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public amusement. Novel and romance reading, in particular, has become its most immediate and powerful rival, as approaching nearest to it in the nature and vividness of the stimulus affolded to the feelings and imagination, and as having the convenient capability of administering that excitement in all times and all places. Nevertheless, theatrical representations, besides those more general attractions which they may be said to share with some branches of reading, have their peculiar charms, for which no absolute equivalent is elsewhere to be found, and which therefore seem to place their perpetuity beyond all reasonable doubt Besides that the perfect performance of a drama of the first order supplies the noblest enjoyment that art can offer to the mind through the medium of the senses, the pleasure which an audience derives from even an inferior dramatic production on the stage, is so much more vivid and immediate than reading can supply, as to free the former from all danger of being superseded by the latter. Nor are we inclined to lay much stress upon the favour extended by the more peculiarly aristocratic classes to the Italian opera, as a circumstance, having any fatal or very injurious tendency as regards the national drama. The entire subordination in this foreign entertainment of every truly dramatic feature to musical effect (not to mention the unintelligibility of the language to most English too. excludes it from the sphere of dramatic rivalry. , Mere fashion apart, and as far as real pleasure is concerned, it is music and dancing, not acting, that people go expressly to enjoy at the Italian opera. A much more evident, if not indeed an all-sufficient cause of the decline in question, is to be found in one remarkable result, which we must briefly state, of the monopoly of the higher dramatic performances possessed by the patentees of the two great winter theatres of the metropolis. The interpretation which for so long a period has been given to this privilege, of being not merely permissive, but exclusive, led at length to an enormous enlargement of the houses, with a view to obviate complaint as to want of accommodation for the increased and increasing metropolitan population. Now, it is plain that nature in fixing the average powers of vision and of hearing, has appointed certain limits beyond which the most scientifically constructed theatre for the performance of the regular drama cannot be conveniently nor even safely extended: yet this most important consideration has been altogether overlooked or neglected in the instances before us; and the inevitable and merited consequence has followed, in the desertion of the great houses, and of those higher and more genuine dramatic performances which they at once monopolized and marred by their very magnitude. “The falling off in the attendance of the publie was gradual, though somewhat fluctuating. There was a large play-going audience who could not readily give up their amusements at the theatre—persons to whom this kind of entertainment had become almost a necessary of life, which they relinquished very slowly and with great reluctance, even when they could no longer see and hear as they wished to see and hear. Some did, however, give up their enjoyments; some died; some fell off from other causes, and their places were not supplied by others; many found new modes of being entertained; and thus the play-going audience was gradually reduced, and the theatres were abandoned and forgotten by a very large portion of those who, under other circumstances, would have supported them.” Hence, at Covent-Garden theatre, for example, during the twelve seasons from its rebuilding in 1809 to the year 1821, as shown from the accounts of the theatre, by the manager himself, the whole receipts of the house, including the performance of pantomimes, for which indeed its enormous magnitude was better adapted, was unequal to the current expenses of ‘the legitimate drama' alone. Yet during that period the company was remarkably strong in excellent erformers. Captain Forbes, in his evidence before the ouse of Commons’ Committee on Dramatic Literature, in 1832, named the principal ones thus : “John Kemble, Charles Kemble, Cooke, Lewis, Incledon, Munden, Fawcett, Young, Jones, Blanchard, Emery, Liston; Mrs. Siddons, Mrs. Dickens, Mrs. C. Kemble, Mrs. H. Johnstone, Mrs. Gibbs, and Mrs. Davenport.' Nor was this an expensive company made up for the new house; for all, or nearly
* See an accurate and able exposition of the operation of the theatrical monopoly upon the interests of the proprietors aud lessees themselves, in the Monthly Magazine, of March, 1834.
