N.B.  The images have all been light enhanced. This is because they appear darker on the screen than in reality and it is difficult to make out detail.  The actual size of each original is a centimetre or 2 less than a sheet of A4. The Text below the aquatints will be typed below each aquatint. This is because between the print and the screen image there is a little loss of clarity making some of them a little unclear.

Below are a small group of very finely coloured aquatints. They were acquired by me many years ago together with 3 John Martin mezzotints in an auction. I bought them because the aquatints although unsigned looked like they were by john Martin and given that they were lotted together with 3 John Martin mezzotints the previous owner may have thought the same.  Each one illustrates a verse of Lord Byron's poetry. They are part of a series numbering at least 50 plus if the numbering above the image to the right is anything to go by. The highest number I have is 50. I have not seen them but there appears to be 1 set of uncoloured aquatints held by the Newstead collection of Byron material and 1 coloured set held, so they tell me by a customer of Sanders Print shop in Oxford. A few coloured examples were found listed on  World Cat  and  within a book of Byron's poetry published by W.S.Colman Broadway and A.W. Galagnani Paris and are  held by the library in Philadelphia.  There are /were probably a minimum of 3 coloured sets at least. This figure is based upon the 1 complete set plus 1 duplicate example in Philadelphia library and 1 example  illustrated below to make 3 different examples of the same coloured print. There may have been more but it seems unlikely. 

     The prints are all  unsigned in the plate by either the artist or engraver and there are no full size original paintings from which these aquatints have been sourced.   The publisher of most of  these coloured aquatints  was Pyall and Stroud  19 Hanway Street Oxford Street 1829. A few are published for the proprietor by T. Gillard 4 Strand.  

     Coloured examples of these aquatints are very rare. Black and white examples are occasionally come by and in fact when I last looked there were 4 on sale at Sanders Print shop Oxford.   

    The description given by Sanders print shop suggests that they could have been by Henry Pyall who besides being a publisher executed work in aquatint. Is that likely?  Given the small numbers that these prints exist in ,surely if they had been by Henry Pyall he could very easily have printed  the ones that were "published for the proprietor by T. Gillard" himself.  Its the work of a few minutes and would cost him comparatively little.  

                                                                                                     

London Pub. Pyall and Stroud 16 Gt Russell Street Covent Garden

And Neuha took her Torquil by the hand 

And waved along the vault her kindled brand 

                                                                                 The Island  Byron

    Henry Pyall  was a well known publisher and aquatint engraver of his day most famous for perhaps his scenes of the Bury railway 

    Stroud  Who Stroud is, is unknown  

    Some of these aquatints are dated 1829

    Occassionally sheets of paper held to the light have a  watermark possibly for Whatmans and the date of 1828.  The numbering for one of these aquatints is 50. Clearly there was a plan for a large quantity of illustrations. 50 plus, finely coloured or uncoloured aquatint illustrations to the works of Byron indicates a de-luxe/luxury edition and which because they were aquatints small in number and expensive.    

    Some of these prints as mentioned earlier are found uncoloured. This maybe because there were plans for both an uncoloured and coloured edition. It was common to produce  both an expensive coloured version and cheaper uncoloured editions of illustrated books.

   It may also be that the money for binding, printing, in fact everything ran out which is why this projected expensive edition of the works of Byron never saw the light of day except in one coloured and one uncoloured edition and a few widely scattered, rarely seen,

uncoloured prints and even rarer; almost non- existent coloured examples. 

    In the early days of research I contacted the British Museum about these aquatints hoping they would be able to supply more information. The member of staff who replied informed me that the B.M. had no examples coloured or uncoloured of their own, and had never seen them before. He went on to say that they were very reminiscent of John Martin and in a few examples perhaps William Blake.

     I then contacted the Laing gallery who have their own collection of John Martin. The curator there, replied saying that their specialist John Martin expert didn't think that they were by John Martin, they were not good enough according to him and the curator agreed. The curator went on to say that this expert had had some of these aquatints himself ,decided that they were not by John Martin, kept a few examples for himself and disposed (sold? I assume )of the rest.I requested images of the ones he kept. I am sad to say that none, sadly were forthcoming.

