|Great Canadian Heritage Treasure||
A most fabulous early Canadian original print of Quebec in 1862. It appeared as a supplement in the London Illustrated News for March 15, 1862.
It was issued as a folded picture and many, including the copy in the McCord Museum, show the folds and often damage along this bend line.
But this one, which was probably kept flat almost immediately when printed, shows no real folds and no holes or faults that most ILN prints of this subject usually have.
This stunning print is in mint shape which is remarkable considering it is 150 years old.
It shows a sleigh party climbing the Levis heights, opposite Quebec, while hundreds of people party on the icy St. Lawrence River. Two hunters are standing by, while another man ties on snowshoes.
|Wood Block Engraving, Quebec, Illustrated London News Supplement, March 15, 1862 - RP Leitch|
|Orig. colour wood engraving - Image Size - 31 x 44 cm
Found - Milton, ON
So many of these early 19th century engravings were issued in black and white and, in recent years, have been feverishly painted by fiendish antique dealers who know colour prints sell better. But it spoils what is supposed to be an "original" print for the purists. This print was issued with these colours.
Another thing to ask is how old is the engraving?
This one was printed from copper plates engraved in 1784. It is the original original.
Many years later other engravings were made, in the 1840s, for other books, on steel plates. You could print a lot more copies from steel than copper before the image degraded.
But these subsequent editions are less rare and less desirable than those produced in Captain Cook's day and during the life of the original artist John Webber, whose original painting was engraved on copper, by various engravers (Sharp, Basire, Byrne.)
Later book editions produced photomechanically reproduced versions. But even high end art books that did so have the dots.
Get out your loupe and check the eyes, if you don't trust what the dealer is telling you about how old it is supposed to be...
Swiss artist John Webber below did not stay long on Vancouver Island and followed Captain Cook, whom he painted lower to the South Seas. There he painted the 19 year old daughter of Chief Oree, Poedooa right who, for some reason they kept imprisoned on their ship.
|Great Canadian Insight - Ask yourself: comparing Webber's pictures of the women in the two places, is it any wonder that Captain Bligh's men of the Bounty famously mutinied in the South Pacific, and not on Canada's Vancouver Island?|
Engravings do not come any better than this, featuring as it does exquisite engraving technology and artwork, combined with the autographs of a famous subject, a famous painter, and a famous engraver who all played a part to bring it to life.
Queen Alexandra - being Danish, not English - was one of the most beautiful women of the age, and did wonders for the British royal family gene pool (see below).
Sir Luke Fildes was the most renowned painter of the upper classes at the end of the Victorian, and during the Edwardian eras. Joseph Bishop Pratt was an esteemed Victorian engraver.
It was Pratt who translated the painting with his graving tools on to a steel plate. This took as much time as to paint the original, because it indeed was also an entirely new work literally cut by hand, line by line, and dot by dot.
Luke Fildes right completed this painting as a special commission for King Edward VII, for the coronation of 1902.
A duplicate painting of the King was also completed, as was a parallel triple signed engraving, but it has parted company with its Alexandra mate decades ago.
Many people who have never heard of Luke Fildes definitely know his work.
His most famous painting, The Doctor turns up as antique prints with great regularity at rural Ontario, Canada, auctions.
Sickness, hitting families a century ago, was common, and doctors who made house calls a treasured commodity we no longer enjoy today.
Copyright Goldi Productions Ltd. 1996-1999-2005
|Great Canadian Heritage Treasure||
A fabulous autographed photogelatine engraving of "Good Old Bungo."
It is of course Field Marshall Viscount Byng of Vimy who has signed this large portrait in his own hand.
He was commanding the Canadians when they won their storied victory in 1917 at Vimy Ridge during World War I.
He directed the Battle of Cambrai which was a turning point in the war when tanks were used for the first time. At the end of the war he was commanding the largest army on the Western Front.