all, of the performers thus enumerated had belonged to the old one. It should be further observed, that in this same period the income of the theatre declined, on an average of the last six seasons as compared with the first six, at the rate of nearly 21,000l. a year. The ten following seasons, however, when the theatre was held by Messrs. Kemble, Willett, and Forbes, present a much more deplorable account. Captain Forbes himself, in the evidence already quoted, states the loss at 20,000l. per annum. It also appears, from the statements of the interested parties themselves, that during the first twelve seasons the house was not, on an average, much more than half filled with spectators; and that during the last three of the seasons alluded to by Captain Forbes it was considerably less than half filled. The case of Drury-Lane theatre is so exactly parallel to that of Covent-Garden, as to require no separate illustration. That the relish of the public for theatrical representations in general, if diminished at all, has not declined in a degree at all proportionate to the decay in the prosperity of the larger establishments, is manifest from one fact, of which the proprietors themselves complain—the extraordinary success of some of the minor theatres during the same period, which had risen, it would seem, in much the same proportion as the attendance at the great houses has fallen off-showing, what indeed is plain enough without such demonstration, that people will more willingly attend even an inferior dramatic representation which they can see and hear perfectly, than a superior one which they cannot so hear and see. The remedy for this preposterous state of things lies with the legislature, by opening a free theatrical competition which shall lead to the erection of houses for the regular drama, capable of holding little more than half the number of spectators necessary to fill houses so large as those of Covent-Garden and Drury-Lane. A bill to permit the erection of other playhouses was, indeed, recently passed by the House of Commons, but was rejected by the Lords, owing in this case, we must suppose, to indolence or indifference in the hereditary House, rather than to hostility. This is, however, a question upon which the best interests of dramatic art, the care of the nation for its noblest scenic enjoyments, and a just regard for its character as to general cultivation in the eyes of the civilized world, should cause the public opinion to be expressed loudly, distinctly, and unceasingly, until the legislature does apply the remedy in lts power. U. these circumstances, the higher walks of dramatic composition could expect and have indeed received but little encouragement from the directors of the privileged theatres. Their first solicitude has necessarily been to fill the treasuries of their respective establishments; and this they have long been striving, though vainly, to effect by the production of all manner of dazzling and stunning spectacles, with performers two-footed and four-footed, which should at least possess, as they seem to have thought, the requisites of being visible and audible. But the few concluding suggestions which we proceed to make are offered in the firm conviction that the present injurious and degrading theatrical system ‘as by law established' is too monstrous in itself and too insulting to the national taste and reason to be much longer maintained; so that any dramatist who is capable of deserving, may rely upon shortly obtaining, the most effective medium for communicating his creations to the minds of his countrymen. One leading error, then, which still besets the practice of dramatic composition is directly derived from the grandest and most glorious event in the intellectual history of modern times, the revival of art and letters in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. . We may well excuse many of the greatest minds of that period if, in the ardour with which they applied themselves to the wondrous and long-hidden stores of physical and intellectual beauty which had suddenly opened upon them, their first irresistible impulse was to emulate the external graces of the antique models by close and devoted imitation—if often they mistook the form for the essence, or at least confounded them together. But it is not easy to extend the like indulgence to the artist of the present age. Let him, indeed, study the antients; but let him study them to the bottom. . . These time-bettering’ days demand that he should be able not only to raise his view above the maxims of Horace and Aristotle to that of the works from the consideration of which those maxims were formed—not only to see distinctly how antient criticism was merely a product of antient art—but also to perceive how that art itself had grown out of, and drew its vital energies from, the peculiar spirit of the artist's age and country. Thus it is that in order to give vitality to any modern imitation of the Grecian tragedy for instance, the Greek mythology itself must first be established in the belief of the auditory. Until the poet can first accomplish this, the noblest grace of conception, the highest beauty of language cannot render his work a living and breathing crea110n. The fundamental contrast between the religious principles of the antients and those of the moderns is found, on attentive examination, to be the leading source of the essential difference between the spirit of antient and that of modern art, especially of dramatic art. The more directly and exclusively any species of human composition is addressed to the feelings and imagination of a people, the more it must necessarily be influenced by the predominant character of that people's religious system, which, of all things whatever, has upon those feelings and that imagination the most uniform and the deepest operation. Now, among the primary characteristics of the Grecian system, those