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THE BIBLIO FILE is one of the world's leading podcasts about "the book" and an inquiry into the wider world of book culture. Hosted by NIGEL BEALE it features wide ranging conversations with authors, poets, book publishers, booksellers, book editors, book collectors, book makers, book scholars, book critics, book designers, book publicists, literary agents and others on Robert Darnton's "communications circuit" who just plain love books, as he does.

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Feb 1, 2018

Wikipedia tells us that "Thomas Bewick (1753 – 1828) was an English engraver and  author. Early in his career he took on all kinds of work such as engraving , making the wood blocks for advertisements, and illustrating children's books. He gradually turned to illustrating, writing and publishing his own books, gaining an adult audience for the fine illustrations in A History of Quadrupeds.

His career began when he was apprenticed to engraver Ralph Beilby in Newcastle upon Tyne. He became a partner in the business and eventually took it over. 

Bewick is best known for his A History of British Birds, which is admired today mainly for its wood engravings, especially the small, sharply observed, and often humorous vignettes known as tail-pieces. The book was the forerunner of all modern field guides. He notably illustrated editions of Aesop's Fables throughout his life.

He is credited with popularising a technical innovation in the printing of illustrations using wood. He adopted metal-engraving tools to cut hard boxwood across the grain, producing printing blocks that could be integrated with metal type, but were much more durable than traditional woodcuts. The result was high-quality illustration at a low price." 


In 1978 while working as an artist and printmaker (linoleum cuts, woodcuts and wood engravings), and painting landscapes in oils and watercolours David Esslemont established his own private press in his home town of Newcastle upon Tyne in the north of England. Here he published the first of several books with wood engravings by Thomas Bewick and his apprentices: Thomas Bewick: A Commemoration, John Bewick a Selection of Wood Engravings, Luke Clennell: Bewick Apprentice, and Thomas Bewick: Birds

These books were printed by hand on dampened paper on a Columbian press and published in limited editions. 

Who better then to talk to about Bewick than Esslemont. I travelled out to David's farm in Iowa to discuss Thomas.