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A JOURNAL OF INSTRUCTION FOR THE FAMILY AND THE SCHOOL.
THE MAN WHO IMPROVED WOOD-ENGRAVING.
Ion. I'LL tell you what pleased me in the Great Exhibition, papa! They pleased me more than anything I saw. Can you guess?
P. No, not when you say they without explanation; for "they" may mean all the things in the place.
Here is one of Mr. Longman's books in which they are as fine as those engraved on steel.. The books that are printed for you young people are full of 66 cuts," but the old books which your mamma and I had to read twenty or thirty years ago were almost without pic
Suppose that to-day we talk of the two men who introduced the arts of printing and woodengraving into England.
Ion. Well, then, the printing-tures. machines pleased me most. It was such good fun to see a piece of white paper put into the machine and come out "Illustrated London News" all covered with pictures. And in the other machines, where the great iron rollers (cylinders, you called them) were horizontal, like great garden-rollers, how they rolled over the type!
Ion. Yes, do, papa, please. I should like to know something about such things.
P. Then to begin with the wood-engraving Wood-engraving is an ancient art. In a German convent an old woodW. It seems wonderful to cut was found, which was a me how all the pictures are representation of St. Christomade every week for the "Illus-pher, dated 1423. Wooden trated London News."
Ion. Why, they are engraved on wood. It is very easy.
blocks were also used for stamping the figures on playingcards at a very early date.
But the art of wood-engra
condition until the beginning of this century, and it was not until lately that wood-blocks were very generally used for books.
P. You should say, Ion, that it is easy to admire the wood-ving was in a very imperfect cuts, and learn from them; but if you had to make them, and knew how much trouble engravers have even now, and have had in the early times, you would not say that it is very W. No. I have noticed that easy. And how very beautiful in the old-fashioned books the some wood-engravings are! pictures are engraved on steel.
You have a large book, papa, with engravings which are called mezzotints.
Ion. And some of the books have pictures printed from stone; they are called lithographs.
P. The printing from stone is a much newer art than that from blocks. We also have zinc printing; and, besides the line engravings on steel and copper, and the mezzotints, and aquatints, there are several new inventions for printing; but the advantage of wood-engravings over all these is, that the blocks can be printed with the type.
W. Why is that, papa?
P. You can easily understand if you notice the printer's type. The letters form a raised surface for the ink-roller to roll upon; when this surface is blackened by the ink, it makes a black impression on the paper. It is just so with the lines of the wood-cut: every line that you see in the engraving is first drawn on the wood; the wood is then cut away on each side of it, so that its surface may be raised, and receive the printingink from the roller. The case is different in steel-engravings; the lines are cut into the plate, and the ink is rubbed into the hollow places, while the surface of the plate remains smooth and without ink. Thus, you can see, that if men tried to print a steel plate on the same page as the letterpress, they would have to roll the plate along with the type, instead of rubbing it smooth.
would stick to the surface of the plate, instead of filling up the lines. Are the lines which are printed from stone cut into it or raised above it?
P. Neither. They are on the same level; they are merely drawn on the stone, and when the ink-roller is rolled over its surface, it inks only that part on which the lines are drawn.
W. That is curious, How does the roller know which part has lines drawn on it?
P. That is a question which I have not time to answer now. Printing from stone is a chemical rather a mechanical process. You might suppose that as the drawing on the stone has to be rolled over like the type, instead of being rubbed, both might be printed together. This, however, could not be. Even if the same roller and ink would do for both, there would still be a difficulty, as the stone has to be carefully wetted every time before it is rolled. So wood-engravings are (with the exception of stereotypes, and the new electrotypes, called glyphographs) the only article that can be used to print with type. But I have been talking about printing in general, instead of woodengraving. Now let us turn to the wood-engraver who so much improved that art. His name was Thomas Bewick.
THE LIFE OF THOMAS BEWICK.
If you had lived in Northumberland, in the little village of Cherryburn, in the year 1760, you might have seen a boy L. So that the printing-ink | who seemed to know all the
animals in the place. Instead of throwing stones at the dogs in the street, he felt very friendly towards them. I dare say that when he saw a strange dog he would say to him, "Poor fellow!" and would pat him, or stroke him, or tell him to put up his paw.
Ion. Perhaps he would give him something to eat.
P. Perhaps so. That is a sure way of winning the heart of a dog. At all events he "made friends" with all the new dogs, and all the old dogs, and all the other animals round about him. The horses, cows, asses, sheep, and cats; the lambs, the geese, the ducks, and the other poultry; the pigeons, and even the sparrows, were acquaintances of his. He seemed never to pass one without noticing it. Besides making personal acquaintance with them, he was delighted to watch their habits, and to learn what they did with themselves all day. At last he thought he would draw his friends. When he was at home in the evening, and thought about the animals he had seen in the day, he used to put down their shapes upon paper; for, of course, as he was always looking at them, they made a great impression on his mind, and he could remember their shapes exactly.
Ion. Yes; he could picture them out with his mind's eye.
