Print of the Month - September 2020

The Faithful Friend

The Faithful Friend, a Chromograph by William Dickes

Signed “W Dickes” bottom left (within the picture) and measuring 15 x 20.5 cm, this print shows a dog saving a young girl from a watery fate.

“The Faithful Friend” appeared as one of 16 prints in a book called “Hymns and Pictures”, second series, published by the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge (SPCK) in 1865. The first series was published in 1861 and also contained 16 pictures by Dickes. The two series were also issued together in one book (catalogued as no.114 by Alfred Docker in his book published in 1924 which recorded the prints of William Dickes). The prints in the books were not by the Baxter Process, but were what Dickes called “Chromographs”, which was his adaption of George Baxter’s original process to a more cost-effective method.

The SPCK, along with the Religious Tract Society (RTS), were prolific patrons of colour printing from the early 1850s and played a large part in extending the use of Baxter Process printing. Both societies published a huge number of books of an educational and religious nature, and both also published reward cards which were given to Victorian children at school / Sunday school for attendance, good conduct and improvement. The RTS largely used the colour printing of Kronheim & Co, whilst the SPCK worked extensively with William Dickes.

Before appearing in these 1860s books, the images from the “Hymns and Pictures” series had previously been issued in a much smaller format on reward cards - catalogued by Docker as no.274. These prints on reward cards were produced by Dickes using the Baxter Process.

The Faithful Friend a Baxter Process Print by William Dickes on a reward card published by the SPCK
The Faithful Friend a Reward Card published by the SPCK (front & reverse)

Shown here is “The Faithful Friend” on a reward card - the print measures 4.2 x 5.3 cm whilst the card measures 12.5 x 9 cm.

Cambridge University Library holds the archive for the SPCK and has an extensive collection of their reward cards, as well as the annual catalogues of the books and other items published by them. The first reference to colour printed reward cards in these SPCK catalogues appears in 1852 when it lists “Prints for rewards, with a hymn and a coloured engraving to each - 3d”. The first catalogue entry that can be easily attributed to William Dickes appears in 1855 when the SPCK published the pack of 16 cards called the “Hymns and Pictures set”. The catalogues show that Dickes produced reward cards for the SPCK until at least 1876, many using the Baxter Process, although some of the later ones using chromolithography.

The images from the “Hymns and Pictures” series 1 were also used for posters for the schoolroom wall. These posters measured around 39 x 28 cm, with the prints measuring about 15 x 20 cm. It is not known when these were produced, but it was probably in the 1850s rather than the 1860s, as some of them bear the signature “W Dickes, Licencee”.

Below is “Summer Evening” (from the first series) in the three different formats - on reward cards (two examples with different embossed borders); in the book; and the poster for the wall. The pictures are shown to scale, so that you can see the difference in sizes.

Versions of Summer printed by William Dickes
Top left - 2 examples of “Summer Evening” on reward cards, 1855 (Baxter Process)
Bottom left - “Summer Evening” in the book “Hymns and Pictures”, first series, 1861 (Chromograph)
Right - “Summer Evening” on a wall poster measuring 39 x 28 cm approx. (Baxter Process)