Melton prior Institut


Linton- Life in the Collections

Anon. (John Antes LaTrobe / William Harvey)

13) The Solace of Song. Short Poems suggested by scenes visited on a Continental Tour, chiefly in Italy.

London 1837

The collection of religious tourist meditations is attributed to John Antes LaTrobe, a canon of the Church of England and writer on sacred music. The significance of the book lies in William Harvey’s illustrations, which in terms of graphic refinement marked a new departure for wood engraving.

Linton reprinted several examples in his Masters of Wood Engravings. Half of the total of twelve engravings came from John Orrin Smith. The former architect and investor had been re-trained after his bankruptcy in the xylographic profession by Samuel Williams and William Harvey. The talented engraver soon founded his own workshop and became one of the busiest engravers of his time, whose work was also valued by his numerous foreign clients. He executed commissions for the French workshop of Louis-Henri Brévière and supported the first xylographic workshop in Germany, which was established in 1839 in Munich by a pupil of Brévière, the illustrator Kaspar Braun, who became one of the most important German publishers with his Münchener Bilderbogen and with Wilhelm Busch’s works.

Linton had occasionally worked for Orrin Smith from 1836 onward, and in 1842 he took him into partnership. The collaboration proved to be a very prolific and friendly one, although the hazy, atmospheric style of Orrin Smith, his characteristic high finish and tonal modulation represented just the opposite of the expressive virile conception of his junior partner. „In landscape John Orrin Smith surpassed every one for tone and refinement: his best instances in the Solace of Song (...). They mark the extreme of the imitation of copper, or steele, to which wood engraving had long been tending. Allowing tone to be more important than expressiveness of line or the distinct assertion of form, these cuts may be considered perfect. I look on them as the best of an essentially false style.“ (The Masters of Wood Engraving)


Two of the Solace engravings originate from Orrin Smith’s instructor, the former house painter and self-taught engraver Samuel Williams. Williams had been a collaborator of the late William Hone and had executed most of the engravings of his Year Book series. „His manner is peculiarly his own, unborrowed and distinct from all others. In his cuts he prefers a brillant effect, the sharp accentuation of blacks with fine grey tints to enhance their brightness; but his line is always thin and meager, without beauty or distinctive character, and he depends for effect too entirely on contrast.“ (The Masters of Wood Engraving)

One of the most impressive Solace engravings had been executed by William Henry Powis, a coeval xylographer, in whose workshop Linton had engraved from 1834 until his premature death in 1836. His workshop did many contract works for John Jackson, among them numerous cuts for The Penny Magazine. Linton held Powis’ landscape engravings for the best „for their size up to that time engraved in wood (...) Most noticeable in Powis’ work is that everything has been cut at once. In this he differed notably from Smith, who depended on after-toning.“ (The Masters of Wood Engraving)