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John Kay's Original Portraits

Limited Editions
Publication Date
09 January 2008
Two volume hardback presented in a slipcase 288mm x 215mm x 179mm
In Stock
Birlinn Ltd
512 per vol
Volume 1: 824pp with 168 plates
Volume 2: 872pp with 188 plates

John Kay's Original Portraits

Special Limited Numbered Edition

Two volumes casebound in real cloth, each with protective slipcase

Birlinn’s Limited Editions imprint celebrates the extraordinary work of John Kay with a magnificent, beautifully bound two-volume edition of Kay’s portraits and caricatures, originally published in Edinburgh in 1837–8.

Alan Bell, social historian and former Librarian of The London Library, introduces Kay’s life and remarkable achievement, emphasising how, with ‘the impression of a passing glance’, Kay created an engaging and unparalleled record of Edinburgh society during the Enlightenment. World-famous figures such as Adam Smith, Walter Scott, James Hutton, Joseph Black and even Vincent Lunardi (in his famous balloon) feature alongside all kinds of Edinburgh citizens – eminent doctors and scientists, lawyers and clerics, ladies of fashion and their admirers, soldiers and merchants, murderers and criminals.

Although John Kay (1742–1826) served his apprenticeship as a barber and followed this profession for many years in the heart of Edinburgh’s Old Town, his consuming passion was observing and drawing the world around him. In 1785 he gave up his barber shop in Parliament Square to become a full-time sketcher and painter of miniatures, producing an estimated 900 portraits and caricatures over a long and prolific career.