Joseph Harding (Biographical details)

Joseph Harding (publisher/printer; collector; British; Male; 1816 - 1842; fl.)

Also known as

Harding, Joseph

Address

Pall Mall, London

Biography

Publisher and collector, working in London.

(Information from Nicholas Stogdon)
Lived Finchley and Westminster. There was a sale at Christie's, 18.vi.1862, but as a print collector Harding is remembered chiefly for the superb prints which went to the British Museum in 1842, through the printseller William Smith; this group included twenty-one Rembrandts of the highest quality (some have been sold). Harding was early on an assistant to his bookselling brother John (according to the Gentleman's Magazine, rather than father, as per ODNB), and after a stint as a printer joined the successful bookselling and publishing firm, Lackington, Allen and Co., as it was from 1793-1812, which traded from its magnificent premises in Finsbury Square, the Temple of the Muses. Harding became a partner in the firm, which had a very successful business model, selling not only major publications by subscription but pioneering the technique of remaindering and selling bulk purchases of stock cheaply, at the shop and though catalogues. After 1813 Harding's name was incorporated, remaining through various changes of appellation until on the retirement of George Lackington in 1826 he became chief partner and the firm moved to 4 Pall Mall East (in a copy of the catalogue of the Pole Carew sale in 1835 Harding was named as 'Mr Harding of Pall Mall'), and was trading as Harding and Lepard at Harding's own retirement. 'Mr. Harding was a shrewd clever man of business; from which he retired in 1836 with a very handsome fortune'; so the Gentleman's Magazine at his death. He was noted to have made large sums of money through grand subscription projects, notably Dugdale's 'Monasticon', issued in 'eight enormous and prodigiously expensive volumes' [ODNB], 1817-1830, edited chiefly by Sir Henry Ellis, secretary to the Trustees and eventually principal Librarian at the British Museum, Dugdale's 'The History of St Paul's Cathedral', also edited by Ellis, as well as the Rev. Dr Philip Bliss's edition of Anthony Wood's 'Athenae Oxonienses'. Initiatives such as the late reissue of Edmund Lodge's 'Portraits of illustrious personages of Great Britain' in a multi-volume octavo format were also highly profitable. He became a very significant buyer at print auctions in the 1830s. He was represented at the Buckingham sale in 1834, and made extensive and expensive purchases, by Henry Josi, before Josi became Keeper of the Department of Prints and Drawings in 1836 on the death of William Young Ottley. Josi (1802-1845; Keeper 1836-1845), the son of Christian, was well enough known to Harding, perhaps through old acquaintance with the father, for the latter to have posted a bond for his surety on Josi's appointment at the museum, and Harding had written in support of the acquisition of the Sheepshanks collection from William Smith, of Lisle Street, in March 1836, while Josi was acting Keeper before Ottley's death. Why Harding decided to sell his collection (or the bulk of it) is not at the moment certain, but it is reasonable to speculate that he might have become ill, since his long and rather complicated will is dated July 7th, 1841 (with two codicils later in the same year). His main concern was for the security of his 'dear wife', who must have been relatively young as there is much provision for the eventuality of a second marriage, and his children, all under age. He may have been anticipating his instruction to his executors (Sir Henry Ellis, Rev. Dr Bliss and his nephew Benjamin Harding) to sell by public or private sale all such assets of the 'late copartnership' of Harding and Lepard, and residue of his personal estate 'not herein before disposed of' and convert into ready money such as did not already comprise government stocks, etc. In the event he did sell his collection, or the bulk of it, to William Smith (W. & G. Smith, of Lisle Street), who offered to the British Museum, in a letter of 31 March 31 1841, what was obviously a selection, carefully considered with Josi and perhaps Harding himself, of 321 prints at £2,300 (see 'Landmarks in Print Collecting', p.294, Appendix J), though the register gives a price of £2416.11.0; the tone is of a 'fait accompli' and the transaction passed without demur, though payment was not forthcoming until July 1842 (the registration numbers were 1842,0806.1 to 321). It in fact even included purchases from the sale of Mrs Lattin, of Bath, which had taken place as recently as February 11-12th at Christie's. These may, as Griffiths surmises, have been bought with the museum in mind, unless the onset of an illness had been very sudden; as indeed might many of his previous purchases, although if Smith’s stating that he had bought the collection is to be taken at face value (and comments elsewhere support the assertion) there may have been other no doubt perfectly honourable motives for the structure of the transaction. Be that as it may, Harding was 'a celebrated English collector', and if Joseph Maberly does not mention his name in 'The Print Collector', he cites many of the Rembrandt prints which belonged to him and which went to the British Museum (with their prices), notably ones bought at the Buckingham sale, at which Harding spent freely. These include, for £53.11.0, the touched impression of the self-portrait, B.8, which had belonged to Zoomer, Zanetti, Consul Smith, Lord Donegal and Hibbert; the first state of Sleeping puppy, £61, which had belonged to Hibbert and de Claussin; and for £65.3.0 the first state of Uytenbogaert, B.279, which had belonged to Six, Pond, Barnard, Woodhouse and Hibbert. The undivided sheet of 'four subjects from a Spanish book' cost Harding £57.15.0, and 'passed to the British Museum, that national establishment being happy to obtain the curiosity at the price of one hundred guineas.' Harding was an important buyer at such sales as Baring's in 1831, Pole Carew's in 1835, Esdaile's in 1840. But the collection was broad in its interest; in the British Museum sale there were 15th and 16th century Italian and German prints (Meckenem sets), Duvet's Apocalypse, 17th century French and Dutch prints, and more modern proofs by Earlom and Morghen. Much of the collection did not go to the museum and was dispersed, more often than not without Harding's ownership being remembered, as he had no mark. Such is the case with the magnificent first state of the Ecce Homo on Japan now in Berlin; it had belonged to Remy, Pond and Astley, Sir Joshua Reynolds, and then Buckingham, at whose sale Harding bought it for 48 guineas. Maberly, p.85, cites the impression, not only because it is 'perhaps the finest in existence', but, 'now in a private collection, to which we have had access, [it] has upon it the records of proprietorship of more than a century…the property [after the Buckingham sale] was transferred to a distinguished collector, who has been more than once alluded to in these pages; and from him it came, through a printseller, into the hands of the present owner.' He does not of course add that he himself was that present owner! (For Maberly see L.1845, though the mark is almost certainly not his; the Ecce Homo is not stamped, nor are prints of his bought by Chambers Hall and now in the Ashmolean, or two Dürers bought by Felix Slade and bequeathed to the British Museum.)
The auction of Maberly's collection in 1851 allows us to trace twelve more of Harding's Rembrandt sheets, evidently of high quality, with provenances such as Fries, Josi, Denon and Wilson, Buckingham and Sheepshanks. Two fine Dürers can be identified as well, an Adam and Eve and a St Eustace; both were bought by Graves for Felix Slade and are now in the British Museum. Beckford must have bought Harding prints too, as in the sale of Smith's stock, part I, lot 1064, an impression of the Death of the Virgin, B.99, on India paper, has this dual provenance (in part III, lot 682, the Shepherd and family, B.220, from Harding's collection, sold for £1.14.0 to Weber).

Bibliography

Antony Griffiths in 'Landmarks in Print Collecting' BM 1996, pp.96-98 and 294
ODNB
N. Stogdon, 'A descriptive catalogue of the etchings by Rembrandt in a private collection, Switzerland', s.l., 2011, p.360.