Category Archives: Engravings

Joshua Kirby – Printseller

The plates for Joshua Kirby’s Twelve Prints of 1748 were engraved by Joseph Wood of Covent Garden. Kirby’s connection with Wood went back several years at this point. In June 1745, he advertised for sale in the Ipswich Journal, “A Curious Print of Mr. Garrick, from an original Painting by Mr. Pond, engrav’d by Mr. Wood,” at a shilling each (cited in Whitley, Gainsborough, 18). Garrick had made his stage debut in Ipswich in 1741, and by 1745 was very well known.

Later, Kirby was to be found selling Hogarth’s prints of Beer Street and Gin Lane.


Whitley, W.T. (1915). Thomas Gainsborough. London: Smith, Elder, & Co.

Hogarth’s Disciple

Another of Paul Sandby’s satires against William Hogarth and his line of beauty in 1753 was The Analyst Besh-n in his own Taste.

Joshua Kirby is the alarmed figure on the right, identified in the caption as `a Disciple droping the Palate and Brushes thro’ concern for his Masters forlorn State’.

It is probably worth noting that none of this prevented Paul Sandby and his brother Thomas from both subscribing to Kirby’s Method of Perspective.

Hogarth’s Fiddler

When William Hogarth published his book, Analysis of Beauty, in late 1753, he was swiftly subjected to an astonishingly virulent satirical print campaign by Paul Sandby, one of the most accomplished satirical artists of the time after Hogarth himself. Well-known as a close associate of Hogarth, Joshua Kirby was depicted in several of these prints. In the one below the fiddler standing on the stage behind the “Mountebank” Hogarth is usually identified as Kirby.

The caption reads, in part, “W: his Fidler standing in the Line of Beauty”.

Click through to the British Museum site for a larger image.

John Bevis

John Bevis (1695—1771) was a doctor and astronomer. He was a long-time friend of Edmund Halley, took a keen interest in John Harrison’s development of the chronometer, was a friend of the mathematical instrument maker George Graham and worked closely with Nevil Maskelyne, the Astronomer Royal.

Bevis went up to Christ Church Oxford in 1712, gaining his BA in 1715 and MA in 1718. He then travelled on the Continent and acquired his medical degree. He practiced as a doctor periodically, but it seems that his real love was astronomy. He was the first person to observe the Crab Nebula and last to see one planet occulting another when he witnessed Venus eclipse Mercury.

He published numerous papers in the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society from 1737 until his death, starting with observations on a comet. He set up a personal observatory at Stoke Newington, outside London and in the late 1730s he had an intense period of observation, filling three folio notebooks with observations in one year. Bevis prepared Halley astronomical tables for publication in the late 1740s, while also working on his gorgeous, but ill-fated, star atlas, the Uranographia. The book had 51 high-quality engraved star charts, each dedicated to a notable personage (the Princess of Wales got Virgo, Nathaniel Bliss, Professor of Geometry at Oxford, got the Triangles). Alas, it was never published as the publisher went bankrupt. Some impression were taken of the plates and a few copies exist. The Linda Hall Library in Kansas City has a fine digital reproduction of their copy. The publisher had taken (expensive) subscriptions in for several years and the fact that nothing came of the project was a sore point for Bevis for the rest of his life.

After the famous Lisbon earthquake, he prepared a compendium on The History and Philosophy of Earthquakes, and in 1759 was one of only two people known to have observed Halley’s Comet on its first predicted return. In the 1760s, he was one of the people asked to do the computations related to the test of Harrison’s chronometer after its trip to Barbados, and in 1765 he was (finally) elected as a Fellow of the Royal Society, becoming its foreign secretary the following year. He was appointed to the Royal Society’s committee to plan for the Transit of Venus in 1769, and was a proponent of Captain Cook. He himself observed the transit from Joshua Kirby’s house in Kew with Kirby acting as time-keeper, publishing his observations in the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society. He is said to have died as a result of a fall from his telescope when checking the time after observing a transit.

See also:

Transits of Venus


Ashworth, W.B. “John Bevis and His “Uranographia” (ca. 1750)”, Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society 125 (1) (1981), 52—73.

Wallis, R. “John Bevis, M.D., F.R.S. (1695-1771): Astronomer Loyal”, Notes and Records of the Royal Society of London
36 (2) (1982), 211—225.

The Modern Druid

In the 18th century, Britain’s security and prosperity depended on ships; the Navy for security, and shipping trade for prosperity. Continuance of the fleets of shipping depended on adequate timber supply, and most especially, oak.

The English Oak had long been a symbol of rural strength and solidity, but now it was taking on a patriotic tinge as well. Taking 150 years to reach maturity, capable of living for a thousand years, towering to 125 feet, and providing shade and shelter under its widespread branches, the oak was a well-known and loved species. It was also a vital one. A new ship could consume 2000 trees.

The natural widespread growth of the oak not being particularly conducive to ship timber, there was a need to shape the growth of the trees for straightness and height. To the rescue in 1747 came James Wheeler, Gent, of Higham in Suffolk with “The Modern Druid, containing instructions founded on physical reasons, confirmed by long practice, and evidenced by precedents, for the much better culture of Young Oaks more particularly, than what they have been subject to by any late discipline: with various reflections interspersed on the occasion.” He addressed his book “To the nobility and the gentry of Great Britain, Proprietors of Woods, Chaces, Wasts, Parks, or Pastures, or any kindly Soils Productive of the OAK”

Wheeler waxed loquacious, even by eighteenth-century standards. Here is one sample sentence, from the opening of Chapter III:

The state and also intended manner of my proceeding being before intimated, it will not be improper to mention an experiment, to corroborate a very material article advanced in the foregoing Chapter: That I may leave no scruples behind unobviated; which otherwise may be brought in evidence of my weakness—instead of my displaying the wisdom of nature—Wherefore I attempted to make proof statically, whether those very Oaks last mentioned, by means of having had their bark-slit on bough debarking; did grow the more in their circumference, and latitudinal girt than otherwise they would have done.

It is a curious book, a mixture of careful and specific advice, philosophical ruminations, excessive disquisition on the subject of oak sap, and a paean to the oak as a way for landowners to preserve the value of their holdings. His main argument is that lopping off lower branches to encourage straight growth does terrible damage to a tree (at least in the case of the oak) and recommends bark-cutting (stripping off a couple of inches of bark from a branch to let it die off slowly) and bark slitting (cutting vertical slits in the bark of the trunk to relieve the excess sap).

I know almost nothing about Wheeler. In the book, he mentions his poor health, and, although he did not die until 1763, his will was written a full ten years earlier, and makes much of his maidservant for nursing him through his “several illnesses”. He left the bulk of his property to his “kinswoman” Elizabeth, wife of Thomas Doyly of Dedham in Essex, and makes particular note of the disposition of his woods and timber. Presumably he had no children of his own.

The text of the book is largely unrelieved by ornamentation, but it does have a fine frontispiece showing the oak as “The Glory and Protection of Britain”. The plate was engraved by James Mynde from a picture by Joshua Kirby.