which especially demand our attention in relation to the present subject are these two—the absolute overruling power of fate, to which we have already had occasion to allude, and the absence of any clear motion or anticipation of a desirable future state. ere it more immediately to the present purpose, we might here show how thoroughly these two leading principles pervaded the philosophy as well as the poetry of the Greeks—how Stoicism, which we may call the art of endurance, was but a matured fruit of the former conviction, as Epicureanism, the economy of enjoyment, was of the latter—and that it is pretty clear that the most intelligent individuals of either profession united in their conduct these two great branches of practical wisdom. But Christianity reversed this order of ideas. It substituted for the impassive omnipotence of fate an almighty will, thus making passive fortitude give place to hope and fear; and further, to give to these two grand springs of imagination and enthusiasm, as well as action, the highest exaltation and most unlimited scope, many of those who expounded the Christian doctrines made the happiness of this life an object of contempt rather than of solicitude, representing its very miseries as conducive to the attainment of everlasting bliss. It was a necessary result of the exclusive rigour with which these notions were so long inculcated that the sciences which illumine life and the arts which refine it rapidly expired. Both knowledge and taste might well cease to be cultivated, when their very neglect was held up to mankind in the light in which so many fanatics have represented it, as one means of securing eternal happiness. And when the strictness with which these principles were interpreted for so many ages began to relax, and men began to think that some effort to ameliorate their worldly state was not inconsistent with the profession or practice of Christianity, the boundless dominion of hope and fear still gave that predominant hue to their imaginations and their passions which they have ever since retained. The fierceness of fanaticism has indeed subsided, but the firmness of philosophy has not succeeded it. Vain, then, is the attempt to exhibit on a modern stage ‘the unconquerable will’ of a Grecian tragic hero. #. antique spirit animated the Grecian spectator as well as the Grecian poet. But the modern poet has a romantic audience, and cannot have any other—an audience that sympathises not with the triumph of will over passion, but with ihat of passion over will. Well did Shakspeare know this when achieving his grandest tragic successes in Lear, Macbeth, Othello, &c., wherein we see, not the triumph of the hero over fortune and over passion, but that of malignant fortune and conflicting passions over the hero. In short, an intimate acquaintance with the pervading spirit of that public of his own time from whom his audience must be supplied, is the primary condition of all successful dramatic writing. It is indeed necessarily included in the perfect possession of that highest dramatic faculty which is essential to form a dramatist of the first order; for he must know, or have the sagacity to discover, the habits, mental as well as physical, of all classes and degrees of men, whether the §o be marked by difference of race, of country, of rank, of profession, or occupation. He
should have a nice perception of the moral distinction between the characters of either sex, and of the modifications which age produces in that of each individual. In fine, he should possess that pervading insight into all the elements of character and all their combinations—that Shakspearian instinct—which can feel, not only for, but with, every variety of human nature and human condition. Supposing that a writer could now arise, possessing the natural powers of a Shakspeare, what are the principles by which he should be guided in cultivating those powers so as to give them the greatest effectiveness in the present day? We should answer, Study, on the one hand, living man and his history; on the other hand, study Shakspeare; but study him on a juster and more liberal principle than has hitherto been followed; study him, above all things, to find how he studied human nature and human life;— to discover which thoroughly, his age, as well as himself, must be diligently and patiently examined; for the true use of Shakspeare to the artist of the present day is, by viewing his works in relation to his time, to divine, if possible, how Shakspeare would have written for an audience of the nineteenth century. We have neither the space nor the presumption to indicate how he would have done this; only we assert with the fullest confidence that such, and such only, is the mode of studying him calculated to aid the progress and elevate the standard of contemporary dramatic art. This observation, it will be seen, applies more especially to his selection and construction of character and plot, and to the i. tone of manners. As regards the amazing force, delicacy, variety, and flexibility of his expression, it is plain that they are much less liable to be studied in an erroneous sense. Happy the writer that should succeed in transfusing their essence into his own diction? But if a dramatic artist have not this all-comprehensive faculty, which seems given to few, it is, in the next place, important that he should be aware of his deficiency, and should perceive distinctly the nature and limits of the field which his powers really do embrace. Next, in short, to well, understanding his public, the dramatist should, if possible, correctly appreciate himself; then, at least, if he do not reach greatness in performance, he will escape absurdity in failure. Among those orders of dramatic power that fall short of that highest capability which we have endeavoured to characterize, the infinitely numerous and various degrees of deficiency are for the most part assignable