Pierce Tempest (Biographical details)

Pierce Tempest (publisher/printer; British; Male; 1653 - 1717)

Also known as

Tempest, Pierce


over against Somerset House Water Gate in the Strand


The most interesting London print publisher of the 1680s and 1690s. Tempest was the sixth son of a family of landed gentry in Tong in Yorkshire; his eldest brother George was to become the first baronet and lived in Broughton Hall. He was responsible for the most interesting series of prints of this period, Laroon's 'Cries', as well as a great range of other material, though he never published a catalogue and so his output remains to be reconstructed. In his later years he spent more time dealing than publishing, and was a principal supplier to the Talmans.
One letter to his friend Fancis Place dated 1686 survives, and throws much light on his business: 'Though the ladies have solely left painting mezzotintos [a comment on the vogue for colouring and glass prints], yet they do sell a little - especially fancies, heads [portraits] and bawdy, so I am providing three or four new ones against the Term [the next publishing season, hence the 'Term' catalogues]: two Queens [Mary of Modena, just come to the throne], a new confession, two fancys after Laroon. A gent has lent me a Presbyterian meeting of the same man, which [Paul] van Somer is etching and graving together; it will be rather bigger than the Quakers, it may sell. We are on the old terms, half money half mezzotintos [ie Place was to be paid half in cash and half in prints for the work he was doing for Tempest] ... Barlow is now beginning with some of the large designs of birds, I will have a plate ready against you come up. I have had a Scotch Lord my customer for prints and drawings; he is got 20s into my debt if I can but get it. ... Remember to bring Barlow's six drawings with you, I believe we may have them enlarged to the bigger size ... Hoping you have had a merry Christmas. For my part I have left off wine and strong drink to a plate of new milk at night. I am your assured friend. P.Tempest'.
This shows how readily Tempest switched from one sort of print to another, from portraits to bawdy, from satire to birds, and from etching to mezzotint. Tempest's adaptability went much further than this. In another letter to Place in 1693 he says he knows a chapman who wants to buy Barlow's drawings off Place for 5s apiece, while in 1708 he is being used as middleman by Talman to arrange the despatch of three gallons of punch to Talman's house at Ranworth in Norfolk. The cordiality of his contacts with his clients shows that all were of the same social group, and shared the same sense of humour.
The mezzotints he published are all datable between c.1683-8; Chaloner Smith lists fifteen anonymous ones under his name, to which must be added many by Place and others. The earliest advertisement found is from 22 January 1685 when he announced in the London Gazette the publication of a mezzotint of a rhinoceros and elephant, and gave his address as at the Eagle and Child in the Strand, over against Somerset House Water Gate. Tempest, however, seems never to have put an address on his plates, and his advertisements and letters give such a motley collection of addresses as to suggest that he gave up keeping a shop in favour of dealing privately. For instance, in 'The Tatler' for 8 November 1709 the Cries of London were available at the Golden Head in James Street, Covent Garden, and at the Italian Coffee house in Katherine Street in the Strand. For another advertisement in the Daily Courant of 12 March 1706, see Clayton p.8.
On 18 October 1686 Tempest entered in the London Gazette ten sheets of birds after Barlow, and this marks the beginning of an outstanding sequence of six sets of newly-commissioned designs from Barlow, the first that he had made since the 1650s. From December 1687 begins a series of announcements in the same paper and in the Term catalogues of the Cries of London that he had commissioned from Marcellus Laroon and had engraved by John Savage (see Sean Shesgreen, The Criers and Hawkers of London, 1990, and Griffiths cat.180).
These by no means exhaust the large number of prints that he published in the closing years of the century. He collaborated with Savage in publishing a print of the coronation procession of William and Mary in 1689 (price 18d). After the turn of the century he seems to have published fewer plates, though he kept his older ones in print. In 1709 he published a translation of Ripa's Iconologia, illustrated by Isaac Fuller II, but this is exceptional. The explanation seems to be that he had now turned his attention more to dealing in old master prints and drawings. Copies of two letters to him in the letterbook of John Talman (Walpole Society, LIX 1997, pp.58-60) show that he was a friend of the Talmans, and supplied them with punch as well as art. The following year Talman recommended Tempest to the Dean of Norwich as a printseller, stating that 'He is an honest man and may be relied on' (ibid p.72).
Tempest died on 1 April 1717 and was buried in St Paul's Covent Garden three days later (according to the Parish Register). He dated his will 20 February 1717, and in it asked his brother Nicholas to supervise the education of his illegitimate only child, George (a task that his brother refused). The will was proved on 24 April by Hannah Williams, the mother and guardian of George.
Francis Place made a mezzotint portrait of him after Heemskerk (CS 12), and a spoof portrait in the guise of a non-Conformist minister appears as plate 73 of the Cries of London.