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January 18 , 2011

A Treatise on Wood Engraving: Historical and Practical


The former edition of this History of Wood Engraving having become extremely scarce and commercially valuable, the publisher was glad to obtain the copyright and wood-blocks from Mr. Mason Jackson, son of the late Mr. Jackson, original proprietor of the work, with the view of reprinting it. It will be seen by the two distinct prefaces which accompanied the former edition, and are here reprinted, that there was some existing schism between the joint producers at the time of first publication. Mr. Jackson, the engraver, paymaster, and proprietor, conceived that he had a right to do what he liked with his own; while Mr. Chatto, his literary coadjutor, very naturally felt that he was entitled to some recognition on the title-page of what he had so successfully performed. On the book making its appearance without Mr. Chatto’s name on the title-page, and with certain suppressions in his preface to which he had not given consent, a virulent controversy ensued, which was embodied in a pamphlet termed “a third preface,” and afterwards carried on in the Athenæum of August and September, 1839. As this preface has nothing in it but the outpourings of a quarrel which can now interest no one, I do not republish any part of it; and looking back on the controversy after the lapse of twenty years, I cannot help feeling that Mr. Chatto had reasonable ground for complaining that his name was omitted, although I think Mr. Jackson had full right to determine what the book should be called, seeing that it was his own exclusive speculation. It is not for me to change a title now so firmly established, but I will do Mr. Chatto the civility to introduce his name on it, without concerning myself with the question of what he did or did not do, or what Mr. Jackson contributed beyond his practical remarks and anxious superintendence. Although I have the pleasure of a personal acquaintance with Mr. Chatto, and communicated to him my intention of republishing the work, I declined letting him see it through the press; resolving to stand wholly responsible for any alterations or improvements I might choose to make. On the other hand, I have been quite as chary of letting even the shade of Mr. Jackson raise a new commotion—I say the shade, because, having his own copy full of manuscript remarks, it was at my option to use them; but I have adopted nothing from this source save a few palpable amendments. What additions have been made are entirely my own, and have arisen from a desire to increase the number of illustrations where I thought them previously deficient and had the means of supplying them. With the insertion of these additional illustrations, which it appears amount to seventy-five, it became necessary to describe them, and this has occasioned the introduction of perhaps a hundred or two lines, which are distributed in the form of notes or paragraphs throughout the volume. For the chief of these additions the critical examiner is referred to the following pages: 321, 322, 340, 352, 374, 428, 468, 477, 480, 493, 530, 531, 532, 539, 540, 541, 542, 543, 545, 546, 547, 548, 617, 639. The chapter on the artists of the present day is entirely new, and was not contemplated, as may be gathered from the remarks at pages 549 and 597, until the book was on the eve of publication. It contains upwards of seventy high class wood engravings, and gives a fair specimen of the talents of some of our most distinguished artists. Getting that supplementary matter together and into shape, was not so light and sudden a task as I meant it to be; but now it is done I feel that it was right to do it, and I can only hope that my unpretending labours will be deemed a step in the right direction. Should I retain my health, strength, and means, I purpose, at no very distant period, to follow up the present volume with one perhaps as large, giving a more complete series of Examples of the artists of the day, as well those of France and Germany as of England.
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