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Thomas Bewick
Dates: British, 1753 - 1828
Biographical Account:

Bewick was an artist and naturalist from Northumberland and is best known as a wood engraver. He began his career by serving an apprenticeship in Newcastle where he made illustrations for various children’s books. Bewick became a successful engraver, but his first major work, A General History of Quadrupeds, written and illustrated with his business partner, Ralph Beilby was not published until 1790. Through this book, Bewick wanted to inspire young people to study nature. He led as much as possible by example, drawing and making wood-cuts of animals he had observed from nature.


Although Bewick’s business carried out the engraving of glass and metalwork, he remains more famous for his book illustrations. The History of British Birds is one of Bewick’s most celebrated works. He both wrote and illustrated this work and the artwork of his apprentices also features. It was published in two volumes, ‘Land Birds’ in 1797 and ‘Water Birds’ in 1804. While his engravings illustrate each bird or animal as accurately as possible, Bewick’s works are also notable for his ‘vignettes’ or tiny scenes which show life and work in the countryside. He called these ‘tail-pieces’ as he put them at the end of each book chapter.

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