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John Hill

John Hill was born in London in 1770, and was apprenticed as a youth to an engraver in that city. He became interested in the process of aquatinting, a technique wherein a metal plate is etched several times in order to create tonal gradations, resulting in a print that is easier to hand-colour due to the variety of subtle tones produced.

Hill began working in London under his own name in 1798, and mainly produced aquatints that were used for book illustrations. In 1816, in order to support his family of six children, John Hill immigrated to Philadelphia, then a major centre of publishing in the United States. His earliest American engravings were mainly city views, which were, as in England, published as book or magazine illustrations. He was able to earn enough in America to bring his family to join him in 1819.

Most members of Hill's family, including his wife and daughters, worked alongside him in some capacity, helping pull proofs or hand-colour prints. Hill's son, John William Hill (1812-1879) became a skilled painter as well as an engraver and assistant to his father.