Thursday, 3 March 2011
The First Roses and Castles 1873.
Illustration by H R Robinson in the Art Journal 1873.
My Dec 2110 blog ‘On the canal in 1858’ contained the first written description of Narrow Boat decoration. The illustration shown above depicts the first known illustration of this art.
Henry Robert Robinson made his sketching journey on the Upper Thames in the early 1870’s with the express intention of recording the life, lore, customs, crafts and the workers of the river. We are fortunate to day that Robinson was so ambitious in the scope of his enterprise because he has left us with a priceless collection of unique illustrations of riverside life in the mid 19th century.
The results of Robinsons work were published in a series of articles written for the British periodical the Art Journal during 1873. As well as showing obscure and long forgotten crafts the artist also includes detailed written observations which are invaluable for us today.
Gilt decorated and embossed front cover and spine of ‘Life on the Upper Thames’ 1875.
A couple of years later in 1875 the artist collected his articles together and published them in book form.’ Virtues’ the art publishers produced the book and the result was as you can see a handsome volume which must have been quite an expensive item to buy and was I suppose the Victorian equivalent of a coffee table book. My copy is a presentation copy with the name of the collage on the front cover.
The book contains an engraved frontispiece titled ‘The Pride of the Thames’ which is absent in the art journal but which again clearly shows the boat decoration.
The artist writes in his chapter on the boat people that their trade is declining and that the boats were called besides the familiar ‘canal boat’,’ barge’ and ‘monkey boat’ - ‘wussers’. I must admit that I hadn’t come across that title before!
There is much more of interest here and I hope to be able to blog about the written descriptions in a future blog.
Meanwhile in the coming weeks I will be blogging more of the 36 full page engravings from the 36 diverse chapters of this rare book
Pride of the Thames.