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4.8 out of 5 stars
23
4.8 out of 5 stars


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on 6 October 2007
I had heard of Thomas Bewick, and had seen the occasional woodcut (especially of his rightly-famous birds), so I was delighted when this biography by Jenny Uglow came out From page one, Uglow makes Bewick come alive. Apart from a short, unhappy spell in London as a young man, Bewick lived all his long life in Northumberland, growing up in a small village and first learning, then perfecting , his trade in Newcastle-upon-Tyne. He comes over as a dedicated artist, a devoted family man and a loyal friend. Yet Uglow doesn't sugarcoat him-his faults and weaknesses are here too.

I can't imagine how this biography could be bettered. Excellent lively writing, extensive research, fascinating subject living in a fascinating period of history (late C18th-early C19th ). The text is accompanied by engravings and, of course, by some of Bewick's own woodcuts.
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on 14 June 2013
Beautifully written, wonderful prints of the engravings, really pleased with this product. I would recommend this to anyone interested in T Bewick and his work
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on 18 February 2013
I bought this book for research, but have found it a really good read and very well illustrated and very informative
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on 19 April 2009
I'm predisposed to enjoy biographies, which I normally read in paperback. During the course of reading this one I ordered it in hardback to keep on my bookshelves. From it I formed the opinion that Thomas Bewick could be the most talented artist ever to breathe English air. His work, his enthusiasms and his enterprise were phenomenal. At the same time he was a simple man, ambitious not for himself but for his work. After reading the chapter on 'The History of Quadrupeds' I bought an 1807 edition for 100 pounds. To have prints from his original blocks printed by hand on handmade paper 200 years old is awesome. His talent was absolutely unique. 'Nature's Engraver' is indeed an inspiring book.
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on 12 January 2011
I have just one word of advice for anyone who is thinking of buying this lovely book and that is to seriously consider investing in a good (not necessarily expensive) microscope at the same time. That isn't meant as any criticism of the book or the many engravings it contains, it is just that the engravings are reproduced at (or close to) their original size and, in this case, the gods really are in the details. Under normal conditions these engravings are stunning but when viewed even more closely they are not far short of miraculous; how on earth anyone could engrave with such detail, not to mention warmth and humour, is quite beyond me.

Jenny Uglow is a wonderful writer and the text is a joy but it will always be the engravings themselves that you return to again and again and having the ability to examine them really closely will give you the opportunity to discover a whole new world in the background and fine details and a whole new level of enjoyment in the book.
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on 28 July 2008
This is an outstandingly good biography of this amazing engraver whose work I have long admired. It is very easy to read and although he lived to a ripe old age, the story does not drag. Uglow evokes smoky, smelly, cramped Newcastle-upon-Tyne superbly and contrasts this with the wilds of Northumberland where Bewick grew up and where his heart remained. A must for anyone interested in history, art, countryside or just life!
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on 16 June 2009
Jenny Uglow brings Bewick so vividly alive that it's hard to believe he isn't still up there on Tyneside enjoying the birdsong. This biography is beautifully illustrated with his thumbnail-sized woodcuts; I'd never looked at them so closely before but what a world of detail and character and how amazing the way he captures the subtleties of a bird's feathers all in b&w. By the end of the book, I felt I knew the whole Bewick family and their wide social circle. How lively 18th century Newcastle seems (and what a lot we have lost to television!)
One thing that puzzles me ... what happened to Bewick's woodblocks, there must have been thousands of them? Are they destroyed, scattered - or in a museum collection? I know we can see the prints but I'd love to see wood cut by his hand. And his tools.
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on 30 October 2014
Fascinating book with wonderful descriptions of life in Thomas Bewick's time. Some of my ancestors lived in the same area as Bewick so gave a wonderful insight as to what life may have been like for them.
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on 21 March 2010
For anyone interested in the English countryside two hundred or so years ago, or British bird life, or pen and ink drawings, or the types of pictures that the Brontes and other students of art studied and copied in the nineteenth century, this book is a must. For everyone else it is simply a delight. Jenny Uglow easy-to-read text is an added bonus.
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Jenny Uglow's book on the life of the great Thomas Bewick is a gem. At the straightforward level of biography this is wonderfully readable, giving a vivid picture of a likeable and affectionate man, of a radical with a clear sense of the political movements of his time, and one who elevates what some might think of as a 'mere' craft into artistic genius. For me, much as I admire the bookplates and his great contributions to natural history in 'Quadrupeds' and 'British Birds', it is in the vignettes or tail/tale-pieces which his greatest genius lies: here, a life of observation, love of nature, interest in justice and the vagaries of humanity finds genuine creative expression. (See Thomas Bewick: Tale-Pieces or Vignettes)

But this is not just for those interested in the art of wood-engraving in general and Bewick in particular: in charting the life, Uglow tells us so much more, particularly about the social background of the late 18th and early 19th centuries, years of revolution in so many ways. Added to which, of course, the book is liberally sprinkled with the master's prints which, just like the book in which they appear, tell us so much about his times, his wit, his radicalism and his humanity. A lovely book.
(Incidentally, re the critical comments on the hardback edition, my hardback is fine!)
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