Cruikshank printing plate for "The Tail of the Comet of 1853"

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George Cruikshank’s Magazine; edited by Frank E. Smedley (Frank Fairlegh). no. 1-2 (Jan.-Feb., 1854). Illustrations by George Cruikshank. Graphic Arts Collection (GA), Cruik 1854.4

After the demise of The Comic Almanack in 1853 (see posting September 2008), George Cruikshank (1792-1878) tried to publish a magazine under his own name: Cruikshank’s Magazine. It only lasted two issues, January and February 1854, but opened with the spectacular fold-out “Passing Events, or, The Tail of the Comet of 1853.” This 15 ¼ x 7 inch sheet includes hundred of figures chronicling the events of the previous year.

Princeton is fortunate to hold the steel printing plate for this etching. Although it is hard to photograph, I’ve posted a few images to give you an idea of the complexity of this plate. The iconography includes Albert Smith’s lecture on Mont Blanc, a prize cattle show (along with a beef dinner close by), emigration to Australia, and Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Although Princeton is sadly missing, the New York’s Crystal Palace can be seen at the top right just above a peace conference. Also depicted is the war between Russia and Turkey, spirit rapping, table turning, ceiling walking, John Gough and the temperance movement (see post December 2008), Charles Keen’s Sardanapalus, Captain McClure and the North-West Passage, and much more.

In his lifetime Cruikshank created nearly 10,000 prints, illustrations, and book plates. Princeton holds the largest set of Cruikshank material in this country, including prints, drawings, watercolors, illustrated books and magazines, proofs, correspondence, and printing plates. The collections are open to the public Monday to Friday.

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I acquired a copy of an uncolored Cruikshank etching in Ireland 10 years or so ago. It is etched on some sort of old appearing paper board, quite fragile, and appears to be very old. Could this be an original of some kind? There is quite a bit of discoloration around the edges and I recently had is mounted and framed. Any information will be most appreciated.


Kelley MIckey