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de Grummond
Children's Literature Collection
 
 
THE IRBY-NEUBERT COLLECTION OF
NINETEENTH CENTURY ENGRAVED BOOKS
 

The de 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.

Mr. Neubert's 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 in 1991.

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.

Thomas 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.

He received 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.

Thomas 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.

1797 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.

Thomas 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.


 

 

Contact:
The de Grummond Children's Literature Collection
Box 5148
Hattiesburg, MS 39406
(601) 266-4349
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