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Owner reunited with artist's sketch book.


AFTER almost a century in America, the only-known sketch book of North East engraver and naturalist Thomas Bewick came home on Monday to a building he would have known.

Farmer and Bewick collector David Bolam has been reunited with the sketch book he bought after it was spotted at a book fair in San Francisco by Anthony Smithson, who owns the Keel Row bookshop, in North Shields.

The presentation took place at the Literary and Philosophical Society building in Newcastle. Bewick was a member of the society from 1799 - the year that the sketch book ends.

After acquiring the sketch book, David loaned it to London antiquarian booksellers Jarndyce, who used it as the basis for a new book with a commentary by leading Bewick scholar and author Nigel Tattersfield.

Anthony Smithson Thomas Bewick: The Sketchbook 1792-99, published at PS85 in a limited edition of 200 copies, and designed by another prominent Bewick authority Iain Bain, was launched at the Lit and Phil event.

It was presided over by a bust of Bewick, created from a facial plaster cast made in his lifetime.

The sketches are of birds, horses, a peacock and farm animals such as sheep, cattle, and pigs, and the pages also contain Bewick's notes on his travels in Northumberland and County Durham, and his expenses.

Bewick grew up at the small family farm at Cherryburn in the Tyne Valley and developed his love of animals and nature as he roamed the surrounding countryside as a boy. David Bolam was also raised in the Tyne Valley at Stocksfield and Riding Mill.

The son of a Newcastle-based solicitor, after leaving the Royal Grammar School in the city he decided on a life in farming.

"As youngsters we used to roam the countryside, doing the same things Thomas Bewick did," said David.

"It was a love of the countryside which attracted me to farming, where I am in contact with wildlife all the time."

Anthony Smithson said: "David is a very enthusiastic Bewick collector and it is fitting that the sketch book should go to a Northern farmer, given Bewick's love for the natural world."

Nigel Tattersfield, who travelled from London for the event, said: "The sketch book is remarkable and I was delighted when it was rediscovered. It is perfect that it is back in the North East.

"You can see from the notes of what he paid for breakfast, lunch and dinner and the coaching inns he stayed at, that Bewick did not stint himself on his travels."

Peter Quinn, chairman of the Newcastle-based Bewick Trust, said: "The rediscovery of the sketch book was a historic event and fills a gap in our knowledge of Thomas Bewick, at a time when he was gaining confidence as an artist."


Anthony Smithson

Pictures from the sketch book of Thomas Bewick, found in San Francisco by Anthony Smithson of the Keel Row bookshop

New owner David Bolam with Thomas Bewick's sketch book

Simon Greener

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Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Date:Nov 1, 2017
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