Antiquarian Auctions

SA Auction #112 begins on 18 Jan 2024

US Auction #16 begins on 13 Mar 2024

Bewick (Thomas)

WORKS (Memorial Edition)

Published: Bernard Quaritch, London, 1885 -1887

Edition: First Edition

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5 volumes. Title page vignettes, numerous black and white engravings in each volume, contemporary half leather with matching cloth boards, titled gilt with gilt vignettes in the spines, uncut edges, marbled end papers, starting to wear at the front hinges, book plate on front paste down end papers, a very good set.

Opposite the title page of the first volume is the publisher's limitation which reads: Memorial edition of Thomas Bewick's Works in 5 volumes, royal 8vo: 750 numbered copies were printed of which this is no 246. Bernard Quaritch Newcastle: R. Ward and Sons, April 1885.

The set consists of four titles: A History of British Birds in two vols. [Land Birds and Water Birds]; A General History of Quadrupeds; Aesop's Fables; and a Memoir. Quaritch's edition represents the first collection of all these titles in a single publication.

On August 12, 1753, Thomas Bewick was born. When he was 14 years old, he was apprenticed to Ralph Beilby, an engraver in Newcastle. In 1774, Bewick's internship came to an end and he ventured to London for a brief period but rather quickly returned to Newcastle and established a business partnership with Beilby.

A General History of Quadrupeds, one of Bewick's most famous works, was begun in 1785, and first published in 1790. His next project, which was to be the crowning achievement of his career, was the History of British Birds. In this text, Bewick was much less likely to have difficulty obtaining an accurate idea of any of the subjects; frequently working directly from life or from recently shot specimens. In his Memoir, he described his determination "to stick to nature as closely as [he] could". The first volume, Land Birds, was published in 1797, with the second volume, Water Birds following in 1804. Large additions of both illustrations and descriptions were made in succeeding issues. Bewick's illustrations in Birds were nearly perfect, as he was called upon to copy faithfully as opposed to create or reconstruct; and he was passionate about, and incredibly knowledgeable of, the subject matter.

One of the most popular features of both Quadrupeds and Birds are the well-known and often reproduced tail-pieces; small illustrations that end book segments or chapters and fill the white space on a page. These images often displayed Bewick's sense of humour or unique personal observations. The greatest number of tail-pieces can be seen in the Birds edition of 1847 and the Quadrupeds of 1804, and must be studied to be truly appreciated.

Bewick's most notable publication during the latter portion of his life was The Fables of Aesop, in 1818. Bewick recalls in his Memoir: "I could not help regretting that I had not published a book similar to 'Croxall's Aesop's Fables', as I had always intended to do."

Bewick's artwork is a prime example of excellence in the medium and he is generally considered to have restored wood engraving to popularity, as the practice had fallen largely out of favour prior to his internship. Bewick was entirely self-taught in the art of wood engraving and became one of the first British artists to earn his living almost exclusively from illustrating books.

  • Overall Condition: Very good
  • Size: Large 8vo (260 x 170 mm)
  • Sold By: Clarke's Africana & Rare Books
  • Contact Person: Paul Mills
  • Country: South Africa
  • Email: [email protected]
  • Telephone: 021 794 0600
  • Preferred Payment Methods: Visa & Mastercard via PayGate secure links and Bank transfers.
  • Trade Associations: ABA - ILAB, SABDA

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