Thursday, 18 September 2014

More on a Popular 18C Tailpiece Design

In January I did a post (here) on an eighteenth-century printer's ornament design, which appears in two ornaments by Thomas Gardner (T03 and T04; used 1735–56) and another used by T. Saint in 1785.

The design features two crossed cornucopias (or cornucopiæ if you prefer; one containing fruit and one flowers), with a bird above each cornucopia and a number of bumble bees (four or two) hovering nearby. As well as containing a different number of bees, the two Gardner ornaments are easy to distinguish since the second has a large ribbon joining the crossed cornucopias.

In an update to my post I added a similar (and earlier) design: one with a pomander bouquet hanging beneath the crossed cornucopias from a large ribbon—a ribbon like the one in the second Gardner ornament (T04). This pomander ornament appears in a 1727 edition of Gulliver's Travels printed for Benjamin Motte.

Jonathan Magus has pointed out that a very similar pomander ornament appears in Henry Plomer, English Printers Ornaments (1924), 227 (no.109)—where it is described as having been owned by Cornelius Crownfield and dated to ca.1730—and Magus also told me that the same ornament appears in Joseph Clarke, A Further Examination of Dr. Clarke's Notions of Space, etc. (Cambridge: Printed for Cornelius Crownfield, 1734), 3 (A2r). (ESTC: n8727 [here]).

The ornament from Clarke’s A Further Examination on ECCO is not as clear as the one in Plomer’s English Printers Ornaments (on Internet Archive here), so I have given the latter here. (I searched through a dozen earlier Crownfield publications, but was unable to find an earlier example.)

But, after a little digging online, I discovered an intriguing connection between Crownfield and an even-earlier book containing a version of this same pomander ornament: The Works of the Right Honourable Joseph Addison, Esq; In four volumes (London: Printed for Jacob Tonson, 1721), on 1.32, 1.149, 4.2Pv. (ESTC: t89167 [here]; vol.1 online here; vol.4 online here). Crownfield was a subscriber to this popular set.

Of course, since Clarke’s A Further Examination was printed for, but not necessarily by Crownfield, it may only be a coincidence that a copy of this 1721 ornament appears in works he published in 1734. And, in fact, all three works here have imprints that only identify the financier (“Printed for”) not the printer (“Printed by”), which is frustrating. (I was surprised that nobody appears to have identified the printer of The Works of the Right Honourable Joseph Addison, since this is an important collection of a famous author’s works by a very prominent publisher.)

Returning to the three ornaments with a pomander bouquet, printed in 1721, 1727 and 1734, there is not a lot of differences between the two earliest ornaments, but I suspect that the 1727 ornament is a copy of the 1721 ornament—it is a little less sketchy, especially on the wings of the birds, the edges of the pomander and the branch protruding from the fruit cornucopia. And, since ornaments were often reversed in copying, and the 1727 image is reversed compared to the 1721 ornament, this tends to support the idea that 1727 ornament is the copy.

The 1734 ornament is also a copy (note the leaves beneath the bee at the far right in each ornament), tough not reversed; and, it seems to me, a better one. Unfortunately, I can only base my judgement on reproductions, since no copy of the book is in Oz. (Unlike the Addison, which is everywhere, including in my own collection.)

As Plomer explains, from early in the sixteenth century "and from thence onwards to the close of the seventeenth [actually, to the mid-eighteenth century], almost every head and tail piece and initial letter was copied and copied again without limit … and it is frequently very hard to distinguish between them" (28); and again: "Indeed, one can never be sure whether they are dealing with the original or only a copy, as most of these blocks were copied over and over again" (86).

And, since "baskets of fruits and flowers became a feature of nearly all head and tail pieces of the eighteenth century" (77) it is unlikely that the 1721 ornament is the original ornament from which all crossed cornucopia ornaments are derived. However, The Works of the Right Honourable Joseph Addison is a particularly ambitious, prestigious, prominent and beautiful publication and so it may be that this ornament was commissioned for it and that it is, therefore, the ur-ornament.

I am indebted to Jonathan Magus for this lead and I would be very pleased to hear from anyone else who has seen this ornament or the other ornament in use anywhere else, especially, and for obvious reasons, if it is in an earlier publication.

[UPDATE 23 June 2015: I have had to find a new image host and have decided to try If any of the above images fails to load, let me know and I'll look into it.]
[UPDATE: 2 July 2016: After my pictures have disappeared again, I have decided to give up on external hosts for large versions (1000px) of my image files, and will stick with the smaller images (500px) that Blogger is prepared to host.]