Thursday, 14 May 2020

A Matter of Convenience

Graham Carlisle's puzzle

Two friends, and apprentices of the master were almost certainly tempted to an act of sacrilege by this image (I like to think). Who were they and why?

1. A particular northern view; of Newcastle high church
2. Within weeks of this TINY, but defiant act of sacrilege - which has gone unnoticed for 200 years - the two good friends were parted. One died under tragic circumstances, the other: achieved fame and fortune in London.

3. Each by different means, left this undiscovered sacrilegious joke; against a more substantial northern wall...

Robert Johnson, who tragically died under horrible circumstances, was a great pal of Charlton Nesbit; each of whom were bound to their master at the Beilby and Bewick workshop.

Johnson, a precocious talent, made one of best ever watercolour drawings of the North View of St. Nicholas' Church, Newcastle. Now within the collection of the Laing Art Gallery, Newcastle, and not often on public view, it can be accessed online and is well worth a look.
But that's not all: The young Robert made two versions of this view, one of which is intended for those of a genteel disposition; the other, pleasingly full of social commentary. The second version has in the far distance, perhaps to the consternation of those shown lingering near the church wall, a tiny figure making a convenience of Newcastle's 'high church'.

The message is clear, and would not have been missed by Bewick who, around this time, to the displeasure of his daughters, cut on wood the Pigsty Netty and Peeing Pedlar.
TB is traditionally said to have drawn the two young boys hitching a lift on the carriage; maybe he did, and they are intended to represent Johnson and Nesbit?
Nesbit, within weeks of Johnson's death, and for the benefit of his family, engraved on wood the most extraordinary copy of Johnson's view, on twelve joined blocks full of exquisite detail; the print is now rarely to be found, the joke unrecognised.
The print version is available on the British Museum site here 

Wednesday, 1 April 2020

Dealing in Deceit.

Dealing in Deceit. Edwin Pearson of the 'Bewick Repository' Bookshop 1838-1901.

A new book by Nigel Tattersfield.

The story of an unscrupulous book-dealer who conspired to foist specious publications, doctored woodblocks and “original drawings” onto collectors of the work of the superlative wood engraver Thomas Bewick. Pearson’s speciality was using genuine Bewick cuts to illustrate pastiche works, which he offered at high prices to Bewickiana enthusiasts. Tattersfield is the greatest living authority on the work of Thomas Bewick and this volume chronicles Pearson’s life and career, telling the story of the Bewick “rarities” along the way.

Limited Edition of 125 copies. Quarto, pp. 92. 20 monochrome plates, several multi-image, plus colour frontispiece; Bewick head-and tail-pieces. Olive green cloth with gilt titles to spine in grey and green pictorial dust-jacket.

Sole Distributor: Keel Row Books. Copies available now. 

A Question of Squirrels

The Little Ground Squirrel of 1790

Gill Hollinshead writes:
I have a large number of wood cuts taken from books (by someone else) and pasted into a scrapbook many many years ago. These include a quantity from Bewick’s Quadrupeds. I have an 1811 edition but have only been able to read 1790, 1791 and 1792 editions on line.
For the reasons I have set out below the cuts which are not complete appear to come from the 1790 edition.
a. There is ‘The Common Bull and Cow’ while later editions named them ‘The Holstein or Dutch Breed’
b. There is ‘The Bouti-Bok, or Pied Goat’ later named as ‘The Pied Goat’
c. There is ‘The Thick-Nosed Tapir’ later ‘Capibara’
d. There is ‘The New South-Wales Dog’ later ‘The New South-Wales Wolf’
e. What appears to be the early picture of ‘The Spotted Hyena’

It is possible to read what appears on the back and this in every case corresponds with the 1790 edition. However, I have an image of ‘The Ground Squirrel’ which is shown below.


 Yet, in the 1790 edition this is referred to on Page 336 as ‘The Little Ground Squirrel’ although in every other respect, including the text on the back, it is correct.

