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(b Liverpool, March 8, 1753; d Liverpool, June 30, 1831).

English lawyer, collector and writer. The son of William Roscoe, a market gardener, he rejected school at an early age and thus received no formal education. As a young man, however, he read a great deal and was soon articled as an attorney’s clerk in Liverpool. He studied Latin on his own, reading the literature of ancient Rome, and also mastered French and Italian. In 1773 he founded the Society for the Encouragement of Designing, Drawing and Painting and organized the first exhibition of paintings to be held in any English provincial town. In about 1781 he began to collect books and, on the advice of his brother-in-law, the collector Daniel Daulby, he started to purchase prints in London. He built up a collection of engravings, etchings and woodcuts by Italian, Flemish, Dutch, German and French masters. His collecting was inspired by the parallels he saw between Liverpool and Renaissance Florence, both rich mercantile cities. His intention in collecting was to illustrate the origins and progression of art in modern times: works were not to be judged on their individual merits but rather within the context of the times in which they were purchased. He also admired Lorenzo de’ Medici as a patron of the arts in Florence and sought to play a similar role for Liverpool. In ...