Studied engraving at Edinburgh, Rouen, and Paris. Moved to London (1750), where he sold engravings and imported Italian prints. Toured Italy (1760-65). Embittered by the exclusion of engravers from full membership in the Royal Academy (founded in 1768), he removed to Paris (1775-80). Knighted for engraving Benjamin West’s “Apotheosis of the Royal Children” (1787). Distinguished as a historical line engraver; introduced new etching technique. Involved in several political controversies of his day; supported Bonnie Prince Charlie in the Jacobite uprising of 1745 and was sympathetic to the French royal family in the 1780s.
Born at Kirkwall in the Orkney Islands. Married Isabella Lumisden (1747); four children.