He was a wildly popular choice among Canadian veterans when he was made Governor-General of Canada in 1921-26.
No "Blackberry General" he; Lord Byng's medals are all, soaked in blood - his own and the enemies of his Queen.
They are a testament to how many times he fought in the front rank - when brother officers were killed - in the Sudan and South Africa.
Like other Victorian generals he is lucky to have survived at all...
With the likes of Lord Byng, the great Victorian and Edwardian British general officer class passed from the scene and out of history.
Ah... they were a different breed of men.
There is no comparison with modern generals, whose medals are all, only service badges for putting in time in the civil service till they retire to become war lobbyists...
Daily they die of administritis - shuffling papers and moving board magnets and toy soldiers, wishing they could have been real generals like Napoleon, Roberts, Byng, Gordon, Wauchope, Penn Symons, Woodgate... instead of being born into a nation of Peacekeepers. "God," they pray daily, "Can't you just give us a war. Any war, anyplace..."
So they can die a glorious death - well their men anyway - instead of just rotting away, and ending their days in thrall, as servile paid-off hacks, for some cackling foreign war lobby bagman... like Karlheinz Schreiber...
It is not what Bungo, Bobs, or Mac, would ever have done... They thought generals should stand up for principle... not principal...
These intaglio prints produced images of such high quality that important people personally autographed them, as did Viscount Byng on this fabulous photogelatine engraving.
|Signed Photogelatine Engraving - Field Marshall, Viscount Byng of Vimy, 1862-1935|
Orig. engraving - Image Size - 41 x 51 cm
Check Bungo's autograph with others you can find on the web and you will see no two are alike. Unlike the royals Bungo did not have a "rubber stamp" made. His signature meant something to him. He did not give it away lightly, like the royals.
|Great Canadian Heritage Treasure||
Unbelievably fabulous is this huge, original, triple autographed engraving of Queen Alexandra, from 1905.
It features the personal autograph of Alexandra herself, that of Sir Luke Fildes, who painted the original portrait in oil below, and also that of the man who did the engraving from the painting, Joseph Pratt, all written on the edge of this very engraving.
|Engraving, Queen Alexandra - Sir Luke Fildes, Joseph Pratt - 1905|
|Orig. engraving - Print Size oa - 56 x 84 cm
Found - Napanee, ON
Waterman Lilly Ormsby, who did the engraving, is considered by many, to be America's finest engraver of the 19th century.
He took the original painting of the general and, with the help of engraving tools, laboriously cut the image, dot by dot, and line by line, on to a steel plate.
Ormsby pioneered engraving images on metal plates in the United States, both for publications and currency.
A signed copy of his 1852 book "Bank-note Engraving" sold at auction for $6,9000 US.
Waterman Lilly Ormsby (1809-1883), a celebrated engraver, was born in Hampton, Conn., USA, in 1809. He moved to New York city, where he learned the engraver's art and devoted himself to bank note engraving.
He invented several ruling machines, transfer presses, and the grammagraph for engraving on steel.
He was the founder of the Continental Bank Note Company, executed large contracts for the U.S. treasury, and almost wholly designed the five-dollar note, intended to prevent counterfeiting.
In 1858, he was also the only passenger on the first Butterfield stage coach to make the run across the American west from St. Louis, MO., to San Francisco, CA.
He was commissioned by US gun designer Sam Colt to engrave the dies for the cylinder scenes on his revolvers.
He is credited with having aided SFB Morse in preparing the Morse telegraphic alphabet, and in transmitting messages at the first public exhibition of the telegraph in New York city. He is the author of: Ormsby Bank Note Engraving (1852). He died in Brooklyn, N.Y., Nov. 1, 1883.
The Original Painting - Engravings are always based on an original painting executed by an artist. Another craftsman - the engraver - who is every bit as skilled as the original painter, then translates that work of art visually by reproducing it on a metal plate by scratching his interpretation of it with graving tools.
