Melton prior Institut


Linton- Life in the Collections

William M. Laffan and Members of the Society of American Wood-Engravers:

73) Engravings on Wood by Members of the Society of American Wood-Engravers.

New York 1887

The sumptuous folio consists of twenty-five full-page engravings by members of the Society of American Wood-Engravers (SAWE), among them noted exponents of the New School such as Timothy Cole, Gustav Kruell and Henry Wolf and all the members of the Original Workers in Wood (OWW): Elbridge Kingsley, Frank French, John P. Davis and W. B. Closson. However, the co-founder and first secretary of the organisation, Frederick Juengling, was missing. The most radical exponent of xylographic hyperrealism and its best theorist had resigned shortly before, and his absence becomes painfully evident.

The introduction and the descriptive texts were written by William Mackay Laffan. Laffan belongs to the most dazzling personalities of the American Aesthetic Movement. His versatile and unconventional activities were of invaluable worth for the rise of the New School. Laffan was an educated artist and illustrator, and became the chief ideologist of the legendary Tile Club. He had worked his way up from investigative journalism and theatre criticism to being one of the most successful publishers of the era. In his preface, he connects the surprising development of American wood engraving since the Civil War with the expansion of the publishing industry in the phase of the Gilded Age. He maintains that American engravers have developed a distinctive style that distinguishes them from their European counterparts, a style characterized by “its simplicity, its sincerity of purpose, and the cheerful self-effacement of the engraver.” In response to Linton’s attacks, Laffan states that the American engraver wouldn’t care about traditional rules, or about “his line”, - that he woudn’t even know that he has a line of his own, but would simply strive with all available means to come with his engraving as close as possible to the original.


Gustav Kruell


Gustav Kruell - Caroline Amelia Powell -  Timothy Cole -


John P. Davis - Elbridge Kingsley


Victor Bernstrom - F.S. King