Grummond Collection was very fortunate recently to receive
the Irby- Neubert Collection of Nineteenth Century Engraved
Books. This is a truly outstanding collection of books, focusing
on examples of wood engraving from the early 19th century
to the more contemporary engraving of the 20th century. The
collection was assembled by the late Richard August Nuebert
and James G. Irby. Readers may recall that, in 1996, James
Irby donated the Richard August Neubert Antique Valentine
Collection to the de Grummond Collection.
interest in illustration and engraving is a by-product of
his more than 30-year career in graphic arts, packaging design,
and corporate design work. Mr. Neubert spent his childhood
in Lansing, Michigan, and served in the U.S. Army during World
War II. After the war, he began his design work with the Container
Corporation, later moving to the Dave Chapman firm in Chicago.
He retired in 1980 and moved to Columbia, Mississippi, where
he pursued his interest in the decorative arts until his death
The high point of the collection is a group of more than 30
books engraved by Thomas Bewick, including a 5th (1807) and
8th (1824) edition of his first major book, A General History
of Quadrupeds containing his famous Chillingham Bull.
The two-volume History of British Birds, considered
to be his "high-water mark" as an artist engraver, is represented
with first editions of both volume 1 (1797) and volume 2 (1804).
Bewick began work on Aesop's Fables in 1812 and, with
the assistance of his apprentices, his son, Robert, William
Harvey, and William Temple, completed the work in 1818. The
Irby-Neubert collection has a bound proof of the 1818 edition,
as well as the final published edition. In addition, The
Looking-Glass for the Mind (1800) and Tales for Youth
in Thirty Poems (1794) have Bewick engravings and were
published by Elizabeth Newbery. A number of volumes about
Bewick and his technique complement the engraved books.
Bewick, wood engraver, draughtsman, and watercolorist, is
said to be the father of the English wood engraving revival.
He was born in 1753, eldest son of a farmer, at Cherryburn
House, Eltringham, Northumberland. His early interest in drawing
and painting led to his training as a metal engraver and subsequent
apprenticeship to Newcastle engraver Ralph Beilby in 1767.
his first chance to engrave on wood when Dr. Charles Hutton
proposed publication of his Treatise on Mensuration
in 1768. The book's fine linear charts were not suitable for
metal engraving, so Bewick's talent for wood engraving was
utilized. This work produced more commissions, and by 1771,
Bewick had produced 151 wood blocks. Much of the wood engraving
produced during his apprenticeship was for children's books,
primarily those published by Thomas Saint, a Newcastle printer
publisher. After his apprenticeship with Beilby ended in 1774,
Bewick remained at Cherryburn for several years before he
went to London to work for Isaac Taylor. Hating London, Bewick
returned to Newcastle in 1777, where he entered into a partnership
with his old master, Ralph Beilby that would last until 1797.
Shortly after his return, Bewick's brother John became an
apprentice to the firm. His apprenticeship ended in 1782,
and he moved to London. John became an important ally for
Thomas, helping with his engraving projects and providing
a link between the publishing business in London and Thomas'
firm in Newcastle.
Bewick continued to do his wood engraving "after hours" since
the metal engraving still garnered the larger income. In 1785,
he began work on his first major book A General History
of Quadrupeds, which was published in 1790, with text
by Beilby. The work was quite popular and reached eight editions
by 1824. Thomas and John Bewick worked together for five years,
producing illustrations for William Bulwer for The Poems
of Goldsmith and Parnell (1795) and were working on The
Chase when John died in 1795. Thomas completed the work, which
was published a year later.
saw the publication of the first volume of History of British
Birds and the dissolution of his partnership with Beilby.
Now on his own, Bewick struggled to make a living and spent
much time on mundane metal engraving projects. There was so
little extra time that it took until 1804 to produce the second
volume of History of British Birds. By that time, his
son, Robert Elliot Bewick, was serving his apprenticeship
and became a partner in 1812. That was also the year that
Bewick began the engravings for his long-desired Aesop's Fables.
This tedious work took a toll on Bewick, whose eyesight was
beginning to fail. He enlisted the help of his son, Robert,
and two other apprentices to complete the engravings for the
Aesop's Fables, which was finally published in 1818.
Bewick died on November 8, 1828. The last work he engraved
was that of a dying horse, entitled "Waiting for Death," issued
posthumously by Robert in 1832.