Monday, 5 September 2011

Thomas Bewick

It has become customary at weddings these days to present the mother of the bride and groom with a "Thank You" gift, usually in the form of a bouquet of flowers - not so at our son's wedding. The evening before he and his bride Lynsey gave my husband and I a book called Nature's Engraver by Jenny Uglow. This lovely book records the life and work of the engraver Thomas Bewick (in whose honour the Bewick swan was named). The reason for this choice was clear to us both because Paul, a keen birder and all round nature lover, since retiring spends the beginning of each day (before I even get up) reading biographies of famous naturalists such as Charles Darwin, Joseph Banks, Alfred Russel Wallace, Thomas Henry Huxley etc, etc. Also last year I tried my own hand at a little engraving and loved it - so this seemed the perfect gift but better things were still to come. Inside was an invitation to join them on a Bewick Day Out.

Bewick's tool box among the collection at the Central Library

Town Wall pub - formerly Bewick's Print Works

Replica of the Chillingham Bull in the pavement outside of the pub.
(The original was a woodblock print 27cm x 22cm)

They had organised with the archive section of Newcastle Central Library to have a selection of some of Bewick's woodblocks and first editions of some of the books they illustrated available for us to view last Sunday. It was a most amazing thing to handle these precious items and study the fine details of the engravings.
This was followed by lunch in the Town Wall  pub which occupies a building formally used by the printing works run by Bewick.

Cherryburn - The cottage where he was born

The fields surrounding the cottage
- but I don't suppose they had Alpacas in his day

In the afternoon we went to his birthplace at Cherryburn, now a National Trust property displaying artefacts pertaining to his life and work, in the beautiful Tyne valley near Ovingham. The property was still in the Bewick family until about 1941 and remains very much as it was in Thomas' day. A printer was on hand to demonstrate the craft of woodblock printing and gave us one of the prints as a momento - sadly however not one of Bewick's but very nice all the same.

Souvenir print
Here is a link to a short video on woodblock printing using one of Bewick's blocks.

1 comment:

  1. What a lovely and very thoughtful gift-very much enjoyed by all of you judging by the pictures. So many of the norths grreat men came from similar very humble beginnings-just shows with talent and determination all things are possible!!! Didn't know they bred poodle alpacas in the north these days!!!!!????!!!:-)