Have your very own Thomas Bewick print

The Dunkey Sheep

Please note: due to the Coronavirus crisis, we're currently unable to take or process any orders for Bewick prints.

Thomas Bewick was one of the most innovative artists Britain has ever produced. With a career spanning over six decades, he created a series of engraving blocks that he used to illustrate his books. Prints made from these original 200-year-old blocks are now available to purchase from Cherryburn.

Bewick created the wooden blocks between around 1790-1818 to use in his books; A History of British Birds, A General History of Quadrupeds, and Aesop’s Fables; or as the illustrious Vignettes. He personally carved each of them and they therefore must be preserved, but their purpose is to create intricate pieces of art, which is why many are still used to print with.

The prints available are produced by Master Printer Christopher Bacon in order to do justice to Thomas Bewick. To preserve the centuries-old blocks, only 20 prints per block are commissioned each decade, giving each one an exclusive status. Prior to printing, the condition of the block is carefully examined to determine whether it can still be used without causing damage, in which case it will be decommissioned. As a result, each block can only produce a limited and unknown number of prints in its lifetime. 

As opposed to a copy of a painting for which an artist’s work is merely mimicked, these prints are actually made by the very blocks that Bewick himself created through the same process, meaning that each print has been indirectly crafted by him. What’s more, no two prints are the same and each features its own individuality and unique details. It is this idiosyncrasy that gives these prints character and a degree of originality.

Below are the prints currently available from Cherryburn. They can bought either framed (£100) or unframed (£50), and every penny goes back into caring for his birthplace and continuing his legacy. If you would like to purchase one of these distinguished pieces, please visit Cherryburn, call on 01661 843276 or email cherryburn@nationaltrust.org.uk *

*We can post prints out to you but there is a £5 postage and packaging fee. We can only post unframed prints.

Crabs, rocky sea shore

*Limited quantities* Crabs, rocky sea shore

From Aesop Fables First edition 1818 and Second edition 1823. Setting a coastal scene, there's two crabs and a starfish by the sea-line, with a detailed background, all within a detailed frame.

A Bewick print

The Ichneumon General History of Quadrupeds First edition 1790

Quadrupeds: "This animal, in Eygpt, is domestic, like the Cat..." Hence the pyramids in the background of this illustration. Today we would call this animal the Eygptian Mongoose. Bewick fails to mention that In Egyptian mythology, Ra would metamorphose into a 24 metre tall ichneumon to fight the evil god-snake Apopis.

A Bewick print

The Sow of the Improved Breed General History of Quadrupeds Fifth edition 1807

Throughout the Quadrupeds Bewick references the new agricultural knowledge of the late eighteenth century. This "Improved" breed of pig was a recent British development from a Chinese source. The sow in the illustration belonged to a farmer in County Durham. Bewick's text refers to China, New Guinea, the South Sea Islands and America. This is a very modern pig from the era of exploration and discovery.

A Bewick print

The Large Rough Water Dog, General History of Quadrupeds, First edition 1790

Bewick tells us that it "Is web-footed and swims with great ease.." The illustration features a tiny hunter in a sailing boat. There is a flock of birds on the wing and a dog is in the water, swimming with great ease no doubt.

The Caracal

The Caracal

A wild cat native to Africa, the Middle East, Central Asia, and India, characterised by its long, tufted ears. From General History of Quadrupeds First edition 1790

The Fulmar

*Limited quantities* The Fulmar

A common sea-bird. From British Birds: Water Birds First edition 1804

The tanrec

*Limited quantities* The Tanrec General History of Quadrupeds First edition 1790

Also known as a tenrec, this animal belongs to the Tenrecidae mammal family. Tenrecs share similarities with hedgehogs and shrews.

Interior with man and ferret

Interior with Man and Ferret

From Aesop Fables First edition 1818 and Second edition 1823. A man catches a weasel in his pantry. They debate whether the man should spare the weasel. The weasel is not spared. Bewick likens the weasel to the self-serving thief, the hangman and the scurrilous writer (journalist)!

An image of Jupiter and the Ass

Jupiter and the Ass

From Aesop Fables First edition 1818 and Second edition 1823. In this short tale the ass repeatedly asks Jupiter to change its master. The ass works in turn for a gardener, a potter and a tanner. Each time the new master proves to be worse than the last. The tanner will work the ass to death and then use its hide. Bewick explains the moral as: “The man that carries about him the plague of a restless mind, can never be pleased; he is ever shifting and changing, and in truth not weary of his condition as of himself.”

Fortune and the Boy

Fortune and the Boy

From Aesop Fables First edition 1818 and Second edition 1823. A person slept by a well. Fortune, not wanting to be blamed for a drowning, saved the person from folly.

The Little Grebe

The Little Grebe British Birds: Water Birds First edition 1804

As the name suggests, this bird is the smallest of the grebe family. Little grebes have a rounded body and a fluffy rear end.

Man and his two wives

Man and his Two Wives

From Aesop Fables First edition 1818 and Second edition 1823. A man had two wives; one older and one younger. Being vain, the younger pulled white hairs from the man’s head and the older pulled dark. He went bald.

The Dunkey Sheep

The Dunkey Sheep

Also known as Dwarf sheep. From General History of Quadrupeds First edition 1790.

The Marmot

The Marmot

The Lapland Marmot (a giant squirrel). From General History of Quadrupeds First edition 1790