We use cookies to enhance your experience on our website. By continuing to use our website, you are agreeing to our use of cookies. You can change your cookie settings at any time. Find out more
Fores, Samuel William (bap. 1761, d. 1838), publisher and printseller, was baptized on 29 March 1761 at St Benet Fink, Threadneedle Street, London, the son of Samuel Fores (b. 1738), a stationer and bookseller of the Savoy, Strand, and his wife, Mary, née Allington. In 1783 S. W. Fores founded a business as a printseller specializing in hand-coloured, singly-issued satirical prints or caricatures ‘at the City Arms, No. 3 Piccadilly near the Hay Market’, in the heart of London's West End, and soon came to dominate the trade in such prints alongside William Holland (who started business almost concurrently), Hannah Humphrey, and a number of other minor competitors. The Fores–Holland–Humphrey triumvirate thrived during the era of the French Revolution when James Gillray, Thomas Rowlandson, and Isaac Cruikshank were at the peak of their activity, a period considered the ‘golden age’ of English graphic satire. The prolific Fores and Holland, the latter of whom was more radically inclined politically, were particular rivals, and both frequently resorted to hyperbolic notices on their prints advertising exhibitions and new prints. In 1789 Fores announced an exhibition that was ‘the largest in the kingdom’ and later a ‘Grand Caricatura Exhibition … Containing the most complete Collection of Humorous, Political and Satirical Prints and Drawings, Ever exposed to public view in this kingdom’. Fores even advertised lurid attractions to outdo Holland such as a 6 foot working model of the guillotine and the ‘head and hand of the unfortunate Count Struenzee, who was beheaded at Denmark’ (perhaps only a death mask).

In 1795 Fores moved to larger premises at no. 50 Piccadilly, on the corner of Sackville Street. The number was changed to 41 about 1820, presumably as a result of the Regent Street development planned by John Nash. A watercolour painted in 1853 by Thomas Hosmer Shepherd shows the premises. Fores outlasted Holland, who died in 1815, but he experienced major new competition from the likes of Rudolph Ackermann, who sold various satirical prints alongside topographical aquatints to a fashionable clientele; Thomas Tegg, who went downmarket and drastically reduced the price of his prints; and later Thomas McLean, who embraced lithography, and published William Heath and John ‘HB’ Doyle. Fores, it seems, was particularly innovative in marketing his prints, selling them wholesale and retail, and was one of the first to hire out folios of caricatures for the evening. Notably Fores started selling large collections of caricatures, and those prints stamped with the initials ‘S. W. F.’ probably derive from such collections or are those prints that were hired out. There are collections with the ‘S. W. F.’ stamp in the Reform Club, London, and the Anthony de Rothschild collection, Ascott, Wing, Buckinghamshire. A surviving handbill now in the department of prints and drawings of the British Museum headed ‘Roxburgh Collection of Caricatures’ advertises for sale a collection ‘bound in 24 uniform Volumes’ at 250 guineas. Prints were also available to buy ready prepared for screens, assorted for folios, and arranged for scrapbooks.

Fores also offered other services such as frame-making and teaching etching, and he kept a large stock of art supplies. He published drawing books and had a drawing library ‘where prints and drawings are lent to copy’. Fores's business at this stage has echoes of Ackermann's luxurious Repository of the Arts in the Strand and he was clearly looking to diversify as a result of competition and waning caricature sales. Some of the best prints that Fores published were by Gillray between 1787 and 1791, before his monopoly by Humphrey, and his imprint is found on Gillray's Monstrous Craws, A March to the Bank, and The Hopes of the Party. Fores also published Gillray's portrait of the prime minister William Pitt, but surviving correspondence reveals that this resulted in some acrimony. Although most of Fores's output was not unsympathetic to the Pitt regime, Fores was nevertheless briefly arrested in 1796 for selling Gillray's The Presentation, or, The Wise Men's Offering—actually published by Humphrey—which was deemed a blasphemous libel, reminding him of the limits of acceptable subject matter and the risks involved in publishing satirical material. The period is notable for its severe censorship and the gagging of radical expression.

Fores published work by numerous artists but seems to have dealt most consistently with Isaac Cruikshank and in 1797 he also had brief dealings with the youthful and talented Richard Newton, publishing together at least five prints. Fores's address is also found on a number of prints relating to the Queen Caroline affair of 1819–20, which provoked a great outpouring of satirical material. Fores probably deserves the distinction of being the most prolific publisher of singly-issued satirical prints and also as the founder of one of London's longest running firm of printsellers.

Fores married twice and had numerous children (either fourteen or seventeen), some with curious patriotic names: following Trafalgar a son was christened Horatio Nelson and in 1814 another was called Arthur Blücher, in honour of the conquerors of Napoleon. His first wife, Elizabeth (b. 1758/9), died in 1797. His second wife, Jane (1772/3–1840), actively looked after the shop and was apparently popular with the customers (who included such notables as the duke of Queensberry, Sir Francis Burdett, Nelson, and the exiled duke of Orléans, Louis Philippe). In addition to his publishing and printing work, Fores also published Fores's New Guide for Foreigners (c.1790) and wrote a treatise entitled Man-Midwifery Dissected under the pseudonym John Blunt in 1793. Fores died on 3 February 1838, and was buried in the family vault on the Jermyn Street side of St James's, Piccadilly.

The business continued as Messrs Fores after Samuel William's death and his sons George Thomas Fores (1806–1858) and Arthur Blücher Fores (1814–1883) took over, quickly replacing satirical prints with sporting prints. The will of Arthur Blücher, who never married and accrued considerable wealth, states that the business was being carried on by his nephew George Thomas Byron Fores, but it seems that it was in fact another son of George Thomas, George Philip Byron Fores (1831–1916), who mainly oversaw production. The latter's son George Poole Fores (1865–1950) was next to run the firm which remained in situ until 1938 when Fores & Co. moved to no. 123 New Bond Street. Fores Ltd, ‘specialists in sporting engravings’, moved to 29 Bruton Street and relocated again in 1980 as Fores Gallery Ltd to 15 Sicilian Avenue. Although no longer family-run, the business continued to operate as Fores into the twenty-first century.

Simon Turner


F. G. Stephens and M. D. George, eds., Catalogue of political and personal satires preserved … in the British Museum, 5–11 (1935–54) · A. M. Broadley, Napoleon in caricature, 2 vols. (1911) · D. Hill, Mr Gillray the caricaturist (1965) · D. Donald, The age of caricature: satirical prints in the reign of George III (1996) · R. Godfrey, James Gillray: the art of caricature (2001) · IGI


NYPL, letters to Gillray


R. Cruikshank, hand-coloured etching, 1823, BM · Appleton, portrait, 1825, priv. coll.

Wealth at death  

see will, TNA: PRO, PROB 11/1902