      Next was the Victoria and Albert museum. A similar story here to the B.M. They had none of their own and had never seen them but they did agree that there was a considerable likeness to work by john Martin. They contacted an expert who I suspect to be the man who advises the Laing Gallery. His name is Michael J. Campbell. As well as being a dealer and publisher he is recognised as the world's leading John Martin expert. His view was that these were not by John Martin but he was unable or unwilling to say who they were by or could be by.

       What I dislike about these responses in particular is that Michael J. Campbell's word seems to be law. He speaks, he pronounces, and everyone just accepts.   He has not in any way presented his views and reasons  for  this descision . This is despite having plenty of his own examples with which to produce a small monograph for those people who might be interested in his findings. Nothing especially for widespread  public impartial scrutiny, and so far as I can make out has no intention of doing so. And nobody questions whether he is in fact correct. I dont think he is. So I have asked around.

      For example I have shown these to museum print room staff in the V.and A. and put forward most of my reasons in a way that they found quite convincing so I am not best pleased when an expert does not have to present his evidence for proper examination. All he has to do is to say as in this case that they are not by John Martin.  AND NOBODY CHALLENGES. 

     Experts can make mistakes. They are I am sure very good when it comes to encyclopedic knowledge of their given subject. There is a problem when they present as truth what is only conjecture ,supposition, and theory. Even worse is when it is their pet conjectures, theories, and suppositions that are so presented.  Worse still is when as I believe is so with my prints they are wrong.                                                                               To Be Continued.         

London Pub. Pyall and Stroud 16 GT Russell Street Covent Garden 

 

That royal hand 

Let me then press it once more to my lips

                                           

                                                                Sardanapolus Byron

                                              

 

The above aquatint has some  features that are also to be found in John Martin's work

Firstly, there is the scale of the piece. The room in which the scene is set is enourmous. Look at its height , the elephant pillars, the sphinx at ther back, the smallness of the people in relation to the height of the pillars. Only the back wall is visible because the size of the image is not sufficient to contain the side walls

Secondly, many of John Martin's images contain large nimbers of people . This has at least     

London pub. by Pyall and Stroud 16 Gt. Russell Street Covent Garden

And lo! his Mildest and

Least to be tempted Messenger appears

                                                              Heaven and Earth Byron     

                                                             

London pub. by Pyall and Stroud 16 Gt. Russell Street Covent Garden

I saw like a flash of lightning (for I saw

A moment, and no more) what struck me sightless

To all else - the hungarian's face

                                                                 Werner  Byron 

London pub. by Pyall and Stroud 19 Hanway Street Oxford Street 1829

And with forbidden wine may stain 

The bowl a Moslem must not drain

                                                                The Giaour  Byron

                                                                 

London pub by Pyall and Stroud 16 Gt. Russell Street Covent Garden   

What would you! speak!

Spirit or man!

                        The Deformed Transformed   Byron

London pub. by Pyall and Stroud 16 Gt Russell Street Covent Garden

To mark upon thy brow 

Exemption from such deeds as thou hast done

                                                                                 Cain  Byron

London pub. by Pyall and Stroud 19 Hanway Street Oxford Street 1829

The wild Sierra with its wilder troop

Of vulture -plumed guerrillas on the stoop

For their incessant prey

                                               The Age of Bronze  Byron

London pub. by Pyall and Stroud 19 Hanway Street Oxford Street 1829

But Their forms 

How lovelily they move along the side 

Of the gray mountain scattering its mist 

                                                                            Heaven and Earth  Byron 

                                                                                   

London pub. by Pyall and Stroud 16 Gt Russell Street Covent Garden

Look upon him as

Greece looked upon her best, the instant

Ere Paris's arrow flew 

                                                        Deformed Transformed  Byron

London pub. by Pyall and Stroud 16 Gt Russell Street Covent Garden 

And from the gate thrown open issued beaming 

A beautiful and mighty Thing of Light

Radiant with glory

                                                                              Vision of Judgement   Byron

All texts and images unless otherwise stated are © Nigel King 2018-19. All rights reserved.

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