[ADAMS, Samuel]. Mr. Samuel Adams. Newport, RI, printed by and for Charles Reak & Saml. Okey, April 1775. Mezzotint portrait by Saml. Okey after J. Mitchell. Sheet size (370 x 265mm), with ample margins, in very fine condition.
"LO! ADAMS ROSE, IN WARFARE NOBLY TRY'D, HIS COUNTRY'S SAVIOUR, SHIELD & GUIDE..."
A fine example of a rare American mezzotint of the great Massachusetts revolutionary leader. Adams stands at a table, against a background of roman columns (suggestive of classical republican virtue), gesturing towards a group of documents arranged on a table before him. One is captioned "Charter Wm & Mary to Massachusetts Bay," while in his hands he holds "Instructions from ye Town of Boston" -- probably referring to his infamous 1768 Circular Letter. Below are engraved eight lines of verse in two columns, celebrating American resistance and denouncing Prime Minister Lord North for the Intolerable Acts and the quartering of the British Army in Boston. "When haughty North impress'd with proud Disdain, Spurn'd at the Virtue, which rejects his Chain; Heard with a Tyrant Scorn our Rights implor'd, And when we su'd for Justice sent the Sword: Lo! Adams rose, in Warfare nobly try'd, His Country's Saviour, Father, Shield & Guide, Urg'd by her Wrongs he wag'd ye glorious Strife Nor paus'd to waste a Coward-Thought on Life."
The painting by J. Mitchell after which the mezzotint was engraved was itself based upon J. S. Copley's famous portrait of Adams (now in the Boston Museum of Fine Arts). Samuel Okey spent only a brief portion of his artistic career in America, spending 1773-1775 in Newport, but by 1778 had returned to Britain. Only two other examples of this American mezzotint have appeared at auction in recent years, the most recent (trimmed to platemark) at Bloomsbury, 5 March 2009 lot 4, $16,000. Grolier Club, Early American Engraving upon Copper, 1727-1850 (1908), 181; Shadwell 46; Stauffer 2370.