to two principal causes: first, to the absence of a lively and delicate seiisibility, in some individuals to the serious, in others to the comic, elements of character and plot; secondly, to a limited acquaintance with the diversities of human character and fortune in general. The former deficiency seems in all ages to have been scarcely less prevalent than the latter; and among the early Greeks, as well as among the modern Europeans, was a most influential cause of the two grand dramatic circumscriptions of tragedy and comedy. It is also the defect which it is of the first and most urgent importance that the writer in whom it exists should be thoroughly aware of; since, of all failures in dramatic productions, the exhibition of false wit, and, above all, of false o is the most disastrous. The next great danger to e, shunned by the dramatist is that of attempting the delineation of a character, with the features of which, individual, professional, national, &c., he is not completely and accurately acquainted. The judicious selection or contrivance of a plot, which shall be neither languid on the one hand nor improbable on the other, neither too bare of incident nor too crowded with it, and at the same time shall have, if possible, some feature of decided novelty, is next to be attended to. The character and incident of any meditated piece being once clearly determined in the author's mind, the dialogue (supposing him to have the requisite command of diction) will then be a natural, and, as it were, spontaneous result of the series of circumstances under which his personages are brought into contact; and if the latter be really eonceived with iruth and distinctness, it may indeed be more or less flexible and harmonious, acGording as the author's mastery of expression is more or less complete, but it cannot fail to be varied and interestIng. Such are the conditions fundamentally requisite for suc.# in any department of dramatic composition. The next class of qualifications arises from an exact and thorough knowledge of the restrictions imposed upon the writer, both as to the literary extent of his composition and the mode of handling his subject, by the very nature of theatrical representation in general. In this respect, it is unquestionable that the peculiar fortune of Shakspeare in bein so long a manager as well as a dramatist, contribute materially to that remarkable theatrical fitness and completeness of effect which are found in all his mature productions. And finally, to pass for a moment from the business of dramatic writing to that of acting, let us observe that the theatrical manager, simply as such, ought, no less than the dramatic writer, to be a genuine artist, though in an inferior walk. If true taste and knowledge be wanting in, the manager, the best efforts of the dramatist's genius will be marred on the one hand; and on the other, histrionic excellence will neither be brought forward, cultivated, nor encouraged. - - ENGRAVING, the art of executing designs by incision upon plates of copper, steel, or other substance, for the purpose of obtaining therefrom impressions or prints upon paper. Although, in this sense of the term, the art is only coeval with that of printing, it has been practised with a more limited object from the earliest periods on record, in a similar manner and with similar instruments to those used at the present time. . That an art so abundantly capable of diffusing all kinds of knowledge should have been extensively practised from the most remote antiquity without its applicability to printing having been discovered, is so curious a subject of reflection, that it would be improper to omit giving in this place a slight sketch of its early history. - --On referring to sacred history we find in the writings of Moses rather detailed accounts of the character of the engraved works executed in his time, and of the substances whereon they were wrought; nor are we left in ignorance even of the names of the practising artists among the Israelites. Thus from the book of Exodus we learn that when Moses had liberated the Jews from Egyptian bondage, he was commanded to “make a plate of pure i. and grave upon it, like the engravings of a signet, holiness to the Lord.' He was also commanded ‘to take two onyx stones, and grave on them the names of the children of Israel according to their birth, with the work of an engraver on stone, like the engravings of a signet.” Both these passages distinctly imply the practice of gem and seal engraving, and also of engraving on metal plates, a knowledge of which, among other arts, was, without doubt, acquired by the Israelites during their captivity in Egypt; and specimens of the art as practised in that nation, perhaps at as early a period as that now under notice, still exist. In the book of Exodus also honourable mention is made of one Bezaleel, who appears to have united the callings of the engraver, the jeweller, and the lapidary; and it is said “that he was filled with wisdom of heart to work all manner of work with the graver, as well as to devise cunning works; to work in gold, and in silver, and in brass, and in cutting of stones to set them.” “And it was put into his heart that both he and Aholiab might teach them that were filled with wisdom to work all manner of work of the engraver.’ These few are selected from numerous other passages in Scripture as sufficiently attesting the practice of several branches of engraving at this early period: from the same source indeed we learn that some of them, as, for example, the engraving of signets, was practised at a time anterior to that of Moses. From Herodotus (v. 49) we learn that one of the earliest uses to which engraving was applied among the Greeks was the delineation of maps on metal plates. He says that “Aristagoras appeared before the king of Sparta with a tablet of brass in his hand, on which was inscribed every part of the habitable world, the seas, and the rivers; and to this he pointed as he spoke of the several countries between the Ionian Sea and Susa." The date of this event was 500 B.C. The hieroglyphics, and other remains of Egyptian en. graving are among the most antient relics now extant, and our own British Museum is particularly rich in specimens of them. Some of these are engraved on metal, and have been chiefly found in the chests or coffins of mummies. Mr. Strutt, in his Dictionary of Engravers, describes one of them very minutely. These engravings of hieroglyphics on metal, as well as those on the antient sarcophagi, are evidently
