December 27, 2006

Engraved and Etched English Title-Pages (ii)

By way of belated continuation to my previous entry, here are some more images from A Catalogue of Engraved and Etched English Title Pages down to the death of William Faithorne, 1691. The first pair of details below are taken from title-pages designed by John Droeshout (1596-ca.1652). The first adorned a 1645 work by one A. de Sousa de Macedo, entitled Lusitania Liberata; the second prefaced an anonymous tract published in 1651 by the name of Truth Brought to Light and Discovered by Time, or, a Discourse and Historicall Narration of the First XIIII yeares of King James Reigne. Droeshout’s brother Martin was also an engraver, best known as the author of the vignette portrait of Shakespeare on the title page of the ‘first folio.’ The brothers came from a Flemish family of painters and engravers. Of John we read that ‘no particulars of his life are recorded’ excepting a perfunctory record of his will.

Detail from John Droeshout's title page to Antonio de Sousa de Macedo's 'Lusitania Liberata' (1645).


Detail from John Droeshout's title page to the anonymous 'Truth brought to light...' (1651).

As John Byrne mentioned in a comment on my last entry, perhaps the single most iconic image from any engraved or etched English title-page is that of the monarch composed of his subjects (highlighted in the detail below), which dominates the frontispiece to Thomas Hobbes’ Leviathan (1651), and which, moreover, neatly encapsulates its theme. This title-page was made by the Paris-based printmaker Abraham Bosse, in collaboration with the author. Curiously, in his Catalogue, Alfred Forbes Johnson gives this print as the work of an unknown artist—presumably the attribution to Bosse was not accepted in England at the time of its compilation (in 1933).

Detail from Abraham Bosse's title page to Thomas Hobbes's 'Leviathan' (1651).

The detail below shows part of the title-page of an edition of Aesop’s Fables self-published by the painter, etcher and illustrator Francis Barlow in 1665. Given that Barlow specialized in depictions of ‘animals, birds and country life,’ he made full use of the Fables’ pictorial potential, providing more than a hundred interpretive illustrations, all of which can be seen on-line here courtesy of the Fine Arts Musuems of San Francisco ‘Image Base.’ Several of his drawings, and a few paintings, may meanwhile be perused here, at the Tate Collection’s site.

Detail from Francis Barlow's title page to his own edition of Aesop's 'Fables' (1665).

In contrast with most of the artists discussed here, the facts of Wenceslas Hollar’s life are quite well known: he was born in Bohemia in 1607, where his family came to be ruined in the capture of Prague during the Thirty Years’ war. After leaving Prague he spent time in Frankfurt (where he worked for a time under Matthæus Merian), Strasbourg, and Cologne; at length arriving in London ca. 1637. His support for the royalists obliged him to leave England for Antwerp in 1643, but he was able to return to London in 1652. Hollar was a highly accomplished and prolific artist: in excess of 2,700 of his prints have survived, and these include city-views, portraits, ships, religious designs, heraldic subjects, landscapes, still lives, architectural drawings, reproductions of other artists’ paintings and drawings, and, of course, title-pages.

Detail from Wenceslas Hollar's title page to 'The Sphere' of M. Manilius (1673).


Detail from Wenceslas Hollar's title page to J. Nieuhof's 'An Embassy sent by the East India Company to ... China' (1673).

The title-pages in the pair of details above, are, respectively, from The Sphere of M. Manilius: an edition of a classical astrological text; and, from J. Nieuhof’s An Embassy Sent by the East India Company to China. Both of these works were published in 1673, although Hollar’s plate for the latter had been executed five years earlier. According to John Aubrey, in his Brief Lives, Hollar ‘was very shortsighted, and did work so curiously [in so much detail] that the curiosity of his work is not to be judged without a magnifying glass.’ Aubrey goes on to mention that ‘he was a very friendly good natured man as could be, but shiftless as to the world, and died not rich.’

Detail from the title page to 'The History of Lapland' by J. Schefferus (1674).

While the majority of title-pages bore a signature of some sort, many were unsigned, and many of these are necessarily of uncertain or unknown authorship: one hundred and seventy-nine of the title-pages catalogued by Forbes Johnson are classed as ‘Anonymous.’ One such whose design caught my eye (part of which is shown in the detail above) was the 1674 frontispiece to The History of Lapland by J. Schefferus. This work was apparently the first ‘realistic and descriptive account of the Laplander’s manners and customs’ and had been compiled ‘to dispel untruthful rumours, circulating in Europe at the time, spread by less serious and scientific publications, concerning magic and witchcraft among the Lapps.’

Detail from William Faithorne's title page to Scarron's 'Comical Romance' (1676).

The last of the details here shows part of the title page by William Faithorne (1616-91) for the 1676 English translation of Paul Scarron’s Roman Comique. While Forbes Johnson cautions that Faithorne’s title-pages are not his finest work, some, like the one above, and the frontispiece to Glanvill’s Saducismus Triumphatus (previously mentioned here) are not without interest. Faithorne’s royalist allegiance, like Hollar’s, obliged him to spend some years in exile, from which he returned in 1650. Faithorne’s fame rests primarily on his work as a portrait engraver, in which capacity his subjects included Oliver Cromwell, John Milton, Queen Catherine, Prince Rupert, Cardinal Richelieu, Thomas Hobbes, and Charles I. According to Forbes Johnson, ‘by the time of Faithorne’s death in 1691 the popularity of the engraved title-page was declining’ He counts Faithorne as ‘the last English engraver of any distinction’ to produce this kind of work.

Posted by misteraitch at December 27, 2006 09:38 PM

It's interesting to point that the engraved Leviathan's title page was taken and reelaborated by Alasdair Gray for making his own Lanark's title page.

Posted by: Daniel Contarelli on December 28, 2006 03:33 PM

Thanks very much for these 2 interesting posts. I really like the work of Bosse (too bad about the images sizes at BNF - the detail in the clothing is exquisite) and also Hollar.

Posted by: peacay on December 30, 2006 09:49 AM

What a fantastic cavalcade of topics of such a great array of different fields!!! Very enjoyable and informative. Keep it up.
Truly, Camilla

Posted by: Camilla Zethraeus on January 4, 2007 08:25 PM

Yes, Bosse's father was a tailor & he loves his clothes! Adam Elsheimer's father was also a tailor & he goes in for extravagant orientalist or fantasy classical designs with richly patterned cloth. Are there any other 'sons of the cutting-bench' in art I wonder?

Posted by: JohnB on January 10, 2007 03:18 PM

Just as a 'by the by'...The University of Toronto has just posted a very extensive exhibition of Wenceslaus Hollar's works - 'The Wenceslaus Hollar Digital Collection'.

Posted by: peacay on April 5, 2007 09:25 AM
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