Quadrupeds.Thomas Bewick.

By Thomas Bewick

Printed: 1820

Publisher: T Bewick. London

Edition: Seventh edion

Dimensions 15 × 22 × 4 cm

Language: English

Size (cminches): 15 x 22 x 4


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Rebound. Green calf spine and corners with black title plates, gilt lettering and gilt decoration. Green cloth boards. In a new protective box.

F.B.A. provides an in-depth photographic presentation of this item to stimulate your feel and touch. More traditional book descriptions are immediately available.

A superb copy rebound by Brian Cole

This is a lovely well produced rendition of the work that made Thomas Bewick.

A General History of Quadrupeds appeared in 1790. It deals with 260 mammals from across the world, including animals from “Adive” to “Zorilla”. It is particularly thorough on some of the domestic animals: the first entry describes the horse. Beilby and Bewick had difficulty deciding what to include, and especially on how to organise the entries. They had hoped to arrange the animals systematically, but they found that the rival systems of Linnaeus, Buffon and John Ray conflicted, and in Linnaeus’s case at least changed with every edition of his work. They decided to put useful animals first “which so materially contribute to the strength, the wealth, and the happiness of this kingdom”.

200 wood-engravings by Bewick, 104 smaller vignettes, this edition differs from the original as it includes thirteen new figures, one of which, the Spotted Hyena replaced an earlier figure: a rearrangement of the text, along with descriptions of the new figures. This edition includes scientific names.

The book’s coverage is erratic, a direct result of the sources that Bewick consulted: his own knowledge of British animals, the available scholarly sources, combined with George Culley’s 1786 Observations on Livestock and the antique John Caius’s 1576 On English Dogs. Bewick had to hand the Swedish naturalist Anders Sparrman’s account of his visit to the Cape of Good Hope on Cook’s expedition of 1772 to 1776, and animals from the Southern Cape figure largely in the book. It was an energetic muddle, but it was at once greeted with enthusiasm by the British public. They liked the combination of vigorous woodcuts, simple and accurate descriptions, and all kinds of exotic animals alongside things they knew.

‘Thomas Bewick, 1753-1828, was an English wood engraver and ornithologist. Bewick showed, at a very early age, a talent for drawing. He had no lessons in art. At the age of 14 he was apprenticed to Ralph Beilby, an engraver in Newcastle. In 1775 he received a premium from the Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce. In 1776 he became a partner in Beilby’s workshop. A General History of Quadrupeds first appeared in 1790. The Quadrupeds deals with mammals of the whole world, and is particularly thorough on some of the domestic animals. It includes bats and seals but does not include whales or dolphins. Bewick was helped by his intimate knowledge of the habits of animals acquired during his constant excursions into the country. Bewick’s art is considered the pinnacle of its medium. This is likely due to his methods: Bewick, unlike his predecessors, would carve in harder woods, notably box wood, against the grain, using fine tools normally favoured by metal engravers. This proved to be far superior, and has been the dominant method used since. Ralph Beilby, 1744-1817, was an English engraver, working chiefly on silver and copper. Beilby became a silversmith, jeweller, and seal-engraver under his father and elder brothers. In addition, he became a copper engraver to meet the demand of the then North England market. In 1767 Thomas Bewick was apprenticed to him. The texts in Bewick’s A General History of Quadrupeds (1790) and History of British Birds: Land Birds (1797) were drafted by Beilby and revised by Bewick.’

Thomas Bewick (c. 11 August 1753 – 8 November 1828) was an English wood-engraver and natural history author. Early in his career he took on all kinds of work such as engraving cutlery, making the wood blocks for advertisements, and illustrating children’s books. He gradually turned to illustrating, writing and publishing his own books, gaining an adult audience for the fine illustrations in A History of Quadrupeds.

His career began when he was apprenticed to engraver Ralph Beilby in Newcastle upon Tyne. He became a partner in the business and eventually took it over. Apprentices whom Bewick trained include John Anderson, Luke Clennell, and William Harvey, who in their turn became well known as painters and engravers.

Bewick is best known for his A History of British Birds, which is admired today mainly for its wood engravings, especially the small, sharply observed, and often humorous vignettes known as tail-pieces. The book was the forerunner of all modern field guides. He notably illustrated editions of Aesop’s Fables throughout his life.

He is credited with popularising a technical innovation in the printing of illustrations using wood. He adopted metal-engraving tools to cut hard boxwood across the grain, producing printing blocks that could be integrated with metal type, but were much more durable than traditional woodcuts. The result was high-quality illustration at a low price.

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