Or are you looking for Search the Archives?

Please complete the form to email this item.

The Gibbon

  • 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

A gibbon, sitting on a rock, scratching the top of its right arm with its left hand. The background is of a forest, in front of which two other apes can be seen.

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


Height: 15.9 cm of sheet, Width: 17.2 cm of sheet

Object history note

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

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to be printed in one operation, it ousted the intaglio process as the favourite for book illustration and was only superseded at the end of the nineteenth century when methods of photomechanical reproduction were developed.

Descriptive line

'The Gibbon', sitting on a rock and scratching its arm. 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

Forests; Apes


Prints; Illustration; Animals and Wildlife


Prints, Drawings & Paintings Collection

Large image request

Please confirm you are using these images within the following terms and conditions, by acknowledging each of the following key points:

Please let us know how you intend to use the images you will be downloading.