Feature March 2016

Leighton’s Gems of English Art

Country Cousins printed by Leighton Brothers for Gems of English Art

Although not a Baxter licensee, George Cargill Leighton made a significant contribution to the world of colour printing.

In 1855 the proprietors of The Illustrated London News approached him with a view to adding colour work to their journal, something no other newspaper had done before.

Five years later he had almost complete publishing control of the newspaper and his brother Stephen joined the firm which then operated under the title of Leighton Brothers.

Leighton certainly produced some excellent work, either by the Baxter process or one very similar.

Of all the books which he illustrated, one of the finest is undoubtedly Gems of English Art of this Century, Twenty-four Pictures from National Collections. The book, with texts by Francis Turner Palgrave, was published in 1869 at a price of £1. 1s.

The bright and beautifully coloured prints in this book, like the one shown which is after a painting by Richard Redgrave, are all supposedly faithful reproductions of original paintings. They vary slightly in size, averaging 17cm. x 13cm.

The volume is handsomely bound in dark blue cloth with a highly ornate gilt cover. Although not as scarce as Dickes’ Great Masters or Bradshaw and Blacklock’s Pictorial Casket, the book is nonetheless quite difficult to find in good condition.