James Northcote: Five Fables Reprinted
. Friends' Press, Fitzwilliam Museum , [s.n.] . Cambridge
PN982.N58 1988 (Carlson Fable Collection, BIC bldg)
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This 23-page pamphlet reprints five fables from the Chiswick Press original of 1833 with eight woodcuts by apprentices of Thomas Bewick and James Northcote, with a facsimile of a letter by Bewick relating to the book. Jaffé's introduction describes Northcote's apprenticeship to Sir Joshua Reynolds and his unusual method for visual composition in his old age. It seems he collected a large number of images of animals which he had cut out. These he would maneuver on a piece of paper and, when he had finally selected from them, he would paste them down. Then he would add a few pen or pencil touches, and William Harvey would do the rest. For each fable there was a head piece, a figurative capital, and and tail piece, the latter often recalling a familiar parallel Aesop fable. The illustrators are Charles Gorway, Charlton Nesbit, Ebenezer Landells, John Jackson, John Thompson, and Thomas Williams. The five fables are The Fairy Gift, The Monkeys, The Parrot and the Singing Birds, The Young Lady and the Pig, and The Bee and the Butterfly. It has been long since I have read Northcote. So the first fable surprises me when a mother, given three wishes for her newborn son, asks with all three that he have impudence. An illustration I have seen frequently graces The Monkeys, which observes that monkeys prefer to steal each others' food--and make a mess of it--to eating their own. The parrot, critic of everyone else's song, is asked to sing and declines with the line I whistle, but I never sing. A pig was kept as a pet by a young woman and groomed carefully; when he once saw a pool of mud, he went straight for it and lost all his privileges. It turns out that the butterfly has travelled a great deal but learned nothing, as the bee points out to him. A very nice little booklet.