458 pages, 83 b/w illustrations
Thomas Bewick's (1753–1828) History of British Birds was the first field guide for ordinary people, illustrated with woodcuts of astonishing accuracy and beauty. In Nature's Engraver, Jenny Uglow tells the story of the farmer's son from Tyneside who became one of Britain's greatest and most popular engravers. It is a story of violent change, radical politics, lost ways of life, and the beauty of the wild – a journey to the beginning of our lasting obsession with the natural world.
"A refined and engaging biography, as beautifully wrought, in its way, as Bewick's woodcuts [...] Its quiet, cumulative power is in describing the value of a lifetime of paying attention, of seeing what is all around us – and of approaching the world with a heart full of love and wonder."
– Dominique Browning, New York Times
"This is a lovely book, not just in the quality and sympathy of the writing but in the care of its design and illustration."
– Michael Prodger, Sunday Telegraph
"A splendid biography. But it becomes an endearing one by the scattered presence of so many of Bewick's woodcuts."
– Washington Post
"[Bewick's] work surprised peopple almost as much as it pleased them. Wordsworth was one of the first to praise it. Charlotte Bronte made Jane Eyre thrill to it. One of the charms of this beautifully produced biography is that it restores their original power to little works of art [...] Uglow's evocation of the mood of his times is as detailed and good as her portrait of the man."
– The Economist
"[Bewick] was a fascinating human being whose life, told by the gifted biographer Jenny Uglow, in this beautifully illustrated little book, embodies the philosophical and political cross-currents of his times [...] Uglow already has a justifiable reputation as one of the country's best biographers; this fabulous book will only enhance it."
– Paul Riddell, Scotsman
"In its rich detail and narrative structure – as pleasurable as one of Bewick's vignrettes – this is popular biography at its best."
– Anne Secord, Isis
"Uglow's clear prose sparkles like Bewick's River Tyne."
– Los Angeles Times
Prologue: A Plain Man's Art
1. The Banks of the Tyne
2. Nature and Drawing
3. The Common
4. 'Beilby's Wild Lad'
5. Life in the Town
6. Pretty Histories
7. 'God Gave the Earth to You'
8. North and South
10. 'Esto Perpetual!'
12. Bell and John
13. Among the Animals
15. From Fur to Feathers
16. 'Your Lads'
17. 'Red Nightcap Days'
18. Daily Bread
19. Land Birds
20. On His Own
21. Home and Friends
22. Water Birds
23. 'With Bewick, I Was Then Happy'
24. Back to Business
25. Shifting Ground
26. Fame, Fables, and Apprentices
27. Taking Stock
28. Salmon and Swallows
29. Sore Tired
Epilogue: Nature's Engraver
Abbreviations, Sources and Notes
List of Illustrations
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Jenny Uglow is an editor at Chatto & Windus. Her books include Elizabeth Gaskell: A Habit of Stories; The Lunar Men, winner of the PEN International prize for history; and Hogarth: A Life and a World.