Joseph Mallord William Turner

Inscriptions by Turner: Notes

?1840

In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Artist
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Medium
Graphite on paper
Dimensions
Support: 173 × 123 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Reference
D41120

Catalogue entry

The significance of the brief notes scrawled at the outer edge, made with the book turned horizontally, is unclear, but may relate to the more extensive ones on folio 70 verso opposite (D31928). The most prominent feature is the cloth bellows-type pocket, open towards the fore-edge, which seems to be an original feature of the book’s construction, as it is of regular dimensions and the cloth is neatly turned over at the lip over a blank paper lining. It appears to have been customised by the artist by tipping in a somewhat irregular sheet of laid paper with his scrawled writing on both sides, folded inwards to fit at the top and bottom as a lining to the inner part of the pocket and folded to create a flap.
This added sheet includes various rough notes in pencil and ink on both sides, extending beyond the hinged part of the flap both within the pocket and on the pasted-down side, indicating that most if not all of the text was already extant. Little of it can be made out to any purpose, but Finberg later annotated his 1909 Inventory entry with partial readings of an attempt at a French phrase ‘Les Lodgments pres [|] le Middi’ on the outside, and the equivalent ‘Lodgings taken from Midday [|] mezzo’ inside.1 Turner’s sketchbooks are littered with such makeshift phrases in relation to the practicalities of his Continental travels, even at this late date. The pencil phrase at the top of the outer side appears to be ‘Jesso – Chalk | Amat[...]’, the first word presumably indicating gesso (a standard chalk-based primer for paintings), from the Italian and pronounced with a hard ‘g’, as given phonetically in Turner’s rendering.
The inside of the pocket is much rubbed and darkened with what appears to be black chalk or charcoal dust, prompting Finberg’s Inventory comment: ‘a kind of pocket for chalk has been arranged’.2 It contains ephemeral evidence of subsequent curatorial attention in the form of a small piece of rubbed and creased off-white card inscribed in pencil ‘CCCXIII’, apparently in the hand of Arthur Magyar Hind of the British Museum, whose signed comments in relation to sketchbooks’ restoration there following the 1928 Tate flood are sometimes to be seen written directly on their endpapers; ‘checked 2 VII 32 | complete CFB’ has been added. The initials are those of the Turner scholar C.F. Bell. Roughly pasted onto the card is a smaller scrap of white paper inscribed in pencil ‘352’, the book’s original Turner Bequest schedule number; see the Introduction and the entry for the inside of the front cover (D41118).
1
Undated MS note by Finberg (died 1939) in interleaved copy of Finberg 1909, Prints and Drawings Room, Tate Britain, II, opposite p.1009.
2
Finberg 1909, II, p.1009.

Matthew Imms
September 2018

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