The monument which dominates this image and the surrounding grounds at Blenheim are described in ‘An History of the River Thames’ (1794), published by John and Josiah Boydell (John’s nephew, with whom he went into partnership in 1786):
‘At the distance of about half a mile from the house, beyond the bridge, and in line with both, is a triumphal column, one hundred and thirty feet in height; a stately trophy, which adds to the grandeur of the scene. The top is crowned by the statue of John Duke of Marlborough, and on three sides of the pedestal are inscribed the acts of the British parliament which settled on him and his heirs in this superb domain. On the side facing the castle [Blenheim Palace], his character is delineated and his actions recorded in an inscription, supposed to have been written by Lord Bolingbroke. Beyond the column, a vista of great length stretches on to the northern boundary of the park. The Roman road, called Akeman-street, traverses the vista from east to west…’
John Boydell was born at Dorrington. He was apprenticed to an engraver for seven years before publishing his first volume of printed views of England and Wales in 1748. In 1752 he opened a print shop in Cheapside. Boydell later bought old plates, imported prints and sold works in France, Holland, Germany and Italy. In 1789 he opened his Shakespeare Gallery in Pall Mall and the first set of engravings based on paintings exhibited in the gallery was issued in 1791. Many leading artists exhibited at the venue. Later in life he sustained severe financial losses as a result of the French Revolution and was forced to dispose of his Shakespeare Gallery by lottery. He became an alderman of the City of London and rose to be Lord Mayor of London.
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