November 19, 1774-Dated, First State, “The Bostonians in Distress.” Historic “Intolerable Acts” period, Political Mezzotint Engraved Copper-Plate Print, "London, printed for R. Sayer & J. Bennett, Map & Printsellers, No 53 Fleet Street as the Act directs, 19 November 1774" after Phillip Dawe, engraver Johann Martin Will (1727-1806)(Augsburg), Framed, Choice Very Fine.Exceeding rare, being one of the Finest Known examples of this historic remarkable Pre-Revolutionary War Political Mezzotint Engraved Anti-British Military Occupation of Boston Print. The engraved plate outline measures 12.75” x 9.25” (365 x 236 mm), on a larger sheet measuring to 14 5/8” x 9.75” (382 x 274 mm) (by sight), and Framed to 17.25” x 13”. Excellent overall condition with a small mild dampstain at the top right margin, and a few faint creases. This important print being a commentary on the closure of the Port of Boston by the British.
The image depicts “BOSTON” and Bostonians suspended upon their own identified "LIBERTY TREE" being trapped like prisoners within a large iron bar cage, while surrounded by many British military cannon and grenadier guards, all being a Political satire metaphor for the enactment of the Boston Port Act, which closed Boston harbor to trade following the Boston Tea Party, the Sons of Liberty protest against the Tax on Tea.
In this scene, the Caged American colonist Prisoners can be seen starving and greedily consuming raw fish provided by merchants or fishermen, as representing the neighboring towns and American colonies who united to send provisions to aide the Boston town's inhabitants. In an allusion to the futility of British imperial policy, the metal cage is shown suspended on a dead branch.
Engraver Phillip Dawe is credited with fashioning the original mezzotint, which proved so popular that the Copper-Plate was reworked several times. This historic engraving is known to exist in five states. Johann Martin Will of Augsburg produced the present copy, a reverse of Dawe's work, but while omitting his name (this is the First State, as he would add it in the second state), he did add the credit: "London: Printed for R. Sayer & J. Bennett, Map & Printsellers. No. 55 Fleet Street, as the act directs 19 Novr. 1774." Our consignor shows having acquired this example for $36,000 at a major East Coast auction years ago.
See: Torbert, Dissolving the Bonds, pp. 190-206, 215, 311-323, 1021-1022. Copies of this edition can be located at; The Library of Congress and The John Carter Brown Library. References: Shadwell, 43 (misattributed to Dawe), Cresswell 673 (an earlier state from Dawe’s plate).