This is an extremely rare and possibly the last surviving example of a miniature 18th century wood engraving on silk satin. The subject of this wood engraving on satin is 'The Hermit at his Morning Devotion' from the book 'Poems by Goldsmith and Parnell'. This small wood engraving on satin was either a proof wood engraving or a frontispiece from a 'bespoke, one off, special edition printed on satin version of the book 'Poems by Goldsmith and Parnell'. This frontispiece being a quarto sized vignette illustration from The Hermit poem. The satin version of the book would have been created as a bespoke one off edition for a very special wealthy client, perhaps aristocracy or royalty. See several references to such a special book below
'In 1795, Mr. Bulmer printed a beautiful edition in 4to. of the Poems of Goldsmith and Parnell, one copy on white satin, and three on vellum' from William Bulmer's obituary of 1830 that was published in the 1830 Gentleman's Magazine'.
'One copy of this beautiful book was published upon white satin, that was purchased by a gentleman of Altona. Three other copies were printed upon vellum, one of these went in to the Royal Library' from the 1820 book 'Select Fables: With Cuts'
Interestingly the Victoria and Albert Museum, London have a later and larger Thomas Bewick wood engraving on satin of a Tiger, circa 1800-1828. The British Museum own a proof wood engraving on satin by Bewick of a Trade card circa 1800-1828.
Our small print was wood engraved by the famous British printer, artist, naturalist and foremost engraver of his time Thomas Bewick 1753 - 1828. This wood engraving was printed by the famous British Typographer William Bulmer 1757-1830 who was a renowned English publisher and printer. From 1795 his address was Shakespeare Printing Office, Cleveland Row, London. He relocated to London during the 1790's where he established the Shakespeare Press under the name of W Bulmer and Co, specifically for printing the nine volume folio edition of Shakespeare.
Size: Frame 7.25 inch (18.5 cm) by 6.5 inch (16.5 cm). Sight 5.75 inch (14.75 cm) by 5 inch (12.75 cm).
Housed under old bubbled glass within an original Georgian Walnut veneered frame. Typical of 18th century veneer, the veneer is thick, approximate 3/16 inch (4 mm) as this thin sheet of wood would have been cut by hand using a hand saw. The Walnut veneer is backed by stained pine. There is an old inscription to the reverse of the frame that is very hard to decipher. It possibly reads 'Matilda Allan ??? for ??? in ????? by Bill
Condition: Very good considering its is printed upon a satin ground. Silk and satin is notorious for perishing over the centuries. However, the ageing is very minimal with darkening of the once original white satin to a pale yellow. There are only a few small areas of weakness to the satin; including a scratch by the letter 'n' in the word Printed. There is a very small sliver missing to the top left corner of the old glass. The frame is in good, sound order with minor wear to the surface commensurate with its vast age.
Wood engravings have exceedingly fine detailing as you can see from this exceptional print; every part of the satin is covered with the sharp, high quality design. Wood engravings are intaglio engravings, in other words the design is incised on to the hard, end cross grain of a block of boxwood (not to be confused with woodcut engravings where the background is cut away). In the 18th century Thomas Bewick and his inspirational method of printing high quality engravings from wood had a profound effect on the future art of book illustration. He created a method of printing both the image and type face on blocks in the same press, reducing both time and cost. Tributes from some of the world's most literary figures complimented Bewick's contribution, his fans included King George III, William Wordsworth, Charlotte Bronte and many more. The Bewick swan was named after Thomas Bewick in recognition for his world famous illustrated A History of British Birds. His other famous works were Aesop's fables and A General History of Quadrupeds. A fitting epitaph on his headstone reads 'His ingenuity as an ARTIST was excelled only by his conduct as a MAN'.
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