His brother James married the widowed Mary Overton, daughter-in-law of John Overton the printseller. Sayer became her assistant, being called manager of the Golden Buck by 1748, and in this way gradually took over the existing Overton business as a going concern. He moved into atlases and other cartographic works, publishing the Mundane System (1774) of Samuel Dunn and the famous North American Pilot (1775), which included important charts made by the great circumnavigator and explorer Captain James Cook.
Sayer organised the engraving of paintings by some leading artists of the day, most importantly Johan Zoffany RA, and sold prints from the engravings. In this way he helped to secure Zoffany’s international reputation. Sayer and the artist became longstanding friends as well as business associates. In 1781 Zoffany painted Robert Sayer in an important ‘conversation piece’. The Sayer Family of Richmond depicts Robert Sayer, his son, James, from his first marriage, and his second wife, Alice Longfield (née Tilson). Behind the family group is the substantial villa on Richmond Hill overlooking the River Thames, built for Sayer between 1777 and 1780 to the designs of William Eves, a little-known architect and property developer. From 1794, after Robert Sayer’s death, the house was the country residence for three years of HRH the Duke of Clarence (later King William IV) and Mrs Jordan, and their three eldest (of ten) children. The third child was born at the house. Having fallen into disrepair, the house was demolished in 1970 when it was unknown that it had been built for Sayer and that it had subsequently been the home of a future king of Great Britain.
- "Robert Sayer (Biographical details)". Britishmuseum.org. 1920-05-18. Retrieved 2014-04-30.
- Clayton, Timothy. "Overton family". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/64997. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
- Fisher, Susanna. "Sayer, Robert". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/50893. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
- David Wilson, Johan Zoffany RA and The Sayer Family of Richmond: A Masterpiece of Conversation, London, 2014
Media related to Robert Sayer at Wikimedia Commons
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