The 1791 edition refers to the same image but on Page 356 as ‘The Ground Squirrel’ but the text on back though similar does not correspond.

Please can someone clarify. Am I missing something? Does someone have a 1790 edition that is different? The idiosyncrasies of 18th century publishing are beyond me!

Many thanks for any help
Gill White

We have this reply:

Dear Gill,
The answer to your query can be explained by your bringing to light an unrecorded variant of the first edition 1790, of Thomas Bewick's A General History of Quadrupeds!
The images attached are from two first editions in my collection. From these, it can be seen the word 'little' has been dropped from the animal's title, as printing of the first edition progressed.

This seems not to have been noted in Sidney Roscoe's 'Thomas Bewick A Bibliography Raisonné', 1953.
Yours sincerely,
Graham Carlisle

Monday, 4 November 2019

The Unknown Genius

The Unknown Genius

A film from Tyne Tees Television, 1978
With Iain Bain, James Alder and Joan Hassall.
Directed by Bernard Preston.

Monday, 25 March 2019

Hands On event at Cherryburn

Many thanks to all who came along for our look at some of the volumes of The History of British Birds kept behind the scenes at Cherryburn. Sunday 24th March.

Wednesday, 24 October 2018

Memoir, Chapter Fifteen

In this reading from Bewick's Memoir the engraver remembers falling ill, being nursed back to health against all the odds and resolving to publish a new edition of the Fables of Aesop. The book was harder to realise than he imagined, with eye strain and printing problems to be coped with. The text was finally published on 1st October 1818, however Bewick favoured the second edition of 1823.

Read by Stephen Tomlin ( at Cherryburn, October 2018.

Thursday, 4 October 2018

Graham Carlisle reports a break-through find using the online facility available from the Wordsworth Trust.

For a number of years I have been researching two sets of india paper proofs of Bewick's Birds, Quadrupeds & Vignettes. Bound in 19th century morocco, the sets were bought from an American dealer who acquired them from the illustrious hands of the famous Rosenbach. No signs of previous ownership, old bookplates removed!

The American knew little about them other than this, he thought they were advertising cuts!!

The workshop archives suggested Jane Bewick had compiled two such albums at a charge of £4.4s.0d. Using the different Newcastle archive sources, I built a case for the two albums having been purchased by the famous bookseller: William Pickering. Mine being one, the other now with the Metropolitan Museum of Art NY via the Jupp collection.

This is the result of inserting the search term 'Pickering' in the Wordsworth Trust digital archive (abreviated):

Wordsworth Trust Manuscripts: Letter to Thomas Bewick # 2013.57.3.56 
London March 17, 1825
Dear Sir
 I wish to have the other copy of the India Paper Quadrupeds & should be glad to have the Birds – in the same state I think the vignettes form an inseparable part of the books… If you could accommodate me with an entire set of india impressions of the Birds, Quadrupeds & Vignettes at a moderate cost. For myself (not for sale) – I should be much obliged they have been favourite works with me for many years & and which I have from liking commended & pushed(?) to a considerable extent(?). I remain Dear Sir, Yrs very truly, W. Pickering

Wordsworth Trust Manuscripts: Letter to Thomas Bewick # 2013.57.3.57

57 Chancery Lane
March 23, 1825
Dear Sir
 I should like to have 2 or 3 setts of the Birds India Paper with the vignettes – mounted or unmounted should you mount any more copies of the Cutts. You will find that they answer better by pasting the inner & outer edge all the way – than at the corners indeed(?) it would save trouble & be cheaper to take off a few copies when the books are reprinting – entirely upon India Paper – which I think I could supply if you any difficulty in procuring it at Newcastle rather thicker than usual.
The Birds upon India Paper I should be glad to receive as early as possible… I remain, Sir, Your obt. Servt. W. Pickering
PS Have you any India Paper impressions of the Great Bull & Lion, if so send four of each with the beforementioned… 

Well done the team at Grasmere.