Elisha Kirkall

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Elisha Kirkall (c.1682–1742) was a prolific English engraver. He was noted for engravings on type metal that could be set up with letterpress for book illustrations, and was also known as a copperplate and mezzotint artisan.


Born in Sheffield, Kirkall was son of a locksmith. Around 1702 he came to London, and found employment in the book trade. He also studied drawing at Great Queen Street Academy.[1]

Kirkall married early in life, to Elizabeth; a second wife was called Deborah. He died in Whitefriars in December 1742, leaving a son, Charles, then aged about 22.[1][2]


As a book illustrator, Kirkall used etching and metalcut, with line engraving as "white line". From his first times in London, book ornaments he provided as raised metal proved very popular with publishers. In the 1720s he innovated with use of the mezzotint rocker tool to simulate chiaroscuro.[2] A reputation for wood engraving was apparently based on misapprehensions, and the attribution to him of woodcuts in Samuel Croxall's edition of Æsop's Fables (1722) was guesswork.[1]

Works included:[1]

One of the seven Raphael cartoons in Kirkall's 1722 mezzotint edition

His mezzotint engravings were often printed in green ink, and occasionally in a variety of colours. In this manner he published by subscription sixteen views of shipping by William Van de Velde the younger, the seven Raphael cartoons, hunting scenes by Johann Elias Ridinger, and other works.[1]

Engraved portrait of Sir Christopher Wren

With his new method of chiaroscuro engraving, Kirkall produced a copy of Ugo da Carpi's chiaroscuro engraving of Æneas and Anchises, after Raphael, and a number of reproductions of drawings by Italian masters. In a similar manner he engraved a portrait of Sir Christopher Wren by John Closterman, in an architectural frame designed by Henry Cook; and a portrait of William Stukeley for whose antiquarian works he engraved standard copperplates.

Later plates for the booksellers included:[1]

  • Those for Oldsworth and others' translation of Homer's Iliad (B. Lintot, 1734);
  • Alexander Pope's translation of the same work (B. Lintot, 1736);
  • The plates to an edition of Inigo Jones's Stonehenge (1725); and
  • For James Gibbs's A Book of Architecture (1728), 73 plates.[2]

A portrait by Kirkall of Eliza Haywood, prefixed to her Works in 1724, earned for him a couplet in Pope's Dunciad. After William Hogarth published in 1732 his major set of engravings The Harlot's Progress, Kirkall made free copies in mezzotint, printed in green, and published from his house in Dockwell's Court, Whitefriars, in November of that year.[1]

Other engravings by Kirkall included:[1]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h Cust, Lionel Henry (1892). "Kirkall, Elisha" . In Lee, Sidney (ed.). Dictionary of National Biography. 31. London: Smith, Elder & Co.
  2. ^ a b c d e Clayton, Timothy. "Kirkall, Elisha". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/15654.(Subscription or UK public library membership required.)

External links[edit]


 This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainCust, Lionel Henry (1892). "Kirkall, Elisha". In Lee, Sidney (ed.). Dictionary of National Biography. 31. London: Smith, Elder & Co.