Dodd, Thomas (DNB00)

DODD, THOMAS (1771–1850), auctioneer and printseller, the son of Thomas Dodd, a tailor, was born in the parish of Christ Church, Spitalfields, London, on 7 July 1771. When he was ten years old his father forsook his home, and his mother was compelled to take the boy from the school which he attended, kept by M. Dufour, at Shooter's Hill. Soon afterwards young Dodd narrowly escaped drowning while bathing in the Thames. His first employment was in the service of an Anglo-American colonel named De Vaux, and by that eccentric adventurer he was taken about the country as a member of his band of juvenile musicians. After a time the colonel left the lad with a butcher, at whose hands he endured ill-treatment for a twelvemonth. He ran away in quest of the colonel, going penniless and on foot from London to Liverpool, and thence to Matlock Bath. At another time he was left with an itinerant harper at Conway. The harper's bad usage induced him to seek the protection of a Welsh innkeeper; then he lived awhile with a sporting parson, ultimately returning to London in 1788, and taking a menial position in the shop of his uncle, a tailor, named Tooley, in Bucklersbury. His next place was that of a footman, when he found leisure to indulge a taste for reading and drawing. In 1794 he married his employer's waiting-maid, and opened a day-school near Battle Bridge, St. Pancras. Being now possessed of considerable skill as a penman and copyist, he gave up his school to accept a situation as engrossing clerk in the enrolment office of the court of chancery. His spare hours were devoted to the study of engravings, and in 1796 he took a small shop in Lambeth Marsh for the sale of old books and prints. Two years afterwards he removed to Tavistock Street, Covent Garden. By dint of hard study and careful observation he acquired a remarkable knowledge of engravings, and began an elaborate biographical catalogue of engravers, which eventually formed thirty folio volumes of manuscript. His dealings in prints gradually extended, and his stock assumed immense proportions. In 1806 he opened an auction-room in St. Martin's Lane, and there he sold some famous collections, among them being that of General Dowdeswell in January 1809. In the course of his business he had large sales of prints and books at Liverpool, Portsmouth, and elsewhere. When he was at Ludlow in 1812, he found in the possession of an innkeeper a copy of Holland s 'Basioloogia' (1618), but it was not till seven years after that he was able to get the owner to part with this rare volume of portraits for 100l. In 1817 he spent much time over a dictionary of monograms, which might have been profitable had not a similar work by Brulliot been published about that time. From this period his good fortune deserted him and his stock dwindled. He settled in Manchester about 1819 as an auctioneer, and in 1823 projected a scheme which led to the establishment of the Royal Manchester Institution in Mosley Street, and the holding of annual exhibitions of pictures, which have been continued ever since. The Royal Institution building, with its contents, was transferred by the governors in 1882 to the Manchester corporation. Before leaving Manchester at the end of 1825 he began to publish his work entitled 'The Connoisseur's Repertorium; or a Universal Historical Record of Painters, Engravers, Sculptors, and Architects, and of their Works,' &c. The first two volumes were published in 1825, and the work was continued to the name 'Barraducio' in a sixth volume, issued in 1831, when lack of support compelled the author to abandon it. Some copies have the title 'The Connoisseur's Repertory; or a Biographical History,' &c.

Returning to London he had a sale-room for two years in Leicester Street, Leicester Square, and then became for several years foreman for Mr. Martin Colnaghi, from whose establishment he was engaged by the Earl of Yarborough to arrange and complete his collection of prints. In 1839-41 he made a catalogue, yet in manuscript, of the Douce collection of fifty thousand prints in the Bodleian Library. This is perhaps his most important work. He also arranged and catalogued Horace Walpole's prints, which were sold by George Robins for 3,840l. In 1844, being then a widower, he was elected a brother of the Charterhouse. He died on 17 Aug. 1850 at the residence of Mr. Joseph Mayer, Liverpool, to whom he bequeathed his manuscript compilations and other collections, extending to about two hundred folios, and including his 'Account of Engravers.' He was buried in St. James's cemetery, Liverpool.

[Gent. Mag. November 1850, p. 480, with portrait; Temple Bar, July 1876, and same article in Memoirs of Thomas Dodd, William Upcott, and George Stubbs, R.A. (by—Boyle), printed for Joseph Mayer, 1879, 8vo; Evans's Cat. of Portraits, ii. 125; several of Dodd's sale catalogues in the Manchester Free Library.]

C. W. S.