This Plate forms so important a feature in the annals of Hogarth, that it requires his own elucidation: "After having had my Plates pirated in almost all sizes, I applied to Parliament for redress, and obtained it in so liberal a manner, as hath not only answered my own purpose, but made Prints a considerable article in the commerce of this country, there being now more business of that kind done here than at Paris, or any where else, and as well." The Statute, which took place June 24, 1735, was drawn by our Artist's friend Mr. Huggins, who took for his model the eighth of Queen Anne in favour of literary property. But it was not so accurately executed as entirely to remedy the evil; for, in a cause founded on it, which came before Lord Hardwicke in Chancery, that excellent Lawyer determined, that no Assignee, claiming under an assignment from the original Inventor, could take any benefit by it. Hogarth, immediately after the passing of the Act, published this Print, with the following inscription:
"In humble and grateful acknowledgment
of the grace and goodness of the Legislature,
manifested in the Act of Parliament for the Encouragement
of the Arts of Designing, Engraving, &c.
obtained by the Endeavours, and almost at the sole Expence,
of the Designer of this Print in the Year 1735;
not only the Professors of those Arts were rescued
from the Tyranny, Frauds, and Piracies
of Monopolizing Dealers,
and legally entitled to the Fruits of their own Labours;
but Genius and Industry were also prompted
by the most noble and generous Inducements to exert themselves.
Emulation was excited;
Ornamental Compositions were better understood;
and every Manufacture, where Fancy has any concern,
was gradually raised to a Pitch of Perfection before unknown;
insomuch, that those of Great Britain
are at present the most elegant
and the most in Esteem of any in Europe."
The Royal Crown at the top is darting its rays on Mitres, Coronets, the Chancellor's Great Seal, the Speaker's Hat, &c. &c.; and on a scroll is written, "An Act for the Encouragement of the Arts of Designing, Engraving, and Etching, by vesting the Properties thereof in the Inventors and Engravers, during: the time therein mentioned."
The Plate was afterwards used as a Receipt for the Sub- scriptions to his Four Prints of "The Election." In 1767, three years after Hogarth's death, his Widow stated, in a Petition to the House of Commons, "that she was informed that a Bill was depending in the House, to amend an Act made in the eighth year of the Reign of his late Majesty, for the encouragement of the Arts of Designing, Engraving, and Etching: that her late Husband was the Inventor, Engraver, and Publisher, of various Designs, Moral, Humorous, and Historical; the sole property whereof was vested in him, by the said Act, for the term of fourteen years; that her chief support arose from the sale of her late Husband's Works; that, since his decease, many persons had copied, printed, and published, several of those works, and still continued to do so; and that the sale of those spurious copies, both at home and for exportation, had already been a great prejudice to the Petitioner; and, unless timely prevented, would deprive her of her chief support and dependance; and praying, that provision might be made for vesting in her the property of her said Husband's Works." The Petition was thought reasonable; and a Clause was added to the Bill, for "vesting in, and securing to, Jane Hogarth, Widow, the property in certain Prints."