From the 15th century on, engravings influenced European culture almost as profoundly as books. Like stained glass windows in the Middle Ages or television today, popular prints were designed to reach even the lowest orders of society. In the 17th century, Peter Stent, whose shop stood outside Newgate, was England's most prolific seller of popular prints, maps, and copybooks to the working and rising middle classes. His inventory of copper plates reflected the shifts of popular tastes during this period and commented directly on the turbulent events of the day.
In documenting Stent's output, Alexander Globe studied the printsellers' advertising catalogues as external controls for reconstructing inventories as well as indices to contemporary tastes. From these and other contemporary sources, Globe cites every engraving and book attributable to Stent, breaking down the material into types: portraits, maps, miscellaneous sheets, and books (including works on handwriting, politics, natural history, anatomy, costume, and architecture). References and additions are made to the catalogues of Donald Wing and A.M. Hind. Globe takes the history of engraving beyond Hind by including prints from the Commonwealth, Protectorate, and early Restoration periods.
Eight appendices supplement the catalogue information. They provide evidence for print identificiation, discuss paper sizes, and list Stent's artists, suppliers, and business associates. All the collectiions in which Stent items may be found are named. The volume concludes with a bibliography and indices of subject as well as post-17th century authors.
Globe's introduction to Stent's work is concerned with the social, political, and economic conditions leading to the emergence of a popular printseller who catered to a different clientele from that usually studied by art historians. Stent's career illustrates the mid-17th century commercial revolution which saw the artisan's customers change from the wealthy leisure class to the worker who wanted mass-produced cheap goods.
Drawing on material in a hundred libraries and museums around the world, the catalogue describes over fifteen hundred engravings, including 319 sheets and five books of portraits, 42 maps, 102 miscellaneous prints and sets (with religious, classical, heeraldic, and satirical subjects), and 86 books (on handwriting, politics, military training, natural history, figure sketches, costume, architecture, and ornament).
Richly illustrated with 319 plates, Peter Stent will prove valuable not only to print dealers, art historians, museums, and libraries, but also to social, cultural, and political historians.