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By David Gentleman

Layout in Miniature through Gentleman, David. octavo. 1st ptg.

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Sample text

The first major artist in the medium was Thomas Bewick of Newcastle upon Tyne, who had been trained as a metal engraver. It was his dexterity and imagination in turning his traditional engraver’s skills on to the new boxwood medium, thus engraving white lines instead of black, that made his craft unique. Bewick worked on far too small a scale to allow literal realism; but his resulting mastery of the art of suggestion (of, for example, the difference in feel between oak leaves and willow leaves, or of the silvery glitter of bare winter branches) was only half his merit.

Dixon Son and Evans’ ‘Discovery’ series (opposite) belong to an age of confident achievement, before the dawn of satire and doubt; and so, in a more muted way, does the Captain Webb design, whose hero has been swimming across the English Channel steadily and without flagging ever since 1875. The need to counter the import of foreign matches by leaning heavily on British themes explains these patriotic subjects, embodied in the very title ‘England’s Glory’ with its figure of John Bull. But the tendency was not confined to England.

Animals have always been a great attraction. Overleaf, a lion and a unicorn, escaped from the Royal stable, may be seen lurking in the rococo scrolls of Kirby Beard and Co’s pin paper, opposite a skin dresser’s equally fanciful vision of a hungry leopard stalking a large but unsuspecting lion protected only by some lightweight copperplate flourishes. In both these splendid designs the intermingling of words and pictures is complete and delightful. Later on, a cunning patent medicine proprietor used a currency engraver to give his pills the illusion of great preciousness.

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