Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Romantic Moderns

 Guardian reviewer Kathryn Hughes recently enthused over the new book by Alexandra Harris, "Romantic Moderns: English Writers, Artists and the Imagination from Virginia Woolf to John Piper".
"It would be impossible to over-emphasise what a clever book Romantic Moderns is." The Guardian, Saturday 25 September 2010.

According to Hughes the book deals with a particular form of English twentieth century culture:
"For while high modernism hung out in smoky jazz bars, romantic modernism tended to pile on the jumpers and sit round the kitchen table, scoffing a delicious stew composed of ingredients foraged from the hedgerows. When it took to the roads it did so with a well-thumbed Victorian gazetteer in the glove compartment or perhaps an edition of Gilbert White's Selborne or Thomas Bewick's British Birds."

The book has been nominated for the Guardian First Book Award.

Read the review here.
Full details of the book here.
Alexandra Harris's website has some extracts available.

The Chairman’s Report 2009-2010

The Bewick Society’s 22nd Annual General Meeting
Saturday 25th September 2010
The Chairman’s Report 2009-2010

Mr President, Ladies and Gentlemen, again, it is my pleasure to report on the activities of the Bewick Society. It has been a busy year, with a full range of activities, some events now customary others more experimental, as well as less visible work on important projects.

The most ambitious event, organised in partnership with the University of Newcastle, was a conference entitled ‘Illustrating Fables: Bewick and Beyond’ on Friday 26th February. Stimulating contributions from an international panel of lecturers — Brian Alderson, Graham Williams, Andrea Immel, John Vernon Lord, and our own Peter Osborne and Peter Quinn — were interwoven with much discussion on a neglected area of study. It is intended that publication will follow. The Society is particularly indebted to Peter Osborne, of our Committee, and to Dr Matthew Grenby, of the School of English Literature, Language and Linguistics, Newcastle University, who together shaped and delivered a very worthwhile day.

Our popular Bewick Enthusiasms meetings are a forum for unusual snippets of Bewickiana and also a proving ground for developing ideas. The latter was the case with Anne French’s lecture on 1st April; but she was not fooling when she included Lapland in her fascinating study of ‘Thomas Bewick, Lapland and the Grand Tour ’. Bewick’s own contribution, the copperplate illustrations to Matthew Consett’s T our through Sweden, Swedish Lapland Finland and Denmark (1789) made their first appearance before the Society as a ten-minute Enthusiasm almost a decade ago.

The Bewick Enthusiasms meeting itself, held on 24th April, produced a crop of surprises including Peter Osborne’s sampling of an untapped source of Bewick material in local newspapers, and his linking of Bewick with Vincent Van Gogh.  June Holmes discussed Bewick’s influence on the Italian naturalist Paolo Savi. As before we hope that some subjects will lend themselves to fuller study.

The summer outing, again organised and led by David Gardner-Medwin, traced the (footsteps of Thomas Bewick to north Yorkshire where, at Wycliffe Hall, for two .months in 1791 he recorded bird specimens in the collection of the then late •Marmaduke Tunstall (1743-90) — for whom, two years earlier, Bewick had engraved The Chillingham Bull. The results of his visit contributed to the production of his History of British Birds (1797and 1804) which many regard as the highpoint of Bewick’s combined career as engraver, artist and author.

Thomas Bewick’s 257th Birthday was celebrated at Cherryburn on 15th August with the usual ‘Conversation’ including contributions from David Gray on Thornton’s Family Herbal, 1810, with illustrations by ‘Bewick’, (in reality by the apprentices Isaac Nicholson, John Bewick [nephew] and Edward Willis, supervised by TB); from David Gardner-Medwin on documents relating to Bewick forbears around Kirkheaton; and from Peter Quinn on possible links between Bewick’s work and Dutch genre painting. Lots of visitors joined the conversation, and helped with the cake afterwards.

We have had a share of sadder moments, too. Dilys Harding, who died of cancer on 16th April, served a full term as our highly efficient and delightful Secretary. She also provided a vital link with the City Library and the riches of the Pease Collection, hosting committee meetings and full society events including a memorable evening combining Bewick’s musical connections with actual music from members of the Avison Society. The success of the rebuilt City Library (opened last November), especially in the new display and arrangement of the Bewick material in the Pease Collection, owes much to Dilys’s planning just prior to her retirement.

We are fortunate that the link with the Library has been kept by recruiting to the Committee, Dilys’s friend and successor as Head of Heritage, Kath Cassidy. And,when our excellent Meetings Secretary, Felicity Stimpson, moved with her husband, (the recently retired Professor of French at Newcastle University) to the south coast, Kath agreed to take over her responsibility, too. Through Kath’s help, the Library has accommodated many of our Committee meetings and indeed last year’s Annual General Meeting — in the new Bewick Hall, of course!

In passing on the Chairmanship of the Society after a second term, as the Constitution requires, I wish to conclude my report with a tribute to the members of your Committee. I am acutely aware that business on other fronts in recent years, has made me more of a titular head than I would have wished. The reason that this has not been, I hope, too obvious is because of the dedication and hard work of my colleagues on the Committee. I have been extremely lucky to have had such an excellent team. Much of what they do is not in the limelight yet it is vital to the Society’s progress.

