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Archival description

The small Bewick wood block, etc. group consists of the contents of a specially-made box, approx. 6" wide by 7" tall by 2" deep.  The box was created by Chicago avocational private printer R. Hunter Middleton, preserver and printer of Thomas Bewick's late 1700s-early 1800s wood engraved blocks. The block is Bewick's "Crane Hawking" vignette, as identified by Middleton on a small print.  This print is identified by Ian Bain (1981, p. 9) as "A heron taking an eel..." which was first published in British Birds, 1847.

Associated items in the box include most notably Middleton's innovative make-ready for printing this block, a build-up of layers of carefully cut layers to force the print page into the grooves of the engraved wood. There is also correspondence with the former owner, Everett Sentman of Lake Forest, and a 1944 holiday card with an engraving from a block of Bewick's printed by Middleton. The bulk of the box's contents though consists of fifty prints by Middleton of the "Crane Hawking"/"Heron taking an eel" vignette and fifty folders for them.

One print in a simple stiff paper gray folder, 10" by 6.25," folded in thirds, with a window in the third section, folded under the first third. In the window is the print, a study of roman capitals Middleton "later used used" for "hand engraved boxwood bookplates." The block had been engraved in 1953, and though some proofs were made, no edition was printed prior to this one for a Caxton Club keepsake. (Taken from the colophon, on the back, the verso of the middle section of the folder.) The print is initialed in pencil in large fine capitals, centered under the print. in smaller pencil are the date "1985" immediately under the print block on the right and "56/275" in the same size and position on the left. The folder was printed at the Turtle Press of Chicago printer Bruce Beck.

Proofs of Prints

<p style="margin-top:0in;margin-right:0in;margin-bottom:9.6pt;margin-left:0in"> <span style="font-size: 8pt; font-family: Verdana, sans-serif;">Discarded pulls of prints from Bewick blocks recovered from Middleton's waste basket on a visit to his Chicago studio, 4722 Dover Street, ca. 1980. <o:p></o:p></span><p style="margin: 0in 0in 9.6pt;"> <span style="font-size: 8pt; font-family: Verdana, sans-serif;">The pulls, of three different large and detailed blocks, show Middleton at work varying the inking of areas of the designs, probably with variations in his group of layers of his make-readies. <o:p></o:p></span>

US ILfC SC/040 · Collection

This collection is a small group of materials relating to R. Hunter Middleton and his work.  In addition to one engraved Bewick wood block, there is a group of discarded (and rescued) proofs of Bewick prints from blocks, a small group of prints and correspondence, a Caxton keepsake "Alphabet in Process" (1984-85), and  a file of reference material.

Middleton, R. Hunter (Robert Hunter), 1898-1985
US ILfC SC/040-B01/F02-id5365 · Item · Feb. 6, 1973
Part of R. H. Middleton's Thomas Bewick Wood Block and Collection 1799-1985 1799, 1985

One page autograph letter signed "Bob M." The stationery is a simple sheet of onionskin with the name and address upper left. Addressed "Dear Everett," it implies an earlier conversation to which this a follow-up in writing detailing an offer of a block and related work by him for a sum of $100 (this was he year the U.S. devalued the dollar by going off the gold standard, and this price reflects the earlier exchange rate of $32 per ounce of gold). He details what he is offering. the box and lid are "made form binders board covered with cloth an[d] gold stamped." there will be fifty prints from the block. The letter is signed "cordially." Sentman, who lived on Illinois Road near the College in the 1970s, was editor at United Educators, Lake Bluff. This was purchased after his retirement.

US ILfC SC/040-B01/F02-id5369 · Item · n.d.
Part of R. H. Middleton's Thomas Bewick Wood Block and Collection 1799-1985 1799, 1985

A cardboard binding, 5 1/2" by 4 1/2" and with a taped spine, light olive color. Inside are five pieces of print paper imprinted with the block, but cut out in narrowing irregular circular patterns to allow for more impact on the paper from the inner parts of he engraved block. One complete print also present.