THOMAS BEWICK, THE COMPLETE ILLUSTRATIVE WORK
by Tattersfield, Nigel
Thomas Bewick can be called one of the best English exponents of wood engraving. Born in 1753, he grew up on a small farm, where his chores came second to his interest in the countryside, fishing, and watching birds and animals. These early passions set the stage for his future endeavors.
His early work of cutting soft wood for woodcuts eventually turned into fine detailed designs into hard wood. Beginning in the late 1700s onwards, Bewick illustrated many children's books with one of his most famous books, The History of British Birds. The book contained bird engravings and wood cuts and was an immediate success. Other major publications that helped solidify Bewick's success include The Chillingham Bull, Waiting for Death, A General History of Quadrupeds, and The Fables of Aesop and Others.
Bewick's celebrated histories of quadrupeds and birds of 1790, 1797, and 1804 have obscured the immense number of other books of all denominations illustrated in his modest workshop. From its inception in 1765 until its demise in 1849, the workshop provided illustrations to books, pamphlets, periodicals, and newspapers. The range of illustrations encompassed natural histories, children's storybooks, cookery books, religious tracts, spelling books, mathematical treatises, Bibles, agricultural manuals, local town and county histories, joke books, and even a book of sermons.
Generously illustrated and arranged alphabetically, this book details some 750 titles, over 450 of which are unrecorded in earlier bibliographies. In addition it provides sections on newspaper mastheads, book cover designs, copy-book covers, maps, and large single prints. Whether appealing to the Bewick aficionado, book historian, art historian, provincial printing enthusiast, or admirer of engraving on wood or copper, this will be an indispensable work.
Nigel Tattersfield is the author of Bookplates by Beilby and Bewick, published by Oak Knoll Press and The British Library and John Bewick: Engraver on Wood, published by Oak Knoll Press.