Thomas Bewick, 'The Vain Jack-daw' (The Jackdaw and the Peacocks)

Thomas Bewick, 'The Vain Jack-daw' (The Jackdaw and the Peacocks)

Thomas Bewick
'The Vain Jack-daw' (The Jackdaw and the Peacocks)
1818
Wood-engraved illustration
From 'Fables of Aesop and others'
Printed by E. Walker for Thomas Bewick, Newcastle
National Art Library Pressmark: G.28.Y.1b

Thomas Bewick (1753-1828) is famous for his wood-engraved illustrations. He used a method called 'white-line' engraving, a dark-to-light technique where the lines to remain white are cut out of the woodblock. Transfer drawings show that he followed just general outlines, creating the extraordinary detail directly on the block.

Boxwood cut across the end-grain is hard enough for engraving, allowing greater detail than woodcutting. Wood engraving was used since 1600 for simple ornaments in books but Bewick fully exploited it by lowering areas of the block, creating more depth of light and tone.

With his partner Ralph Beilby in Newcastle, Bewick published ambitious illustrated books of animals like 'General History of Quadrupeds' (1790) and 'History of British Birds' (1797-1804).