A General History of Quadrupeds. The Figures Engraved on Wood by T. Bewick
Seller ID: 1784
Newcastle upon Tyne:T. Bewick and S.Hodgson,1807. Fifth edition (pp. x, 525, advert). Octavo (20 cm) in full mottled leather, gilt decoration, title in compartment on spine. In the addenda, Bewick includes an early mention of two Australian species-- 'the figures and descriptions of two very rare animals, sent� from New South Wales, by James Hunter, Esq. Governor of that settlement'. The two animals are the Wombach (sic) and an as yet unnamed 'amphibious animal' with a bill similar to that of a duck. Thomas Bewick (1753- 1828), a contemporary of William Blake, confined his work to more ordinary subjects than those addressed by that mystic poet- engraver. The General History of Quadrupeds (1790) of which this is the fifth revised and expanded edition, and the History of British Birds (1797) are two of Bewick's most important works, each of which was issued in a number of editions in his lifetime. A complete description of his work as an engraver, however, comprises two entire volumes (1867- 68). Bewick's Memoir, published by a daughter in 1862, describes 'an early impulse to draw [which] constantly filled the margins of his schoolbooks'. To his 'rustic neighbours [he] became an eminent painter, and the walls of their houses were ornamented with an abundance [of] rude productions.' See also our Thomas Bewick Marginal Drawings & Notes. Bewick's third great work, completed late in life, was an edition of the Fables of Aesop. Bewick (and those who worked for him) produced wood engravings to decorate, illustrate, and enhance all manner of publications-- 'more than eighty small books for children� commissioned by some eighteen printers and booksellers� such titles as The Tale of Tommy Trip, Cinderella, Goody Goosecap, and Jack Dandy, as well as many books of fables and riddles and manuals for spelling and reading' (ODNB). If you look closely at the vignettes here in Quadrupeds (A magnifying glass helps), you will discovery ironic little slices of ordinary life: a mischievous little girl is about to give a horse's tail a sharp yank, while her mother flies down an orchard ladder to intervene; a traveling exotic animal show, a sad bear in tow, traipses dispiritedly down the road to the next country town; a monkey wielding a straight razor contemplates a hirsute image in a shaving mirror. Backstrip skilfully repaired, absent ffep; otherwise clean and tight.
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