This project of publishing the work of Thomas Bewick on the World Wide Web is the result of an exhibition that was held at the Edmonton Art Gallery some years ago. A publication was to accompany the exhibition. Somehow the material at hand did not fit into the original modest budget for a publication, and other circumstances, such as my leaving a position there, interrupted its completion.
A few years later, when discussing the collection with the Edmonton Art Gallery Curator, Bruce Grenville, he proposed a publication on the World Wide Web, accessible to all, and hopefully a place or site where other scholars with contributions or publications on Bewick would wish to publish, as well as in more traditional print media elsewhere. As I had already designed a few World Wide Web sites on the Internet, I was very enthusiastic about the idea, and this site is the result. I hope others will wish to contribute as we have reserved a place for them!
From the first, when David Lemon suggested the donation of this wonderful collection of some 830 proof wood engravings by Bewick and his Workshop apprentices to the Edmonton Art Gallery, I have been studying Bewick and those marvelous little prints. I soon discovered that my own modest efforts at scholarship had already been superceded by others. First among these people is Mr. Iain Bain, who kindly received me on two occasions, and advised me on materials available, etc. To him and to his own scholarship on the work of Bewick and his apprentices, I am very much indebted.
The people in charge of the Pease Collection at the Central Library, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, allowed me access to the collection on two separate occasions in Newcastle, and the memory and the delight of going through the principal editions of Bewick's work, with Roscoe's Bibliography raisonné at my side, is with me still, as is the thrill of seeing Bewick's engraving tools. In London, I was able to look at all of the drawings in the collection of the British Museum, and the memory of its marvelous Reading Room is with me still.
From the start, I wanted to compile simple tables that would allow one to put a date on the first publication on the engravings in the Edmonton Art Gallery's collection, rather than the date of the impressions in the collection (c. 1824-25). I was able to compile tables for the Vignettes and the Quadrupeds, but time did not allow me to compile tables for the Land and Water birds. It was fortuitous, therefore, that in Newcastle at the Hancock Museum, I was allowed to look at all the original drawings by Bewick and his school in the collection of the Natural History Society of Northumbria. There I met Mrs. June Holmes who was interested in my project and agreed to compile the tables for the Land and Water birds , with special attention to the identification of related drawings in the Society's collection. With the four tables compiled on the Quadrupeds, the Land Birds, the Water Birds and the Vignettes, it is possible to see at a glance the first publication date of the engraving, the location in the publications of subsequent publications, and in most instances the location of related drawings. Certainly, Iain Bain's excellent two volume work, The watercolours and Drawings of Thomas Bewick and his Workshop Apprentices, provided a start for this project. The information in the tables is the basis for the information that accompanies each engraving on this World Wide Web site.
In a project of this size, by far exceeding the original intent of the publication, there are no doubt many inaccuracies and errors. These are my sole responsibility, and I hope that over the coming years, attention to any errors will be brought to my attention so that such may be corrected. The marvelous thing about a World Wide Web site is that the information can be amended, supplemented and kept up to date. Any information or contributions to the site are welcome.
The Edmonton Art Gallery also wishes to thank David Duffin and Sharecom Industries Ltd. for space for this site on the SHARECOM server.
Roger H. Boulet
Summerland, B.C. (Canada)
April 4, 1997
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