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Peake, Sir Robert (c.1605–1667), printseller and royalist army officer, was the grandson of , principal painter to Henry, prince of Wales, son of James I, who in 1607 granted him the office of serjeant-painter which he held jointly with John De Critz. In 1611 the elder Robert Peake published a translation of Serlio's first book of architecture from his shop at Holborn Conduit where he evidently conducted a business in importing books and prints. On his death in 1619 the shop passed to his son William Peake (c.1580–1639), also a painter and a freeman of the Goldsmiths' Company, who expanded the operation into print publishing from 1626 onwards. ‘Mr Peake the younger Paynter’, like his father, was allocated mourning cloth for the funeral of Henry, prince of Wales, in December 1612 (Wilks, 281). In the accounts he was credited with fashioning a gilded staff for the prince's effigy. Although some paintings, such as the Portrait of a Boy of the Howard Family with a Bow (Ranger's House, Blackheath), have been attributed to the younger Peake, his actual œuvre remains unclear. He married first, on 2 February 1604, Ann Acton and second, at an unknown date, Mary Dennis, and fathered at least five children. William Peake took over a large number of plates from William Humble, and also issued new plates engraved for him by George Glover, Thomas Cecil, and others. The engraver William Faithorne was apprenticed to him in 1635; another apprentice was the painter William Dobson.

On William's death in 1639 his son Robert—the subject of this article—inherited and continued the business. He published most of the finest British prints of the early 1640s, among them sixteen by Faithorne, Edward Pierce's set of friezes of 1640 (the earliest English ornament prints), and Wenceslaus Hollar's three-quarters-length Seasons in 1641. In a letter to Samuel Pepys written in 1690, John Evelyn remembered that Peake was the dealer ‘who had the most choice’ of prints in London (H. C. Levis, Extracts from the Diaries and Correspondence of John Evelyn and Samuel Pepys Relating to Engraving, 1915, 84).

At the outbreak of civil war in 1642 Peake joined the royalist army. In July 1643 he arrived at Basing House as lieutenant-colonel under the marquess of Winchester, and served with distinction during the long siege, being knighted by Charles I at Oxford on 27 March 1645. A ‘box of brasse graven plates’ was found among his possessions when the house fell in October that year (Mercurius Britannicus, no. 101). He was first imprisoned at Winchester House, and then in Aldersgate, before being exiled for refusing to take the oath of loyalty to Cromwell. His associate Thomas Rowlett restarted the print business. Most of their plates were subsequently acquired by the publisher Thomas Hinde, and later by Peter Stent.

It is not known where Peake went abroad or when he returned to England. After the Restoration he became vice-president and leader of the Honourable Artillery Company, and was so well known that a broadside panegyric was published after his death in London in 1667. He was buried in St Sepulchre's on 2 August. His will shows that he was a wealthy man who had wished to spend £500 on his funeral, but that the great fire of 1666 had consumed his houses and tenements on Holborn Conduit so that he had had to reduce the sum to £200.

Antony Griffiths


M. Edmond, ‘Limners and picturemakers’, Walpole Society, 47 (1978–80), 60–242, esp. 129–33 · A. Griffiths and R. A. Gerard, The print in Stuart Britain, 1603–1689 (1998), 105–6, 125–8 [exhibition catalogue, BM, 8 May – 20 Sept 1998] · M. Edmond, ‘New light on Jacobean painters’, Burlington Magazine, 118 (1976), 74–83 · T. V. Wilks, ‘The court culture of Prince Henry and his circle, 1603–1613’, DPhil diss., U. Oxf., 1987 · private information (2004) [K. Hearn] · will, commissary court of London, 1619, GL, 9171/23 [Robert Peake], fol. 320 · will, 1667, TNA: PRO, PROB 11/324/96


E. Harding, stipple, BM, NPG; repro. in F. G. Waldron, The biographical mirrour, 3 vols. (1795–1810)

Wealth at death  

wealthy: will, commissary court of London, Guildhall MS 9171/23, fol. 320; will, TNA: PRO, PROB 11/324/96