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William Faithorne Publishes the First Work in English on Engraving and Etching


In 1662 English painter and engraver William Faithorne published in London The Art of Graveing and Etching wherein is exprest the true way of Graveing in Copper, allso the manner & method of that famous Callot & Mr. Bosse, in their seuerall ways of Etching. The first work in English on engraving and etching, Faithorne's book was primarily a translation of Bosse's Tracté des manières de graver en taille douce sur l'airin (1645)The second edition, or second issue, of Faithorne's book appeared in 1702. The 1702 edition added "The way of Printing Copper-Plates, and how to make the Press."

In February 2013 Marlborough Rare Books of London offered for £18,500 a unique copy of the first edition of Faithorne's book, which retained a suppressed second part, comprising pages 49-72, "The Way of Printing Copper-Plates, And withal How to make the Press" that was first published in the second edition. From their description of the copy I quote:

"The book is a translation of Abraham Bosse’s Traité des Manières de grave[r] 1645 which was undertaken by Faithorne. For some unknown reason Faithorne decided to suppress the second part although he had taken the trouble to translate it, engrave the six plates and have it printed. John Evelyn, his ‘Advertisement’ appended to his own translation of Bosse’s work under the title Sculptura, states that he, as well as Faithorne, had made a translation of the second part, ‘but, understanding it to be also the design of Mr. Faithorn, who had (it seems) translated the first part of it, and is himself by Profession a Graver, and an excellent Artist; that I might neither anticipate the worlds expectation, nor the workmans pains, to their prejudice, I desisted from printing my copy, and subjoyning it to this discourse.’

"This second part of Evelyn’s translation did not therefore appear in his Sculptura 1662 or any subsequent edition until the discovery of the manuscript at the Royal Society. The complete Evelyn translation was not to appear until 1906.

"Although the pagination is continuous to both parts of Faithorne’s work the type is slightly different and the sheets are now gathered in fours rather than eight’s. Clearly there was some sort of a hiatus when Faithorne learnt that Evelyn was going to publish a translation. It seems likely that an agreement was decided between the two translators on who indeed was going to actually publish this second part. It is quite possible that Faithorne became aware of the deleterious effect that publishing a guide to printing copperplates could have on his own business and quickly supressed the second part. For whatever reason the only evidence today that the second part ever saw the light of day in 1662 is the present copy.

"It was not until 1921 when a 1702 reissue surfaced, with new title and additional preliminary matter, that this second part was known to have been printed at all. To date ten libraries now hold copies of the 1702 issue, but the only copy of Faithorne’s work as it was intended to be issued is the present copy.

''This copy has only come to market twice in the last 150 years. It appeared sometime in the early 1950s when the Robinson brothers were slowly disposing of the enormous Thomas Phillips collection. Apparently it may have been sold whilst the catalogue was still in proof to the collector C.E. Kenney for £125. It next appeared in the eighth and last sale of C.E. Kenney library on 21st October 1968 as lot 4334 when it was bought by Sanders of Oxford for Christopher Lennox-Boyd at £680."

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