David Gardner-Medwin and Peter Osborne have done so much for the Society in various ways that it is difficult to particularise; but one lesser-known project with which both have involved is towards the establishment of a database of Bewick’s vignettes. The potential for such a resource is great and we will be hearing more soon.

The Society’s publications have been crucial to its development. Cherryburn Times, under its editor David Gray, has set a standard of scholarship and presentation which continues to attract a wide range of writers to a natural haven for the safe landing of their Bewick research. Taken together the editions form a mighty resource; and we are discussing whether selective re-publication might be a future aim.

Just as important has been the Members Newsletter, invented and produced by June Holmes, our Membership Secretary, who keeps a growing membership in touch in the most dedicated and friendly way. Her efforts have resulted in gifts, information, visits, and a closer network of admirers of Bewick - now across several continents.

Our growing membership gives us a healthy bank balance. Our Treasurer, Peter Quinn, has been masterly in managing subscriptions and stewarding funding. The Society has managed from what is still a modest annual subscription to cover its printing and administrative costs, to provide publicity materials, to pay for venues and events expenses, and still have a surplus which can be allocated to supporting publications (We are still looking forward to the publication of Nigel Tattersfield’s study of The Illustrated Work 0f Thomas Bewick) or acquisitions or even minor building works.

One of the stated aims of the Society is ‘to support the National Trust in the care of Bewick’s birthplace at Cherryburn’. I believe the Society has a constructive and supportive relationship with Cherryburn, and I know that a good measure of that is owing to Stewart Thirkell, of both the National Trust and your Committee.

I wish my successor good luck in taking on the new responsibilities. If the support from the Committee is even half as good as it has been for me — and I am sure it will be  - the Chairman will be fortunate indeed. I thank the members for their continued support. I believe I am right in reporting that the Bewick Society is in good heart, confident of achievements, yet always looking to improve the fulfilment of its purpose: the promotion of understanding of Thomas Bewick’s extraordinary achievements and influence. As I have had the honour of saying on other occasions, that, with your help, is what we will continue to do. Thank you all very much.

Hugh Dixon, September 2010

Thursday, 9 September 2010

Heritage Open Days

Thursday 9th - Sunday 12th September

As part of Tyne and Wear Heritage Open Days 2010, from Thursday 9th to Sunday 12th September, you can visit and take part in over 200 buildings and activities – all for free!

Details on their website, click here.

Highlights with some connection to the life and times of Thomas Bewick include Literary and Philosophical Society of Newcastle upon Tyne, Natural History Society of Northumbria (Friday 10/09/2010 1000-1600 just turn up), Parish Church of St Andrew, Tableaux in an 18th Century Town House.

"In Gateshead interesting events such as: a quiz on ‘How Well Do You Know Gateshead?’, a walk around ‘Addison, Hedgefield and Stella’ and a talk on ‘How to Fix a Bridge in Four Minutes’ are taking place, along with buildings such as: The Banqueting House at Gibside, Winlaton Forge and HMS Calliope all opening their doors.

In Newcastle buildings such as: Jesmond Dene Real Tennis Club, St George’s Church in Jesmond and 733 Squadron Air Cadets at Kingston Park will be open, as well as events such as: ‘Children at War! in the City Library, a ‘Greasepaint and Celluloid’ walk around Newcastle and a ‘Tunnels, Tall Tales and a Toffee Factory’ walk in the Ouseburn taking place."

Download their brochure and check their website for updates and ammendments.

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

Bookplates in Delaware

From UDaily the website of the University of Delaware.

"The University of Delaware Library announces the availability of a new digital collection, the William Augustus Brewer Bookplate Collection. An enlarged version of each bookplate, as well as the Rev. Brewer's handwritten notes and catalog numbers, can be viewed by clicking on “Detailed View” below the image for each bookplate.
... The collection is available online.
Brewer was an avid bookplate collector. His wife, Augusta LaMotte Brewer, bequeathed his collection to the University of Delaware Library after her husband's death.
The William Augustus Brewer Bookplate Collection comprises 12,680 printed bookplates dating mainly from the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries.
The collection includes bookplates from the libraries of John Carter Brown, Lewis Carroll, Samuel L. Clemens, Calvin Coolidge, Charles Dickens, Walt Disney, Edward Gibbon, Alexander Hamilton, Harry Houdini, Samuel Pepys, Howard Pyle, Paul Revere, Eleanor Roosevelt, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Theodore Roosevelt, Alfred Stieglitz and William Butler Yeats, as well as many others.

The designers of the bookplates include, such well-known artists as Thomas Bewick, Edward Burne-Jones, Kate Greenaway, William Hogarth, Howard Pyle, Rudolf Ruzicka and James A. M. Whistler."

Click here to read the full article.

There appear to be 28 examples attributed to Thomas Bewick in the collection.