executed with similar instruments to those now in use; some of the lines narrowing downwards have clearly been cut with the lozenge-shaped graver now chiefly used; but other lines being of the same width through their whole depth, must have been produced with that species of graver called a scooper, still used for effecting broad inciSlons. There is, it must be confessed, some difficulty in determining of what substance the instruments were made with which they engraved on porphyry and jasper, no mode of tempering steel being now known by which it can be rendered sufficiently hard, and at the same time tough enough, to penetrate those substances. Mr. Landseer is of opinion nevertheless that the incisions were produced by patient perseverance with steel gravers impelled by blows with a mallet, and that the work was afterwards rendered smooth by friction with some hard substance pulverized (such o * powder of the corundum stone) and applied with east. But it is believed that some of the relics of Etruscan art in the British Museum are of as high antiquity as any existing specimens of engraving. Mr. Strutt gives a description of two of these, the one a parazonium or dagger sheath, on which is represented a story from Homer; the other is supposed to be a patera or instrument used by the priests in their sacrificial ceremonies. This latter is rather a specimen of sculpture than engraving, being embossed in high relief; but portions of the drapery and hair on the figures are evidently executed with the graver. Mr. Strutt is of opinion that the subject is the combat between Hercules and Hippolyte, the queen of the Amazons, ‘whose girdle he was enjoined by Eurystheus to unloose and take from her.' Others have supposed that it represents Minerva leaning on the head of Hercules and urging him forward in the paths of glory. It is apparently of brass, seven inches in diameter and about half an inch thick, and is declared by Mons. D'Hancarville to be, “without conuradiction, the richest and most remarkable remnant of antiquity, and of all the Etruscan bronzes the best executed and most happily preserved.' The circumstance of the inscription running from the right hand towards tho left furnishes additional testimony of its great antiquity. The dagger-sheath is thus described by Strutt – it is more than three inches and three quarters wide at the top, and decreases gradually to an inch and a quarter at the bottom. Its present length is eight inches and a half. The story engraved upon it appears to be taken fom Houer. The trophy at the bottom is symbolical of war." Above the t; two warriors are delineated with a woman, who seems to accompany them with great reluctance; which I conceive may represent Paris, with his accomplice, con: ducting Helen to the ship, in order to make their escape to Troy; and at the top, the messenger, a servant of Mene. laus, is relating to his lord the ungrateful behaviour of his Trojan guest. The figures are exceedingly rude, and seem to indicate the very infancy of the art of engraving, for they are executed with the graver only upon a flat surface, and need only to be filled with ink and run through a printingpress (provided the plate could bear the operation) to produce a fair and perfect impression. The print so produced, says Mons. D'Hancarville, would certainly be the most ano tient of all that are preserved in the collections of the curious, and demonstrate to us how near the antients approached to this admirable art, which in the present day forms so considerable a branch of commerce. e may indeed say, that they did discover it, for it is evident from the valuable relic before us that they only wanted the idea of multiplying representations of the same engraving. After having conquered every principal difficulty, a stop was put to their progress by an obstacle which, in a pearance, a child might have surmounted. Prints Whi indeed we have ourselves seen, taken with ink from Etruscan specula. of which there are several in the Museum, sufficiently prove the capacity of these early engravings to deliver impresslons. But while the world was so slow to discover a mode of taking impressions from engraved works, on substances offering natural facilities for such an object, the art of impressing more obdurate substances appears to have been understood and practised at a very early period in most parts of the civilized globe. This is evidenced in the plactice of numismatic engraving, or the art of sinking dies, from which coins are impressed, which is of very antient although uncertain origin. The mode of impressing the metal was by the stroke of a hammer, the die or engraving being cut on a sort of punch ; and it is remarkable that the operation of coining is performed in the same manner at the present time, in such parts of the globe as are backward in improvement. The first Greek coins were struck, according to some authors, at AEgina, by Pheidon, king of Argos, about eight centuries before the Christian aera. But this is a much less remote antiquity than what is ascribed to other antient coins. Mr. Landseer describes a gold coin in the collection belonging to the East India Company, to which the Hindoos ascribed an antiquity of 4000 years, and paid it superstitious homage. It is understood to have been dug up near the royal palace of Mysore, and was found among the treasures of Tippoo Sultan. In Rome, a mint every way commensurate with the greatness of the empire was established in the reign of the emperor Augustus. The extravagant fondness of the Roman matrons for engraved gems was satirised by Juvenal, and gave rise to the remark of Pliny, that they ‘loaded their fingers with princely fortunes.’ This profusion gradually extended itself to the wearing apparel of both sexes; and among the opulent classes almost every article of use or dress glittered with engraved gems. In the peninsula of India, also, the art of engraving on plates of copper appears to have been practised long before the Christian tera. It would appear that it was there customary to ratify grants of land by deeds of transfer actually engraven on plates of copper, as we now write them on skins of parchment. A copy of one of these very interesting relics is given with an English translation by Mr. Wilkins, in the first volume of the Asiatic Researches, page 123. It is in the Sanscrit language, and bears date twenty years before the birth of Christ. The engraving of signets, although considered by many to be rather a mode of sculpture than of engraving, is sufficiently allied to it to claim a slight notice in this place; the more so, as being of higher antiquity even than die-sinking. Mention is made of the use of signets in the sacred writings as early as the time of the patriarchs. They were then probably engraved on metal, and appear to have been used at this time, and at all subsequent periods, as instruments of ratification. When through the dark ages the knowledge of the Roman sealing substance was lost, recourse was had to lead, as a substitute for wax, to receive the impressions. The emperor Charlemagne wore his signet in the pummel of his sword; and it was in allusion to this as an instrument tfratification that he was accustomed to say, ‘With the o I will maintain that which I have engaged with the ilt. The state of engraving in our own country previous to the Conquest must not be entirely overlooked. Our knowledge of it is principally derived from such ornaments of dress as buckles, clasps, rings, and military accoutrements, sometimes found in antient tumuli. These frequently bear the marks of the graver: but if other proofs were wanting their coins would sufficiently attest their knowledge of the art; for although exceedingly rude, they are evidently impressed from engravings cut upon iron or steel. “Under the protection of that good and excellent monarch Alfred the Great (says Strutt), the arts began to manifest themselves in a superior degree, notwithstanding the load of in
testine troubles which destroyed the nation.” The works of
the Anglo-Saxon goldsmiths, who were the principal engravers of that day, were held in the highest estimation; and there is yet preserved in the museum at Oxford a very valuable jewel made by command of Alfred, and which was indeed one of the few treasures which he took with him when he retreated to the Isle of Athelney, where it was found. It is of gold, richly adorned with a kind of filligree work, in the midst of which is the half figure of a man, supposed to be St. Cuthbert. The back of this jewel is or. namented with foliage, and is pronounced to be very skilfully engraved, on the authority of Mr. Strutt, who has given a faithful representation of it in the second volume of the Chronicles of England. ‘Soon after the Conquest,” (according to the authority Just quoted, but we ourselves have never met with a specimen of earlier date than A.D., 1284,), ‘a new species of engraving was introduced into England, much more perfect in itself than any which had preceded it, and in every re. spect distinct from the work of the carver or chaser. The author alludes to the engraving of the sepulchral brass.
plates, so frequently found in our churches upon the totstones. Their economy, as compared with the carved innowhich preceded their introduction, o brought ther into such general use that very few churches in this cour: are without them. They are executed entirely with the graver, and in precisely the same manner that a cos For plate is now engraved that is intended to be printed from but as they were commonly exposed to the feet of the cogregation, the strokes were cut deep, that they might end or the longer, and consequently very neat workmanship is ret to be expected. Some of them, however, bear evidence of considerable ability in the workmen by whom they were exe cuted; but who these workmen were is quite unknown. I; has been conjectured even, that they were not produced it England at all, but executed by foreigners, who took British produce in exchange for their labours. However this may be, certainly no churches more abound with them than those of this country; but we have never met with more than one, even with a monogram, and that is insufficient to lead to a knowledge of the artist, who was not improbably, in this and in most other cases, an ecclesiastic. We now approach the period when the invention of printing gave to engraving a new direction, and produced an effect on the civilization of the world as astonishing as it is incalculable. The chief obstacle to printing had already been removed by the manufacture of paper from linen rags which had become generally known in Europe at the latter end of the fourteenth century. It must be remembered, as giving additional interest to this subject, that it is to a ce:tain class of engravers that we are immediately indebted for the first printed books, which were actually impressed from engraved wooden tablets—a method which was afterwards improved by substituting movable metal types; and tiss the arts of engraving and printing, at the same time that they constitute the sole means by which all kinds of knowledge may be extensively diffused, have placed it within the power of us all to possess the best thoughts