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HARDING, SILVESTER (1745–1809), artist and publisher, was born at Newcastle-under-Lyme 25 July 1745. He was placed when a child in the charge of an uncle in London, but at the age of fourteen ran away and joined a company of strolling actors, with whom he played under an assumed name for some years. In 1775 he returned to London and took to miniature-painting, exhibiting at the Royal Academy in 1776 and subsequent years. In 1786 he joined his brother Edward (see below) in starting a book and printseller's shop in Fleet Street, where they published many prints of fancy subjects designed by him and engraved by Bartolozzi, Delatre, Gardiner, and others. He chiefly employed himself in drawing portraits of theatrical celebrities, and in copying ancient portraits in water-colours. The latter were executed with care and skill, and were employed to illustrate various historical works issued by him and his brother. Their first publication of this kind was 'Shakespeare illustrated by an Assemblage of Portraits and Views appropriated to the whole suite of our Author's Historical Dramas,' &c., consisting of 150 plates, issued in thirty numbers, 1789-93. In 1792 they removed from Fleet Street to 102 Pall Mall, where they carried on a successful business. Here they produced the 'Memoirs of Count Grammont,' 1793; 'The Economy of Human Life,' with plates by W. N. Gardiner from designs by Harding, 1795; Burger's 'Leonora,' translated by W. R. Spencer, 1796; and Dryden's Fables,' 1797, both illustrated with plates from drawings by Lady Diana Beauclerk. The first volume of their extensive series of historical portraits, known as 'The Biographical Mirrour,' with text by F. G. Waldron, appeared in 1795. Before 1798 the brothers dissolved partnership. Silvester removed to 127 and Edward to 98 Pall Mall; the former continued the 'Biographical Mirrour,' of which he issued the second volume in 1798, and the third was ready for publication at the time of his death, which took place on 12 Aug. 1809. Among other original works by Harding were a portrait of Sir Busick Harwood, M.D., engraved on a large scale in mezzotint by John Jones, and a set of six illustrations to 'Rosalynde, Euphues Golden Legacie' (the original of Shakespeare's 'As you like it '), with notes by F. G. Waldron, which were engraved and published by his brother Edward in 1802. The largest of his water-colour copies, 'Charles II receiving the first pine-apple cultivated in England from Rose, the gardener at Dawney Court, Bucks, the seat of the Duchess of Cleveland, from a picture at Strawberry Hill,' was engraved by R. Grave in 1823. He was well known to and much esteemed by the collectors of his time. He married a daughter of Dr. William Perfect of Town Malling, Kent, by whom he had, with other children, George Perfect [q. v.] and Edward; the latter engraved some good plates for his father's publications, but died at the age of twenty in 1796. The print room of the British Museum possesses many copies of portraits by Silvester Harding.

Harding, Edward (1755-1840), younger brother of Silvester, was born 29 March 1755 at Stafford, where he was apprenticed to a hairdresser. After pursuing this occupation for a few years in London he abandoned it, and set up with his brother as an engraver and bookseller. After the dissolution of partnership he for a few years carried on business alone, employing W. N. Gardiner [q. v.] as his copier of portraits, and publishing, among other works, Adolphus's 'British Cabinet,' 1802; but in 1803 he was appointed librarian to Queen Charlotte, and resided first at Frogmore, and afterwards at Buckingham Palace. He became a great favourite with the queen, and ' grangerised ' many historical works for her amusement. In 1806 he published a set of portraits of the royal princes and princesses, engraved by Cheesman and others, from pictures by Gainsborough and Beechey. After Queen Charlotte's death in 1818 Harding became librarian to the Duke of Cumberland, afterwards king of Hanover, and held that post until his death, which took place at Pimlico 1 Nov. 1840.

[Redgrave's Dict. of Artists; Gent. Mag. lxxix. 107o, and new series, xiv. 668; Brit. Mus. Library Catalogue.]

F. M. O'D.