William Newman

(Case 12, nos. 292-324)

This section shows the work of a prolific early 19th-century engraver, William Newman. Most of his trade cards have the imprint 27 Widegate (or sometimes Wide-Gate) Street, Bishopsgate, one (no. 313) has the address 11 Beech Street. The two trade cards of A.M. Cohen (nos. 313 and 314) show not only a change of address for Cohen, but for Newman too. Another example of the Beech Street address in the exhibition is the card for Chilcott at no. 241.

In the John Johnson Collection there are over 100 examples of the work of Newman. Little is known of him except his floreat dates (1802-23). The firm was established in 1790 (possibly by his father) and continued well into the 19th century, at the Widegate Street address. Although much of his work was London-based, notably in the immediate area of Bishopsgate and of Spitalfields, Newman’s reputation spread more widely. There are examples in the Collection of cards engraved by him for tradesmen in Andover, Gravesend (no. 309), Lechlade, Maidstone, Wisbech, Yarmouth (310), etc. Two (variant) cards for Bowers and Bucklin (nos. 311 and 312), importers of English goods, were even distributed in Providence, Rhode Island, USA.

William Newman was a freemason, joining Lodge no. 300 (now the Lodge of Stability) in March 1805. Many of the trade cards he engraved display masonic symbols, including one of his own cards, in the Heal Collection at the British Museum. Examples displayed here are at 293-95 and 309. He also engraved, printed, published and sold masonic certificates and engraved masonic tickets.

Newman was a master of accurate representation: the detailed engraving of his work and the inspiration he derived from depicting products of, or themes associated with, each of the trades represented are remarkable. However prosaic the product, Newman invariably rendered it with elegance. Although some examples reveal that he produced blanks (nos. 320 and 226) or reused plates (nos. 311-2, 313-4 and 322-4), these were always meticulously tailored to specific trades. Indeed, a careful look at the two cards for A.M. (or A. & M.) Cohen (and most of the trade cards where the plate seems to have been reused) show many subtle changes both to the text and to the images. In his work for customers, he rarely repeated himself. Other examples of the work of W. Newman can be seen at 39, 41, 225, 226, 241 and 263).

Thanks to William Newman and engravers like him, we have many detailed representations of stoves and grates, plumbing, tools, corsets, harness and stocking-makers’ machinery, furniture (see no. 39), coaches etc.—the iconography of trade in the first quarter of the 19th century.

Case 12 Supplementary Images

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