of the best men in literature, science, and art. The first prints, as we have already intimated, were obtained from engraved wood blocks. is might naturally be expected, because the process of printing from such works is so simple and obvious, not requiring even a press, that persons of reflection are astonished, not that print.ng was invented so soon, but that it had not been discovered Sooner. To obtain impressions from the incised hollows of an engraved metal plate, on the contrary, is a much less obvious process, requiring the aid of a somewhat complicated machine, called a rolling-press. We need not wonder, therefore, that its discovery should have been later; and, indeed, the two processes are so very different, that when one was discovered it did not lead necessarily to the other. The earliest print with a date attached to it is one known as the St. Christopher, which is from a wood block, and dated 1423; but no impression from an engraved powe has been found with a date anterior to 1461. The art of engraving on metal plates for taking impressions on \aper was, according to Vasari, first practised by Maso or Thomaso Finneguerra, a Florentine goldsmith, about the year 1460; and although many writers have advocated the claims of Germany to the honour of the invention, it seems now to be conceded by nearly universal consent to Italy. The arguments of the Abate Luigi Lanzi, in his work on the history of painting in Italy, appear to us to be quite conclusive in confirmation of Vasari's opinion. However this may be, there has never existed a doubt, that the art had its origin in the workshops of the goldsmiths about the middle of the fifteenth century. Many of these goldsmiths were nie?!atori, or workers in niello—a mode of ornamental engraving usually performed on silver plates–the design engraved on which was afterwards filled in with a black composition, said to have been composed of silver and lead, which from its dark colour was called by the antients nigellum, a word curtailed by the Italians into niello. This being incorporated with the silver, that is, run into the engraved lines, produced the effect of shadow, and had very much the appearance of a print. ‘These nielli, says Lanzi, ‘were used as silver ornaments to articles of furniture, sacred vessels, such as holy cups and vases, to missals and other devotional books, and to reliquaries; as well as to profane purposes, as adorning the hilts of swords, table utensils, and many kinds of female ornaments.” Now
Maso Finneguerra was a worker in niello, and, according to Vasari, his discovery of the art of printing from engraved plates was the result of accident. It was usual with the artists who worked in this style to rub a mixture of charcoal and oil into the design engraved on the silver plate, that they might ascertain what would be the effect of the work previous to inlaying with the nigellum or mixture of silver and lead. It is said that on one occasion Finneguerra, having rubbed in the charcoal and oil, by way of thus proving his work, accidentally let fall upon it some melted sulphur, which upon removal brought with it the ink out of the hollows, and exhibited the exact impression of his work. It occurred to him to try if the same result would follow on a piece of moistened paper if laid over the design thus filled with ink, and pressed by a roller. The experiment succeeded; and the consequence was the gradual improvement of the new art both in his hands and those of Baccio Baldini, Sandro Botticelli, Antonio Pollajuoli, and Andrea Mantegna, to whom he communicated the process. Other accounts, however, make the discovery of chalcography much less the result of accident. According to these, Finneguerra, as well as other workers in niello of his time, were in the habit of proving their works by means of sulphur casts previous to the ultimate inlaying. For this purpose the engraved plate was pressed with earth or clay, upon the top of which some melted sulphur was then thrown, which on removal presented a fac-simile of the work on silver; into the lines of this sulphur cast something black was then rubbed, and the artist was thus enabled to form a correct opinion of the progress and perfection of his work. These facts are now placed beyond all doubt by the discovery of some sulphur casts from the nielli of Finneguerra, although there is no fully-authenticated impression upon paper from any plate engraved by him. Thus it would appear that the workers in niello were long advancing on the verge of this invention. Engraving was henceforth to constitute a distinct and honourable profession, or to have those energies further developed by the greatest masters of design which had hitherto only manifested a feeble existence in the workshop of the goldsmith. Our limits will not allow us to dwell on the merits or performances of those early masters, contemporaries of Finneguerra, to whose exertions we are nevertheless much indebted for the rapid approaches of the art towards excellence. Of these Baldini, Botticelli, and Andrea Mantegna, imave already been named among the Italians; and while we disallow the claims of the Germans to the discovery of copperplate engraving, we willingly admit that it was very early and very greatly improved in that country by Martin Schoen, Israel Van Mecheln, Leydenwurf, and Wolgemut. This is not surprising when we reflect that wood engraving had been first practised there, forty years earlier, and consequently that they had anticipated the Italians in a knowledge of printing-ink and the press; nay, it is remarkable that the first book printed at Rome (an edition of Ptolemy's Geography) was also illustrated by the first plate engravings, twenty-seven in number, which were maps, and were execused there by two Germans, Sweynheym and Buckink; the latter completing what the former left unfinished at his death. This work is dated 1478, but was commenced in ! 