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Feature January 2014

The Pleasure of Collecting Baxter Prints

It would be interesting to know how the collectors of Baxter prints began their hobby; whether by the chance acquisition of a few prints that developed into a wish to discover more about them and the man that printed them, or initially, purely as an investment, which grew into an absorbing pastime where the pleasure of collecting and not profit became the first priority.

The true collecting spirit is based on a genuine interest in the subject for its own sake, and the collector of Baxter prints will, during the course of his or indeed her collecting, wish to find out how they were produced. The next study are the processes used and how Baxter’s methods differed from both past and present in the production of the coloured impression. During the course of his investigations he will discover what chiaroscuro printing is, how mezzotint, stipple and aquatint engravings were produced and why Baxter used each of these methods to such good effect. He will also learn about the relative advantages or disadvantages of copper, steel and wood in the printing process, the various ways of dealing with plates and the difference between printing in the cameo and intaglio. Maybe he will also learn something about paper making and be able to distinguish a hand-made from a factory-made paper. So he is led on from one subject to another and the further he goes the more absorbed he will become and the more prints he will wish to acquire.

Albion Press from a wood-cut by George Baxter

A very interesting point in connection with the Baxter print is the ‘tint’. This is an impression of each stage of the colour printing process – in other words a print in the making. It adds greatly to the interest of the subject, for in it we have a visual demonstration of the various effects Baxter obtained, not only from the plate but from each colour block. It is interesting to note the differences he achieved in the complete picture, depending on the colour of the ink which he used.

There is also another side to the interest of Baxter’s work and that is the historical side. During the twenty-five years that he was producing colour prints there were few memorable events, distinguished people or interesting places that he has not recorded, so that the collector in the course of acquiring his prints becomes aware of the great missionary efforts of the Victorian epoch, the costumes of the period and the military achievements of Her Majesty’s forces and many other aspects of Victorian life that might otherwise have escaped his interest.

No collector of Baxter’s work will ever regret the time and energy that he has devoted to them, not only in their acquisition, but also in their restoration and presentation. He will look back with pleasure on the opportunities his hobby has given him to share his interest with others and to show his prints to kindred spirits. He will be able to compare roles and, finally, to ponder over and admire the remarkable skill and patience of the man who produced them.