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Friday’s Library Snapshot … Jenny Uglow and Thomas Bewick

August 3, 2012

Nature’s Engraver : a life of Thomas Bewick by Jenny Uglow

This is a fairly new acquisition in our reference library here at Specials Collections. It complements our wide collection of books about and by Thomas Bewick. Of late I have seen many books of this type but only have time to give them a cursory glance before I shelve them.
I always promise myself time for a revisit.  Unfortunately, I get taken over by events or books about other artists like William Morris or Eric Gill and more.

For this item I did make time; the perfect history book with the usual facts and figures; but for me lots of images and much social comment.

Berwick was born beside the river Tyne 250 years ago; into farming and mining family.  He was a poor scholar but from a child he was interested in nature and art and found every opportunity to draw; even in the margins his school books; in the style of Hogarth.

At the age of 14 he was an apprentice to Ralph Beilby an engraver in Newcastle.  Here he learned wood engraving and developed the craft using hard wood with tools that would have been generally used with metal. He went on to revolutionise and influence book illustration for the next century.
Berwick’s  story also  captures and marks the beginning of our lasting obsession with the natural world …

A General History of Quadrupeds appeared in 1790 and Bewick’s great achievement, and the History of British Birds, was published from 1797-1804.

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