Life and WorkApprentices
Thomas Bewick’s Apprentices
Thomas Bewick himself served an apprenticeship to Ralph Beilby, from 1767 until 1774. In 1777 he joined Ralph Beilby in a partnership that was to last 20 years, and immediately took his brother John as his first apprentice. An Apprenticeship was a contract governed by a legal document called an Indenture, usually lasting for seven years (as had his own), though it could be terminated on either side for a variety of reasons. The master would undertake to give instruction in the relevant skills, and the apprentice would learn to perform a range of activities under this guidance, learning on the job all the time. John Bewick’s indentures were cancelled after five years, when he went to London.
In his book Thomas Bewick’s Apprentices (see Bibliography, under Local Publications), Alan Angus lists a total of 30 apprentices in the Bewick workshop between 1775 and 1828, when Bewick died. The workshop was a jobbing printer's concern, undertaking a wide range of printing and engraving. The wood–engraving was never the main part of the work produced, and indeed much of the most famous wood-engraving was actually produced in Bewick’s spare time, in the evenings. The apprentices would be required to do all the kinds of jobs which the workshop was taking on for simple commercial reasons.
Among the notable apprentices were:
John Bewick (1760–1795) [younger brother] apprenticed from 1777 until 1782. For samples of work click here.
Robert Johnson (1771–1796) apprenticed from 1787 until 1794. For samples of work click here.
Charlton Nesbit (1775–1838) apprenticed from 1790 until 1797.
John Anderson (1775 – ) apprenticed from 1792 until 1799.
Henry Hole (?1781–?1850) apprenticed from 1795 until 1801.
Luke Clennell (1781–1840) apprenticed from 1797 until 1804. For samples of work click here.
Edward Willis (1784– ) apprenticed from 1798 until 1805.
Robert Bewick (1788–1849)[son] apprenticed from 1804 until 1810; then partner, continuing the business until his own death in 1849. For samples of work click here.
Isaac Nicholson (1789–1848) apprenticed from 1804 until 1811.
Henry White apprenticed from 1804 until 1809.
William Harvey (1796–1866) apprenticed from 1809 until 1817.
William Temple apprenticed 1812 until 1819.
John Bewick (1790–1809) [nephew] apprenticed 1804 until 1809 when he died, aged 19.
John Jackson (1801–1848) apprenticed from 1823 until 1824, when he moved to London.