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View of Abbotsford

This view of Abbotsford from across the Tweed is one of a series of 108 steel engravings of drawings by William Westall. In 1803, when he was a student at the Royal Academy School, Westall had been chosen to accompany an expedition to Australia as its official artist. There he made some of the first European drawings of aboriginal cave art. Unfortunately many of these drawings were lost when Westall’s ship was wrecked on his homeward journey.

Most of the engravings were made by Edward Finden. Finden and his brother, William, were among the finest steel engravers of the time, and much in demand for book illustration.

Engraving on steel plate was more economical than on traditional copper plate. The harder metal allowed more copies to be printed before the plates were worn down and needed to be re-cut. In his preface, the publisher, Charles Tilt explains that three sets of copper plates would have been required for the same print run, multiplying production costs six or even eight times over.

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