P. Or he could form "a conception" of them, as we say,if you remember what conception means. It was pleasant enough to draw his friends from memory; but he found out one
day that it was much better to draw from the animals themselves. Ah, that was delightful work! When he had persuaded one of the village dogs to stand still, he drew him on a wall. And there he was, as perfect as life! His nose and ears were drawn correctly; even his paws were copied with great exactness. So from that time the boy always kept a piece of chalk in his pocket, and he soon covered the doors, walls, and gates of the houses with copies of his pets. It did not matter whether he drew a lamb, a cow, or a goose; it was sure to be done carefully, and to be a faithful likeness.
W. What was the name of this boy, papa?
P. He was called THOMAS BEWICK. His love of drawing led to his becoming an engraver. It chanced one day that Mr. Bielby, a copperplate engraver, from Newcastle, was passing through Cherryburn, and he was much struck at seeing the walls of every place thus ornamented. He was delighted, too, to see with what talent the animals were drawn; so he found out the name of the boy who drew them, went to his father, and persuaded him to let him become his apprentice as soon as he was old enough.
It happened, soon after young Bewick had gone to live with Mr. Bielby, that Dr. Hutton required a series of copperplates for a mathematical work, When Mr. Bielby received the order he persuaded the doctor that it would be better to have the diagrams cut in wood than
on copper, so that they might be printed with the letterpress. "For," he said, "if they are engraved on copper, they must be printed on separate leaves, and stitched into the book." Dr. Hutton followed the advice given, and many of the diagrams were then put into young Bewick's hands to be cut. The boy succeeded with his work beautifully. He astonished his master. He had cut the lines drawn with such care that they were very fine indeed. Mr. Bielby had no idea that they could be cut with such accuracy and finish.
The art of wood-engraving had at this time fallen into the very lowest repute; but Bewick's master said to him, "I would advise you to take it up, and give your attention to it as your profession."
Bewick did as his master advised him. He soon made great improvements in the art; and when the time of his apprenticeship was completed he went to London. There he found a person who practised the trade, living in the neighbourhood of Hatton Garden. He seems, however, not to have learned much from his new master; for he soon left him, and returned to the country. He settled at Newcastle again, and was taken into partnership by his old friend Mr. Bielby.
Shortly after this settlement Bewick produced the engraving which brought him into notice. He drew, on a block of wood, an old hound, and, having cut it with the greatest possible care, he sent it to the Society
of Arts. This was in the year 1775. The Society had that year offered a prize for the best wood-engraving, and Bewick thus gained it. The block had been cut for an edition of Gay's Fables, which book was published in 1779. The work immediately gained general attention, for the wood-cuts were strikingly superior to anything that had been seen in England. Bewick had been helped in producing them by his younger brother John, who had become his apprentice.
It would take a long time to describe to you the pains Thomas Bewick took to improve the art of wood-engraving. He introduced several new modes of operation. One was that of rendering one part of the surface of the block lower than the other, so that the lines drawn on it to represent distant objects might be much lighter when printed. In this way he contrived to produce several shades from one block. Bewick, by such attention, soon rose to the head of his profession. His fame, however, was owing not only to his talents, but to his industry. He would never have succeeded as a wood-engraver if he had not been industrious; but he was so, truly. He made labour his enjoyment. He always rose very early, and from then until bedtime he was generally found at work, whistling merrily. He had very few friends, for he had little time for talk, or for social pleasures. He despised all indulgences, and delighted in strong, manly exercises. Like the great men whom I have
told you of already, he liked anything that was hard to do. All the invigorating sports of the country he took a pleasure in,
they were even better than those made for Gay's Fables. They were such as the world had never seen before.
Bewick did not confine himBewick was famous not only self to one art; he occasionally for his exertions and perse- engraved on copper as well as verance, but for his temperance. on wood. Besides studying He ate and drank with modera- natural history, he followed tion, and so hardy was his frame other branches of knowledge. that he even slept, in the depth In all the works of Bewick it of winter, with the windows of was his aim to teach sound his chamber open. It is said knowledge and morality. This that sometimes, on awaking, he was seen in his very last work; found the snow on his bed- for to the last hour of his exclothes. With such habits it istence his art occupied his will not be wondered at that thoughts. In the 76th year of Bewick did much in his lifetime. his age he was engaged on a The animals which had been series of cuts for the use of his favourites when a boy were poor people. He thought that his constant study. With he would prepare something steady perseverance he continued to sketch all the striking specimens that came under his notice. He visited every menagerie that came to Newcastle, and drew the animals there from life; and in the year 1790 he published "The History of Quadrupeds," which book rendered him more celebrated than ever. The pictures in this book were all copied from his own drawings, and engraved by himself and his brother. The publication was also adorned with vignettes, some of which had uncommon merit. The engravings were so true to nature that
better to hang up for ornaments in their cottages than the tasteless and bad prints usually found there. A proof of a block of an old horse, which headed "An Address against Cruelty to Animals," was brought to him only two or three days before his death. This happened in the year 1828.
Thomas Bewick was a good and useful man. When you see the beautiful engravings in your picture-books again, you may think of him. Remember that the good he did was chiefly owing to his INDUSTRY.
SUM up at night what thou hast done by day,
And growth of it; if with thy watch, that too