Bartlett, William (1809–54), topographical draughtsman, was born 26 March 1809 in Kentish Town, London; nothing is known of his parents. In 1823 he was articled to the topographer and antiquarian, John Britton (1771–1857). During the seven years of his apprenticeship thirty-nine of his sketches were engraved for the Rev. George N. Wright's (qv) Ireland illustrated (1831), to which George Petrie (qv) also contributed illustrations. His drawings were also engraved for Britton's Cathedral antiquities of England (1814–32) and Picturesque antiquities of British cities (1828–30).
He travelled in Europe for the first time in 1830, and in 1834 he made the first of three journeys to the Middle East, visiting Egypt, Syria, Palestine, and Arabia. He returned to the region in the mid 1840s and again in 1853. Between 1836 and 1852 he travelled to North America four times. The sketches made on these many travels provided him with the material for his own writings such as Switzerland (1836), Syria and the Holy Land (1836–8), and American scenery (1840). He returned to Ireland in the early 1840s to make sketches for The scenery and antiquities of Ireland (1844) by N. P. Willis and J. S. Coyne. In contrast to his earlier Irish scenes these illustrations are executed in a more fluid style, which could be said to reflect the style of the English landscape painter J. M. W. Turner (1775–1851). However, Bartlett lacked that artist's expressiveness and ability in the handling of natural forms. His strength lay rather in the accurate depiction of man-made structures.
He died 13 September 1854 aboard the steamer Egyptus en route from Malta to Marseilles while returning to England from one of his many tours, and was buried at sea; he never married. His final work, Jerusalem revisited, was published posthumously in 1855. Examples of his work may be found in the collection of the Victoria and Albert Museum, London.