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'Nature's Engraver - A Life of Thomas Bewick' by Jenny Uglow: Mini Book Review

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Tue 14th Jan 2020
Blog Categories: Inspiration & Books Reviews | Wood Engraving Printmaking | All / Filter

Book:'Nature's Engraver - A Life of Thomas Bewick' by Jenny Uglow
458 pages ; Numerous woodengraving copies within text, and 2 colours sections of photos.
This Edition Published By:Faber & Faber 2006
ISBN:978-0-571-22375-6 / 9780571223756

Thomas Bewick, a Father of Wood Engraving, was born in a different world to our own. Born in 1753, in a farming community near Newcastle before the 1773 Inclosure Act (which he much lamented), his was a world of nature - farming, countryside, family/people and animals, with some small scale colliery workings thrown in for good measure. His mode of transport was his feet, or if lucky, a horse. There were no railways (except the local coal carrying plateways), canals were in the future. And any form of power, except man, horse and heat from coal was well in the future. Electriciy was just for the scientists. Frankly, it is hard to imagine such a different life, but it was only 273 years ago.

'Nature's Engraver - A Life of Thomas Bewick' by Jenny Uglow

Thomas Bewick is famous for his books - 'A History of Quadrupeds', ' A History of British Birds' but illustrated many other volumes, and much other general printed matter before that. Given his background, and interest in nature, it is not surprising that he turned to nature, and animals, that he grew up with, that he created these volumes. But it is also perhaps hard to understand how hard a volume it must have been to create. Many animals were unknown to him, he'd never seen them, and never would - there were no local zoos, no photographs, and few other books to copy from. It must have been quite a leap of faith to produce this - particularly if you consider the amount of time, and expense, that was required to create the book, with an largely unknown audidience to sell to. But create it, with Beilby (to whom he was initially apprenticed).

Jenny Uglow's book is understandably mainly about the man - and it is very well written. There is little about the technicalities of printmaking, wood engraving and such like. But that is to be expected - it is a book about the person not his craftsmanship. And what an interesting life he had.

For more information see: Wikipedia

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