The Library has just uncovered a fascinating tale behind one of its most undocumented treasures.
For a number of years we have had in our collection a book that had been ascribed the very basic and generic title ‘Miscellaneous Engravings’ by Arthur Pond and George Knapton. Lacking a title page, it had been assumed that this volume contained a disparate collection of unconnected engraved plates from these two artists, all dated to 1735.
A closer inspection revealed that actually the plates dated from 1732 to 1747 and were signed either “A Pond”, “AP”, “CK” or “C Knapton”. It became clear that the volume had been inaccurately attributed to artist George Knapton, when in fact it was the work of his brother Charles (1700-1760). A literature search revealed that Pond and Knapton had indeed worked together on an engraved series entitled ‘Prints in Imitation of Drawings’. Yet our volume also seemed to include prints from another series, different in style to the first.
We soon tracked down an article by Henry M. Hake (‘Pond’s and Knapton’s Imitations of Drawing’, Print Collector’s Quarterly, IX(4), 1922, pp.324-349). Hake notes that there is debate about whether these prints ever constituted a volume proper with title page, or whether they were issued in small batches each year. The extent is debatable but likely to be around 70 prints. Using a bound volume in the Cottonian Library, Plymouth, Hake concludes that the prints were issued in 2 series over a number of years. Plates dated 1732-1736 are by Pond and Knapton and belong to the ‘Imitations’ series. The British Museum adds that Pond concentrated on the 40 figure studies and Knapton on the landscapes, using drawings in collections such as that of Sir Hans Sloane. Wood-blocks for the colour washes were cut by William Pennock. An advertisement appeared in the Daily Advertiser in January 1734/5 for the first set of 20, which were published on the 2 April 1735. Hake assigns plates dated 1736-1747 to a second series ‘Caricatures’, by Pond alone. Subscriptions for this 2nd series opened in April 1736. Both series were priced at a guinea.
The only other bound sets we can locate are at Cottonian Library in Plymouth, Guildhall Library in London, and Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge. Several prints from the series reside in the British Museum, but they don’t possess a full set. Our volume came to us as a prize in the National Competition of the Science and Art Department, which suggests it wasn’t viewed as hugely rare at the time, in contrast to the paucity of examples around today.
Update June 2014: Sadly this volume was lost in the Mackintosh Library fire.