Thomas Bewick

The Wolf and the Shepherds
The Wolf and the Shepherds
Mr Bewick’s next works were on a larger scale: four very spirited and accurate representations of a zebra, an elephant, a lion, and a tiger, from the collection and for the use of Mr Pidcock, the celebrated exhibitor of wild beasts. A few impressions were taken of each of these, which are now very scarce.

In 1818, he published a collection of fables, entitled, The Fables of Æsop and others, with Designs by T. Bewick. This work has not, however, been received by the public with so much favour.

In 1820, Mr Emerson Charnley, bookseller in Newcastle, having purchased of Messrs Wilson of York a large collection of woodcuts, which had been engraved by the Bewicks in early life, for various works printed by Saint, conceived the design of employing them in the illustration of a volume of Select Fables (already referred to). Though aware that Mr Bewick wished it to be fully understood that he had no wish to feed the whimsies of bibliomanists, as he himself expressed it, and perhaps was a little jealous of all the imperfections of his youth being set before the public, yet the Editor conceived that he was rendering to the curious in wood engraving a very acceptable service, by thus rescuing from oblivion so many valuable specimens of the early talents of the revivors of this elegant art. They were thus enabled to study the gradual advance towards excellence of these ingenious artists, from their very earliest beginnings, and to trace the promise of talents at length so conspicuously developed.

Mr Bewick, however, was also engaged from time to time, by himself and his pupils, in furnishing embellishments to various other works, which it is now impossible to particularize. One may be mentioned, Dr Thornton’s Medical Botany But as he had himself no knowledge of this department of natural science, the cuts engraved for this work were merely servile copies of the drawings sent, executed with great exactness indeed, but not at all con amore. It is believed that the work itself obtained very little of the public attention.

Lump sucker
Lump sucker
Several of the later years of Mr Bewick’s life were, in part at least, devoted to a work on British Fishes. A number of very accurate drawings were made by himself, and more by his son Robert, whose accuracy in delineation is perhaps equal to his father’s. From twenty to thirty of these had been actually engraved, and a very large proportion (amounting to more than a hundred) of vignettes, consisting of river and coast scenery, the humours of fishermen and fishwomen, the exploits of birds of prey in fish-taking, etc. It was hoped that his son would have gone on with and completed the work, but in this the public have been disappointed; and now that Mr Yarrell’s beautiful work is completed, it possibly might not answer.

Mr Bewick had a continued succession of pupils, many of whom have done the highest honour to their preceptor; and some are carrying the art to a stage of advancement, at which he himself had the candour to acknowledge, on the inspection of Northcote’s Fables, he had never conceived that it would arrive. It is almost needless to mention the names of Nesbit and Harvey. Others were cut off by death, or still more lamentable circumstances, who would otherwise have done great credit to their master; as Johnson, whose premature death occurred in Scotland, while copying some of the pictures of Lord Breadalbane, Clennel, Ranson – Hole, whose exquisite vignette in the title-page of Mr Shepherd’s Poggio gave the highest promise, was stopped in a more agreeable way, by succeeding to a handsome fortune.

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