47?. One of the first books illustrated with designs on engraved plates was indeed the production of Italian artists; this was an edition of Dante's ‘Inferno,’ published at Florence in i481, and embellished with engravings by Baccio Baldini, after the designs of Botticelli. It is worthy of remark that these plates were not printed on the same paper as the letter-press, but blank spaces were left at the |. of each canto, over which the prints were pasted. As we believe the greatest, number of embellishments ever found in a copy of this work does not exceed nineteen, it is to be presumed that the intended series of illustrations was never completed. Omitting farther notice of those early masters who flourished at the end of the fifteenth, we shall pass on to the sixteenth century, at the commencement of which the art was carried to a very high degree of excellence; in Italy by Marc Antonio Raimondi, and simultaneously by Albert Dürer in Germany, and Lucas Van Leyden in Holland: a constellation of talent, the appearance of which marks the most memorable epoch in the history of engraving. Marc Antonio, like so many of his predecessors, was originally a worker in niello, in which art he was instructed by Francesco Francia, and acquired considerable skill; but quitting it for engraving on metal, he at first copied some
of the works of his master, and afterwards imitated those of Andrea Mantegna and Albert Dürer. He finally perfected himself in design under Raphael d'Urbino, who appreciated his talents, so highly as to lend him every assistance; he even permitted his own grinder of colours to manage the press for him, that he might devote his time wholly to the more intellectual parts of the art. -The great merit of Marc Antonio lay in the correctness and beauty of his outline: so great is his excellence in this respect, that it is believed that Raphael himself assisted him with his own hand on the copper. The character of his heads is admirably preserved, and the extremities marked with the truest precision; but his lights are not enriched with that variety of fainter tones which indicate local colour, nor do his prints possess the harmony arising from the chiaroscuro or the beauty of reflex light. The consequence is somewhat of monotony in his darks and baldness in his lights, which produce an appearance of hardness; but the rude state in which he found engraving must be remembered in forming an estimate of his merits, nor should it be forgotten that the then recent disinterment of the great works of antique sculpture and the fame of Raphael and of Michel Angelo rendered form and character the great objects of pursuit, as they were indeed at that time, from these causes, thought to be the only ones worthy of consideration. Thus happily favoured with the patronage, instruction, and friendship of the ‘divine Raphael,” he devoted himself almost exclusively to engraving after his matchless productions; and although, as we have seen, his prints want so many of the blandishments and conventionalities of more modern art, and are more deficient in these respects even than his contemporaries of the school of Germany and Holland, yet such was the truth and purity of his outline, that it is doubtful if the works of Raphael have ever since been rendered with so much justice to their author. M. Antonio died about 1527. Our space will not allow even a list of the engravers and painters who engraved or etched (a mode of engraving hereafter to be described) who flourished in Italy during the two centuries which succeeded the death of Marc Antonio: the principal of these however were Agostino de Musis, Marc de Ravenna, Caraglio, Giulio Bonasoni, and Enea Vico, all pupils of Marc Antonio; Georgio Ghisi of Mantua and his relatives Diana and Adam Ghisi, Cornelius Cort, &c. &c. But although by these and others the executive part of the art was continually though slowly improved, their powers in design or drawing, (in which the chief excellence of the school at all times consisted) declined, at least as fast as they advanced in mechanical skill, until at length in the 18th century the intellectual and mechanical excellencies of the art were united in the works of Jacomo Frey; and from that time the credit of engraving in Italy has been well maintained by succeeding artists. The names of the principal painters who have practised engraving in Italy are Agostino Carracci, Stephano della Bella, Spagnoletto, Guercino, Salvator Rosa, Claude Lorraine, Swaneveldt, Canaletti, Pilanesi, &c. &c. In Germany engraving made more rapid strides towards excellence, in the mechanical parts of it; and at the commencement of the 16th century appeared Albert Dürer, a man whose universality of talent extended the boundaries of every department of art, and carried all to a degree of perfection previously unknown in that country. The defects of Albert Dürer, who was a painter as well as an engraver, were the defects of the school to which he belonged; the dry and Gothic taste of which is equally observable in their paintings and engravings. But in all that relates to the executive part of the art of engraving the works of Albert Dürer deserve the highest praise. The Italian artists having the finest specimens of antique sculpture constan, ly before their eyes, appear to have been very early impressed by them with a sense of the beauty of flowing lines; and perhaps nothing is so well calculated to convince us of the advantages to be derived from the study of the antique sculptures as a comparison of the works of German and Italian artists. The draperies, for instance, in the German works, are represented by abrupt rectangular forms, and have been well described as snapf, rather than folded : resembling the appearance of crumpled-up paper more than drapery. The pains which they evidently bestowed upon their works forbid us to ascribe that to want of attention which was certainly the result of a vitiated taste in design.