A RARE WINDOW INTO GLORIOUS PRE-INDUSTRIAL ENGLAND.
17 ¾ x 33 ¾ in (45.1 x 85.73 cm). Copperplate engraving, titled on upper edge, annotated with description on lower edge and key on lower right (light browning, light crease down the middle, fading consistent with age).
This copperplate panorama presents one of the earliest topographical views of Britain, and provides a rare visual record of the historic town of Yarmouth before the upheavals of the Industrial Revolution. The annotated key on the lower right guides the viewer through many of the principal features of this seaside town. The inscription at the lower edge offers meticulous notes on the town’s history and local society.
The work opens onto vibrant and lively scenes. In the foreground, townsfolk from different walks of life lounge and mingle. The middle of the composition shows ships and boats sailing along a ribbon of water. In the background is a stretch of buildings and churches rendered with extraordinary depth and clarity. Spread throughout the view are intricately rendered human figures who can be seen along the bowling green, the quay, the water, and the road. There is a wealth of detail here for the eyes to feast on.
Samuel and Nathaniel Buck were brothers born in Yorkshire, England at around the turn of the 18th century. They published engravings of 428 views of the ruins of all notable abbeys and castles in Britain, along with four views of seats and 83 large general views of the chief cities and towns of England and Wales.
From 1728 to 1753, the two young men set out on an ambitious journey through England and Wales in order to engrave some of the country’s most important cities and towns (R. Hyde, 7). What resulted was one of the most significant topographical undertakings ever done in Britain. Prior to the Bucks’ copper plate panoramas, there were few depicted views of English cities and towns. Only a handful were included in the atlas by Braun and Hogenberg in their Civitates Orbis Terrurum, published in Cologne in 1581.
Faced with difficult road conditions, squalid accommodations, and horseback robbers, the Buck brothers' trips through England and Wales were harrowing and arduous. As Ralph Hyde notes, "In such conditions, their persistence and single-mindedness in pursuing their systematic recording of England and Wales year after year...is downright heroic" (R. Hyde, 25).
The present engraving of Yarmouth is one of the plates from the Bucks’ magnificent townscape series, Cities, Sea-ports, and Capital Towns. Yarmouth, so called because it sits at the mouth of the river Yare, has always been the gateway to the sea from the Norfolk Broads (a large area of navigable rivers and lakes), and boasts one of the largest marketplaces in Britain. It was also the key setting for Charles Dickens’s literary masterpiece David Copperfield. The supreme naval commander of the Roval Navy, Lord Horatio Nelson, was once a resident of the town.
References: Ralph Hyde, A Prospect of Britain, The Town Panoramas of Samuel and Nathaniel Buck, London, 1994.
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