View this artwork by appointment, at Tate Britain's Prints and Drawings Rooms
[from] Scott's ‘Poetical Works’ pub.1833–4 [T04947-T04960; T05134-T05145; complete]
Fourteen line-engravings by various engravers, comprising fourteen subjects out of a total of twenty-four; on India paper laid on wove paper of various sizes
Purchased (Grant-in-Aid) 1987
Prov: ...; Waltham Abbey Historical Trust, from whom bt by Tate Gallery
Lit: Mordechai Omer, Turner and the Poets, exh. cat., Marble Hill House 1975; Gerald Finley, Landscapes of Memory: Turner as Illustrator to Scott, 1980; Turner in Scotland, exh. cat., Aberdeen Art Gallery 1982; Andrew Wilton, Turner in his Time, 1987; John Gage, J.M.W. Turner: 'A Wonderful Range of Mind', 1987
In 1831 Turner was commissioned by Scott's Edinburgh publisher, Robert Cadell, to illustrate the Poetical Works of Sir Walter Scott. This was planned to follow on consecutively from the illustrated ‘Magnum’ edition of Scott's Waverley novels of 1829–33, which had proved highly profitable, and was to be part of Cadell's scheme to re-publish, in a uniform format, all Scott's writings in verse and prose. The author had gone bankrupt in 1826 and Cadell insisted that Turner illustrate the proposed edition, claiming, in a letter to the author on 28 March 1831, ‘With his pencil, I shall insure the subscription of 8,000, without, not 3,000’ (National Library of Scotland MS 3917, fol.142). Although Scott was at first reluctant to employ Turner, having met with difficulties with the artist during their first collaboration on The Provincial Antiquities of Scotland (see T04485-T04501), Cadell was delighted to secure Turner's services to illustrate the Poetical Works, especially since ‘His terms are fully under what I expected; 24 designs at 25 gns. each’ (National Library of Scotland MS 3917, fol.30). Unlike the illustrations for Scott's Prose Works (T04727-T04763, T04961-T04994), Turner was to be the only artist employed on the project.
Turner was persuaded to make a visit to Scotland in the summer of 1831 to sketch the subjects that Scott and Cadell had selected for illustration. He stayed at Scott's home, Abbotsford, before embarking on a lengthy tour of the country as far as Staffa and Inverness. In the Advertisment to Volume 1 of the Poetical Works, the editor, John Gibson Lockhart, mistakenly records that ‘the drawings ... are from the hand of Mr. Turner, to whom the subjects were pointed out by Sir Walter Scott, when that great Artist visited him at Abbotsford in the autumn of 1830’. Turner returned to London in September and worked on producing the final designs during the following year. All the vignettes were designed with cartouches consisting of a simple line frame ornamented with figures on either side; this was not printed in the octavo editions except in the case of the ‘Abbotsford’ design (T04960). Several of the finished drawings were exhibited by Cadell at the London gallery of the publishers and printers, Moon, Boys and Graves, in 1832 and 1833, in order to announce the forthcoming publication and give the engravers the opportunity of selecting the designs that they might wish to execute. Unfortunately, Scott died on 21 September 1832, never having seen Turner's finished illustrations. After engraving, most of the drawings were sold by Cadell for £500 to Monro of Novar and were dispersed at the Novar Sale at Christie's in 1877.
The plates were engraved between 1833 and 1834. Prior to their publication in book form, the engravings were issued in two parts, each containing twelve plates. The prices for each part ranged from twelve shillings for prints to £1. 15s. for proofs on India paper before letters. The Poetical Works appeared in twelve volumes, each containing a frontispiece opposite a title-page vignette. The plates issued in book form are inscribed as being published by Cadell in conjunction with Whittaker and Co., London.
The Poetical Works did not sell as well as Cadell had expected when the first volumes appeared in the spring of 1833. He recorded that he was ‘a good deal cast down ... about Poetry only 4200 sold on 1 May’ (National Library of Scotland, MS Acc 5188, Box 2, diary, 3 May 1833). The expected demand had still not materialised by the end of the year. ‘[This] year’, he wrote in his diary on 31 December 1833, ‘I commenced the New Edition of the Poetry - its success was considerably below my expectations. I thought from 12000 to 15000 might sell but it has not come up to 8000 full ... I do not expect to lose by them but I shall gain little’ (ibid.). Small replicas of some of the plates were engraved in 1835 for Cadell's 12mo edition of some of Scott's poems. These were: ‘Newark’ (Rawlinson II 1913, no.504) for ‘The Lay of the Last Minstrel’; ‘Ashestiel’ (see T04953) for ‘Marmion’ and ‘Loch Achray’ (see T04954) for ‘The Lady of the Lake’.
All the plates for the Poetical Works were executed on steel. Engraving was undertaken by ten men, many of whom had collaborated with Turner on earlier projects. Those responsible for the engravings in this group were: William Miller (1796–1882), John Horsburgh (1791–1869), Henry Le Keux (1787–1868), Robert Wallis (1794–1878), Edward Goodall (1795–1870), Robert Brandard (1805–62) and John Pye (1782–1874). Edward Webb (active 1833) executed one plate (T04956), apparently his only known engraving.
This set of unmounted engravings, along with a set of plates for Scott's Prose Works (T04961-T04994), was bought from the Waltham Abbey Historical Trust for whom they had been acquired, probably in the 1930s, by the society's founder, Mr Puddephatt.
T04956 Bowes Tower engr. E. Webb, pub.1833
Line-engraving, vignette, approx. 130 × 91 (5 1/8 × 3 9/16) on India paper laid on wove paper 433 × 301 (17 1/16 × 11 7/8); plate-mark 209 × 150 (8 1/4 × 5 7/8)
Engraved inscriptions: ‘J.M.W Turner. R.A.’ below image b.l., ‘Edwd Webb’ below image b.r., ‘Edinburgh 1833 R, Cadell, Moon, Boys & Graves, London’ below image at bottom centre
Lit: Rawlinson II 1913, no.510, first published state
Published: Vol.IX, 1834, ‘Rokeby’, title-page vignette. Original watercolour: untraced (Wilton 1979, no.1087).
Tate Gallery: Illustrated Catalogue of Acquisitions 1986-88, London 1996
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