Page from Thomas Bewick's General History of Quadrupeds

What is this item?

This is a book by Thomas Bewick called ‘The History of Quadrupeds’. It contains prints that Bewick created by engraving wood. Engraving is putting a design onto a hard, flat surface and carving into it using a sharp tool.

Who was Thomas Bewick?

Bewick was born in Northumberland in 1753 and lived until 1828. He had a huge influence on the history of wood engraving due to him being a master craftsman (a person who makes beautiful things by hand). He was tutored by Reverend C. Gregson and Ralph Beilby, who were well-known engravers, and they helped him develop his interests in drawing into becoming one of the most recognised and skilled engravers in England.

Why did he do wood engravings?

From a very young age, he enjoyed drawing. He was interested in the natural world, as shown in his book, The History of Quadrupeds (Quadrupeds are four-legged animals). His other main areas of interest were morals and fables, which were short stories that taught the reader something valuable to use in everyday life.

How did he engrave wood?

To make the engraving, Bewick would have cut the design out of a wood block then covered the block in ink. When the wood block was pressed onto paper, an image would be created by the lack of ink in the lines that had been cut out from the wood block.



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More about Thomas Bewick’s work…

Interested in Bewick’s work? Find out more about him and Bewickish work here.

Thomas Bewick engravings


Another item in Special Collectionshome-object-candlestick

Interested in engravings? Click here to find out about this Miner’s Candlebox Engraving held in Newcastle University’s Special Collections.