The Journey of Dr. Johnson and James Boswell to Scotland

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James Boswell wrote, “On Saturday the 14th of August 1773 late in the Evening I received a Note from him that he was arrived at Boyd’s Inn at the head of the Cannon-gate, I went to him directly. He embraced me cordially, and I exulted in the thought that I now had him actually in Caledonia.”

Samuel Johnson wrote, “On the eighteenth of August we left Edinburgh, a city too well known to admit description, and directed our course northward, along the eastern coast of Scotland, accompanied the first day by another gentleman, who could stay with us only long enough to shew us how much we lost at separation.”

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For the next 83 days, Johnson and his young companion travelled the western islands of Scotland. Each kept a journal and each published an account of the trip:

Samuel Johnson (1709-1784), A Journey to the Western Islands of Scotland (London: Printed for W. Strahan ; and T. Cadell in the Strand, 1775). Rare Books (Ex) 3804.3.35.14

James Boswell (1740-1795), The Journal of a Tour to the Hebrides (London: Printed by Henry Baldwin, for Charles Dilly …, 1785). Rare Books (Ex) 3804.

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Caricaturist and genre painter Samuel Collings (died 1795) was commissioned by the Marylebone publisher E Jackson to imagine scenes from this trip and come up with humorous illustrations. Princeton holds 22 of these original drawings. Thomas Rowlandson (1756/57-1827), who had collaborated with Collings on several other projects, was enlisted to etch the drawings.

A separate portfolio of 20 prints was released in May of 1786, under the title, Picturesque Beauties of Boswell, designed and etched by two capital artists ([London]: E. Jackson, 1786), Graphic Arts Collection (GA) Oversize Kane Room Rowlandson 1786q. Princeton holds the first edition, the reissue (around 1805), and a reprint (around 1860).

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Samuel Collings (active 1784-1789, died 1795), The Journey of Dr. Johnson and James Boswell to Scotland, no date [1780s], 22 ink wash drawings. Gift of Dickson Q. Brown, Class of 1895. Graphic Arts Collection GA 2006.01985