William Hole

William Hole or Holle  (d. 1624) was one of the most versatile and prolific engravers working in the reign of James I. Nothing is known of his origins or training, and the assumption that he was English is a deduction from his name. His first dated plates belong to 1607 and are the title-plate and nineteen of the maps for the second edition of William Camden’s Britannia. The first edition had been engraved by William Rogers, the first significant native-born engraver, and Hole may have been his pupil.

As a copperplate-engraver, Hole remained a specialist in engraving maps, music, and lettering. His figurative plates, mostly portrait frontispieces of the authors of books, are crude and wooden, especially by comparison with the work of Simon and Willem de Passe and Francis Delaram, the immigrants who displaced him in this field. His lettering is always delightful, and he stands at the head of the seventeenth-century tradition of engravers who worked for writing-masters. He engraved the plates to Martin Billingsley’s The Pens Excellencie, or, The Secretaries Delighte of 1618, the first important English engraved copybook, dedicated to Charles as prince of Wales, and he was also responsible for the first engraved plates of music made outside Italy: the famous Parthenia of 1612–13 which contained music by William Byrd, John Bull, and Orlando Gibbons, and Angelo Notari’s Prime musiche nuove of 1613.

In 1618 Hole was given a lifetime appointment to the office of head sculptor of the iron for money in the Tower and elsewhere. The steady stream of his dated portrait plates that begins in 1607 stops abruptly in 1619, and he henceforth confined himself to engraving coin dies. His salary of £30 was paid every year until his death in 1624: a document of 15 September that year granted his office as ‘Chief Engraver of the Mint and Graver of the King’s seals, ensigns and arms’ to John Gilbert and Edward Green.

Taken from Antony Griffiths, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography