R. H. Middleton's Thomas Bewick Wood Block and Collection 1799-1985 1799, 1985

Identity elements

Reference code

US ILfC SC/040

Level of description



R. H. Middleton's Thomas Bewick Wood Block and Collection 1799-1985 1799, 1985




Name of creator

Biographical history

R. Hunter Middleton was born near Glasgow, Scotland in 1898 and came to the U.S. at the age of ten, living in Alabama where his father managed a coal mine. He studied painting at the Art Institute of Chicago and, upon graduation in 1923, began designing new typefaces for Chicago's Ludlow Typograph Company. Ten years later he became art director for the firm, and he continued this relationship until 1970.

Middleton was a member of many typographic arts societies and he joined the Caxton Cub in 1945. He became an honorary member in 1984.

During World War II he formed his Cherryburn Press when he acquired a large shipment of Thomas Bewick engraved blocks that came to Chicago. The Newberry later acquired many of these blocks as gifts from Middleton.

Thomas Bewick was born at Cherryburn House, Mickley, Northumberland, near Newcastle, in 1753. Thus, Middleton's press was named for this avocational interest in Bewick, to which he turned with great seriousness of purpose after his "retirement" from Ludlow in 1970. That very year the Newberry Library published Cherryburn's "monumental" one-hundred Bewick print collection. Middleton's work encouraged a revival of scholarly interest in Bewick's work and his medium, wood engraving.

Middleton's contribution to the printing of the plates, in addition to his preservation of them, was his make-readies that layered paper to press the print page into the grooves cut by the engraver bringing Bewick's past work to life.

Middleton was generous about entertaining visitors at his press in the basement of his northside Chicago home, among them the late David Woodward, who continued some Cherryburn Press work in Madison, WI.

In the 1960s through the early 1980s, Middleton was the recognized "dean" of Chicago classic book design. One project with a Lake Forest connection was his design guidance for Susan Dart's 1984 book, Market Square (Lake Forest-Lake Bluff Historical Society).

Name of creator

Biographical history

Content and structure elements

Scope and content

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.

System of arrangement

The collection is stored in one box.

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      Custodial history

      Immediate source of acquisition

      Purchase, later 1970s.

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      Related archival materials

      The archives of Susan Dart's Market Square book project, published 1984, are in Special Collections, in the Susan Dart collection.

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