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Other Victorian Woodcuts
( Originally Published 1913 )
Woodcuts have ceased to be published. The photographic block, a direct transcript from the artist's drawing, has ousted the wood-block. And here is a hint to the collector; pick up books containing fine woodcuts while you cheaply can. Woodcut printing is possible to-day, but new woodcuts have become a luxury. It is only the Victorian woodcuts which still are cheap. That is because collectors have not yet taken them up seriously.Some Famous Woodcuts, and Where to Find Them. In the Cornhill Magazine, volume II, for July to December 1860, appeared on page 84 " The Great God Pan," an illustration of Mrs. Browning's poem by a young artist called Frederick Leighton. I bought the first nine volumes of the Cornhill, in the original red binder's cloth, for nine shillings, with at least ninety first-class page woodcuts in them, to say nothing of the vignettes which were done by Thackeray himself. In the 1862 volume there are two by Frederick Sandys ; Millais did a whole series for the Cornhill. So did Frederick Walker. So did Lord Leighton ; you can buy the 1862-4 volumes, containing George Eliot's " Romola," illustrated by Leighton, for two or three shillings as yet.
I bought the first seventeen volumes of Once a Week, original binder's cloth, for 30s. There are six Whistler woodcuts in the issues for 1862. You can find in these volumes Charles Keene's illustrations to the original short form in which Charles Reade wrote " The Cloister and the Hearth," then called " A Good Fight."Good Words was another serial publication of the same date-woodcuts of that period are known among booksellers as " Woodcuts of the Sixties "-and the earlier volumes of Good Words are full of admirable pictures. For less than a shilling apiece you can buy volumes containing such exquisite things as Sandys' " Until Her Death," Burne-Jones' " Summer Snow," Keene's " Old Man and Child," and Small's " After the Play." The Sunday Magazine also had many fine woodcuts.
The Separate Books.-For five shillings I bought the fine quarto edition of " Poems by Alfred Tennyson," published by Moxon in 1860 ; the original gilt binding was cracked, but I had it skilfully repaired. In this book on fine " toned " paper there are eighteen pictures by " J. E. Millais, A.R.A." ; there are seven by " W. H. Hunt," better known as " Holman Hunt " ; and at page 67 there is his finest drawing, " The Lady of Shalott," from which, forty years after, almost, he did his latest great picture ; there are also five by Dante Gabriel Rossetti, six by Clarkson Stanfield, and two by Maclise.
This book is usually procurable for fifteen shillings, but the 1857 edition of it costs twenty-five. Less than that would have to be paid to a bookseller for Dalziel's two-volume illustrated " Arabian Nights," published by Ward, Lock, and Tyler in 1865, and containing 200 woodcuts, go of them by A. Boyd Houghton ; a copy was recently advertised for nine shillings. In some respects A. Boyd Houghton was the prince among all the artists who drew for woodcutting. The same firm published " Don Quixote " in 1866, and he drew for that also. Also for Routledge's " Ballad Stories of the Affections." Ward, Lock, and Tyler published an illustrated " Goldsmith's Works " in 1865, and it contains 100 fine woodcuts after G. S. Pinwell.
For half a crown I bought a perfectly conditioned copy of Willmott's " Poets of the Nineteenth Century " (1857), profusely illustrated by Millais, Gilbert, Birket Foster, Harrison Weir, Tenniel, Harding, etc. The Birket Foster landscape pictures are exquisite in every way. The Bindings,-Do not remove the bindings of any such books as these when you have bought them. The custom of the " sixties " was to publish the woodcut blocks in binder's cloth, gilt edged, and often stamped with gilt and embossed. If the original binding is broken, have it repaired; repair will cost less than a new binding, and leave the book more valuable.