Which is why often both the artist and the engravers name are given equal prominence on the resulting print.
The Engraver's Work - right every mark that you see is on the original engraving. The image is mint, not suffering streaking, staining, ripping or scratching from years of abuse.
Don't be confused by the dots in the image. They are not uniformly laid out in rows across the entire image. Go look at the general's eye again.
Each dot and line has originally been hand cut by Waterman's engraving tools. That's why this is an original print, struck directly from the original engraving plate. Put another way, this very paper touched the very plate that Waterman personally engraved.
3- Dimensional - One other way to tell an original engraving is to look at the edge of the print. There is a very marked difference in texture between the blank border and the image. Right close-up of the bottom right of the print.
The ink surface is actually raised a tiny bit and feels roughish to the touch. There might even be slight buckling in the paper, resulting from a vigorous pressing, or the differential absorption of ink by different parts of the paper.
Think about it. Just like a real photograph, that is pasted on to a cabinet card, creates a definite edge, so does the process of a craftsman pressing this paper on to a copper plate with ink on it.
Anyone duplicating this particular print, in later years, for including in books or magazine articles, would have had to photograph it and make a duping master for photomechanical reproduction. And this would have put a grid of uniform dots over the entire picture, cheapening it.
Even fine art prints, if any were made, would still be covered with this grid of dots. Check them with a loupe.
That's why original engravings like this are highly prized. They are as good as the image gets. Any other photomechanical process that happens to it, in later years, for putting it in books, or making "art" masters for sale, degrades the image.
But above all, it removes the creation of the picture from the personal handling by a craftsman and gives it over to an automatic feeder tray on a printing press.
Above the ancient and beaten up frame, showing its 150 years of age. It has the two board backing, that was held in by square nails. The dust cover paper has rotted away long ago.
Right another small equestrian portrait of McClellan as used in Harper's Magazine. Even though this is an original engraving it is far inferior to the print above. It may be a wood block - not steel plate - engraving. It looks like it has transitional lines between wood blocks.
Still, these too, are somewhat hard to come by, and are often in very poor condition because they were only printed on thin newspaper where the text from the back shows through, as one can see here.
By contrast the Ormsby engraving is huge, wonderfully detailed, and printed on very thick card stock which has protected the image from staining from behind or other wear.
|Great Canadian Heritage Treasure||
A very rare, and absolutely fabulous original engraving of US General George Brinton McClellan, short-lived Commander-in-Chief of the Union Army, from November 1861 to March 1862, during the American Civil War (1861-1865.)
This is an original print, not a repro, and was actually hand printed from the steel engraving plate the year it was made in 1862, the same year as the Quebec engraving above.
To find engravings that are 150 years old, is very rare. To find engraved portraits of important people in the greatest tragedy to befall the United States, is awesome.
And this print is in virtually mint condition - with minor paper loss to the bottom, non-picture part of the print. It is not holed or stained in the image area.
The frame, backing, and glass are mid-19th century Victorian, the glass having huge bubbles. But in 1928 someone took it apart and added newspaper backing from the London Evening Advertiser (Ontario).
An American general but a Canadian story nevertheless. Hundreds of Canadian boys, if not thousands, went south to fight in General McClellan's army during the American Civil War. Traditionally, quite a few Canadian lads, who find that Canada does not provide enough outlets for their violent inclinations against others, have gone to serve in America's armed forces in order to visit violence, either on other Americans, native Indians, Vietnamese, or currently, Muslims in Iraq and Afghanistan.
|Steel Engraving, General George Brinton McClellan (detail) - 1862|
|Orig. engraving - Image Size - 42 x 55 cm
Found - London, ON
Quebec - 1862 The stunning thing about Quebec, in the years before Canada became a dominion, in 1867, is the huge number of people who were able to gather on the ice below the city on holidays or weekends.
Thanks to global warming, no one has been able to do this within living memory. In winter, now, just ice pans drift back and forth with the rising and falling tides.
