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As Mr. Bewick has no concern, or interest whatever, in the work now submitted to the public, it is but justice to him to apprise the reader of what has led to its publication.
Before and during the year 1784, Mr. Bewick and his Brother were employed by Mr. Thomas Saint, an extensive printer in this town, to engrave a number of wood cuts, for different publications in which he was
engaged. Many of them were inserted in a duodecimo volume, entitled, "Select Fables," published in 1784, with the following vignette in the title.
These cuts, as well as many others engraved by the Messrs. Bewick, were afterwards purchased by Hall and Elliott, the printers of the Newcastle Courant newspaper. This collection, after remaining with them several years, was sold to Messrs. Wilson, of York, printers, who had then in their possession various other cuts executed by the Bewicks. The set thus accumulated, amounting to upwards of twelve hundred in number, was offered to, and bought by, the Publisher of the present volume, about two years ago.
Though aware that Mr. Bewick wishes it to be fully understood, that he has not any desire" to feed the
whimsies of bibliomanists," as he himself expresses it;
the Editor, conscious of
"What wild desires, what restless torments seize "The hapless man, who feels the book disease,"
conceives he is rendering, to the curious in wood engraving, a very acceptable acquisition, by thus rescuing from destruction so many valuable specimens of the abilities of the artists, who may be justly designated the fathers of the revival of this elegant art. Some of the cuts here given are their very earliest efforts; and, however rude and imperfect some of them unquestionably are, they for the most part clearly indicate the promise of that talent, which afterwards so eminently displayed itself, and has since been so conspicuously developed, in many of the later, and more finished, productions of Mr. Bewick; with which, however, it is not, for one moment, intended to put the present in competition, though they are of themselves too valuable to be lost.
It is proper to mention that several of the tail pieces, introduced into this volume, have been executed by Isaac Nicholson, an engraver, of this place, formerly a pupil of Mr. Bewick's. They can, however, be easily distinguished by the eye of the connoisseur. The vignette of the Old Exchange, in the title, was engraved by Mr. Thomas Bewick, in 1819.
Reduced fac-similes on wood, of all the different portraits which have been engraved of Mr. Thomas Bewick, will be found at the end of the Catalogue; and a striking likeness, drawn on the block by William Nicholson, of Edinburgh, and beautifully executed by Charlton Nesbit, one of Mr. Bewick's earliest and most successful pupils, forms the frontispiece to the volume.
The Editor cannot conclude without offering his acknowledgments to the printer, for the care and skill he has bestowed, and the taste and execution he has displayed, in rendering his department beautiful and accurate; and whatever the fate of the book may be in other respects, it will always retain one feature of excellence, hardly equalled, and certainly never surpassed, by any thing that has hitherto issued from a provincial press.