had purchased land near West Nyack. Hill died in 1850.

Source:Koke, Richard J. "John Hill, Master of Aquatint" in The New-York Historical Society Quarterly, Vol. XLIII No. 1, January 1959, pp. 51-118.


Prints are arranged into two series and thereunder are filed by date.

Missing Title

  1. Series I. English Work
  2. Series II. American Work

Scope and Content Note

The John Hill Print Collection spans the period from ca. 1799 to 1836 and contains 111 early nineteenth century aquatints, including some of the first aquatints done in the United States. The collection is arranged into two series based on Hill's country of residence: English Work; and American Work.

Access Restrictions

Open to qualified researchers.

Photocopying undertaken by staff only. Limited to twenty exposures of stable, unbound material per day. See guidelines in Print Room for details.

Use Restrictions

Permission to reproduce any Print Room holdings through publication must be obtained from:
Rights and Reproductions
The New-York Historical Society
170 Central Park West
New York, NY 10024
Phone: (212) 873-3400 ext. 270
Fax: (212) 579-8794

Preferred Citation

This collection should be cited as John Hill Print Collection, PR 217, Department of Prints, Photographs, and Architectural Collections, New-York Historical Society.


All the early English engravings were given on March 1, 1957 by Leroy E. Kimball. Other prints came from a variety of donors.

Related Material at the Department of Prints, Photographs, and Architectural Collections

The Department of Prints, Photographs, and Architectural Materials also holds two bound copies of Picturesque Views of American Scenery 1820 and one bound Hudson River Portfolio. A copy of Lucas' Progressive Drawing Book, with engravings by Hill, is in the N-YHS Library. Several of Hill's early American engravings appeared in William Meade's An experimental enquiry into the chemical properties and medicinal qualities of the principal mineral waters of Ballston and Saratoga, in the state of New-York, and in June to September 1817 issues of the Analectic Magazine, both of which are also held by the Library. Hill's account book from the years ca. 1820-1834 is in the N-YHS Manuscript Department (BV Hill, John). Several of Hill's drawings are held in the N-YHS Museum.

Collection processed by

Processed by Jenny Gotwals

About this Guide

This finding aid was produced using ArchivesSpace on 2023-08-21 15:46:35 -0400.
Language: Description is in English.

Edition of this Guide

This version was derived from hill.xml


New-York Historical Society
New-York Historical Society
170 Central Park West
New York, NY 10024