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The Large Water-Spaniel

  • Object:

    Wood-Engraving Print

  • Place of origin:

    Newcastle upon Tyne (printed and published)

  • Date:

    1790 (first published)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Bewick, Thomas, born 1753 - died 1828 (engravers (printmakers))

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Wood-engraving print on laid paper

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    Prints & Drawings Study Room, level E, case Z, shelf 2, box B

Physical description

An English Water Spaniel, viewed in profile, looking to the right of the image. In the distance, a man can be seen walking with another dog alongside some trees. Thomas Bewick's monogram (a T and B sharing the same vertical stroke) is in the lower left corner of the image.

Place of Origin

Newcastle upon Tyne (printed and published)


1790 (first published)


Bewick, Thomas, born 1753 - died 1828 (engravers (printmakers))

Materials and Techniques

Wood-engraving print on laid paper

Marks and inscriptions

Thomas Bewick's monogram (a T and B sharing the same vertical stroke) is in the lower left corner of the image.


Height: 11.3 cm of sheet, Width: 14.5 cm of sheet

Object history note

Formerly 'C' numbers 8980-8982 and 8998; a list showing both and old in 64/2371

This engraving featured in Thomas Bewick's first major independent publication, A General History of Quadrupeds, first printed and published in Newcastle upon Tyne in 1790. The publication contains illustrations of animals, alongside brief descriptions of their appearance, habits and habitats, accompanied by a number of illustrative vignettes, used mainly as tailpieces.

The text accompanying the illustration (in the publication) reads as follows:

'The drawing of this beautiful animal was made from one of the finest of its kind, in the possession of J. E. Blackett, esq; of Newcastle upon Tyne.
This kind of Dog is valuable for its great docility and attachment to its master. It receives instructions with readiness, and obeys with uncommon alacrity. - Its form is elegant, its hair beautifully curled or crisped, its ears long, and its aspect mild and sagacious.- It is fond of the water, and swims well. It is chiefly used in discovering the haunts of wild-ducks and other water fowl; and also in finding birds that have been shot or disabled. - It is probably the Finder, described by Caius.

Taken from: Beilby, Ralph and Bewick, Thomas. A General History of Quadrupeds. Newcastle upon Tyne. Third Edition, 1792.

Historical significance: Thomas Bewick was the first engraver to exploit fully the advantages of end-grain wood (the wood is cut across, rather than along, the grain). Once it had been proved that the technique could rival the fine effects of metal engraving, the advantages of wood engraving to the book trade were quickly recognised. Allowing both text and illustration to be printed in one operation, it ousted the intaglio process as the favourite for book illustration and was only superseded at the end of the nineteenth century when methods of photomechanical reproduction were developed.

Historical context note

The English Water Spaniel breed became extinct during the early 20th century.
The breed has been also documented in paintings by Henry Bernard Chalon and Ramsay Richard Reinagle.

Descriptive line

'The Large Water-Spaniel', viewed in profile, looking to the right of the image. Wood-engraving print on laid paper. Illustration featured in 'A General History of Quadrupeds' (first published 1790). Engraved by Thomas Bewick. Newcastle upon Tyne, England.

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Taken from Departmental Circulation Register 1964

Production Note

Thomas Bewick's A General History of Quadrupeds was first published in 1790.


Laid paper; Printing ink


Wood-engraving (process)

Subjects depicted

Spaniel (dog); Trees


Prints; Illustration; Animals and Wildlife


Prints, Drawings & Paintings Collection

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