“It is not unlikely that the day may arrive when the connoisseur of a future age shall turn over the pages of a book, and pause upon an aquatinta print, with the same solemn delight as those of our day are wont to do upon a woodcut of Albrecht Dürer, an etching of Hollar, or a production of any ancient engraver.”
At the time Samuel Prout (1783-1852) wrote these words, aquatint prints had taken over English book illustration, dominating it from 1790 to 1830. The leading publishers, such as Rudolph Ackermann, maintained stables of artists who turned-out watercolor drawings, which were converted to black and white aquatints by master printers, hand colored by cheaper technicians. Samuel Prout worked for Ackermann and others as a watercolorist, specializing in picturesque views for armchair travelers.
Prout’s real interest lay in the newer technique of lithography, being one of the first English artists to perfect the process. In 1817, when Ackermann wrote an article praising lithography in his Repository of the Arts, it was Prout who illustrated the text with an original lithographic print.
As the audience grew for Prout’s topographical views, so did his geographic range. Prout made frequent trips across the continent of Europe, producing multiple series of tinted lithographs with hand-colored highlights. Most prints celebrate towering Gothic cathedrals and other romantic architectural views rendered with astonishing detail. This is one such set with views from France, Switzerland, and Italy.