But this original print, and paintings from the same period by James Cockburn, George Hughes, and Cornelius Krieghoff show that the ice was the major playground for Quebeckers in the mid to late 19th century.
This is an original print, a wood block engraving, of the kind that were used in the Illustrated London News in the middle of the 19th century. The vast majority of those were left black and white. A special few, issued as supplements, were coloured by skilled craftsmen who printed them by the "each."
Because each print was hand crafted, no two were exactly alike - unlike modern Bateman nature prints, postcards, art prints, or calendar pictures. So each can be considered an "original work of art" or "original print" for short.
Even though 1000 of these or more were made, each was laboriously hand run through the press. Unlike Robert Bateman prints, sold as one of 995 copies. He does not pull even one off the press.
Which is why even grungy, damaged antique prints, like the one below, have value as original art, and are not chucked into the recycle bin like modern damaged pictures.
Wood Block Engraving - Many artists were involved in making this "original print" from a wood block master.
RP Leitch would have painted the original picture on paper. Another artist would then have copied it on to a bolted together assembly of small wood blocks, each some 2 1/2 - 3 inches square.
These were then disassembled and given to different artists who would then "engrave" or cut their part of the image into their particular block. Breaking the image up like this meant all pictures could be engraved much faster because the task was jobbed down. When the blocks were reassembled another artist would clean up the transitions between blocks.
Transitions between blocks are often impossible to detect but you can find them if you look. There are two visible on the tree, one horizontal, and the other vertical, just to the left of the trunk. Unless you point them out no one will ever see them.
Woodcuts - You have to separate wood block prints or woodcuts from wood block engravings.
Wood blocks have been used as a medium for making printing masters for centuries. But originally soft woods - cut along the grain - were used. This made it easier and faster to cut but did not permit cutting in great detail. Good for pictures with large panels without detail - sides of houses, walls, clothes, bodies, drapery, clouds, etc.
Wood block engraving was developed in the late 18th century, by Thomas Bewick (1753-1828) who started engraving his images on the polished, very hard end grain of hard wood. This permitted cutting picture detail as good as could be achieved on copper or steel plates.
And by breaking the image up among a group of smaller constituent wood blocks you could have a large picture engraved much faster than on a metal plate on which only one artist could work at one time.
Colouring - The overall colouring was printed. The light orange of the horse's forehead and chest shows the coloured dots.
As the finishing touch, the red paint on this print - the women, the horse, the hunters - was personally applied by an artist with a brush in 1862.
The amazing quality of this print is probably due to the fact that it was recently in a British collection, and was framed in 1991 in Knutsford, south of Manchester.
As Canadians become more interested in the art and memorabilia heritage of their country more and more paintings and prints are being shipped to Canadian auctions from the United Kingdom, where "colonial Canadian" art does not interest the British jet set like "Lady" Barbara Amiel and her jailbird husband Lord Conrad "the Crook" Black, or as a prescient Pierre Berton used to call him, Lord Diddley of Squat.
This print probably spent most of its life discarded in a drawer, unfolded and flat, because it was a scene that did not really register with a British audience. So the folds never left their imprint on the paper.
In contrast, prints that are found in Canada, because they have been appreciated and displayed, have fared poorly.
The McCord Museum's copy shows the vertical folds along which paper breaks frequently develop.
Right another copy from an antique print store showing the quality one has to expect if you want an original from 1862.
The paper loss around the edge is no problem; you can matte it out easily enough. But you cannot get rid of folds that have impressed themselves in the paper for 150 years.
Still to collectors of rare Canadian original prints, who don't have a copy of this fabulous scene, this one will do nicely till - if ever - a better one comes along.
By comparison, our print is in flawless mint condition, and shows no folds, breaks, tears, or stains.
Found only because of perseverance and hard work. After going to many, many hundreds of auctions over the past ten years, it is the only print of this scene we have ever seen...