William Home Lizar (1788–1859)


The son of Daniel Lizars, and brother of the surgeon John Lizars, he was born at Edinburgh in 1788, and was educated at the high school there. His sister Jean (Jane) Home married Sir William Jardine. His father was a publisher and an engraver who had been a pupil of Andrew Bell, and engraved portraits as book illustrations. Lizars was first apprenticed to his father, from whom he learnt engraving, and then entered as a student under John Graham in the Trustees' Academy at Edinburgh, where he was a fellow-student with Sir David Wilkie.

In 1812, on the death of his father, Lizars had to carry on the business of engraving and copperplate printing in order to support his mother and family. He employed the artists Horatio McCulloch and Daniel Macnee. Another employee was William Howison, mainly on small plates. George Aikman, father of George Aikman the painter, also worked for Lizars before setting up on his own.

Lizars encountered J. J. Audubon in Edinburgh in October 1826, introduced (on Audubon's account) with his portfolio by the naturalists Patrick Neill and Prideaux John Selby. So began an intense period when Lizars helped Audubon meet Edinburgh luminaries likely to be useful to him: Robert Jameson, David Brewster and James Wilson in particular. Lizars had a celebrated portrait of Audubon painted (it is now in the White House), by John Syme, in his wolfskin coat, in late November; and the following day took him to meet George Combe and other phrenologists. Lizars had agreed to publish Audubon's Birds of America. After a promising start, the business did not go well, and Audubon moved the production to London. The work was completed by the Havell family.

In the early 1830s he is listed as operating from 3 St James Square, in Edinburgh, the centre for printers at that time.

Peter Morris M.D., fictional creation of John Gibson Lockhart by Lizars, 1819, in his new style of metallic relief engraving.

Lizars perfected a method of etching which performed the functions of wood-engraving, for illustration of books. He died in Edinburgh on 30 March 1859, leaving a widow and family. He is buried in St Cuthbert's Churchyard at the west end of Princes Street. His brother John Lizars, surgeon (d.1860) lies with him.

William Home Lizar

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