Brothers Dalziel


Graphic Arts is the fortunate new owner of proof prints, blocks, and drawings by the Brothers Dalziel (pronounced De el, rhymes with Real), previously owned by the bookseller Nigel Williams (1962-2010). The collection includes eighty-five proof wood engravings for the Bible, ca. 1860s; forty-three proofs of illustrations of children; and an uncut pencil drawing pasted to a woodblock, depicting wrecked ships below a cliff face and titled “Coast scene by Thomas Dalziel 1872-3” on the label pasted underneath.

The collection also has an engraved woodblock depicting the Adoration of the Magi in a fitted case with two proofs of the image and an early reproduction of the drawing for “Sampson carrying the Gates” by Frederick, Lord Leighton, reproduced as a wood-engraving in the Dalziel Bible Gallery, framed and glazed.

One hundred forty-six proofs illustrate The Arabian Nights, prepared from drawings by Thomas Dalziel and first published in 1877. Many include the aritst’s annotations for reworking (we are lacking only no. 8, 24, and 65 from the series numbered 1-148 and tailpiece).

Finally, twenty-nine wood-engraved proofs are by William Harvey to illustrate The History of Ancient and Modern Wines by Alexander Henderson (1824), one of the first books illustrated by Harvey. The proofs were formerly to property of Thomas Dalziel


This block gives us direct proof of the wood engraving process used by the Brothers Dalziel and others. A linear sketch was delivered by one of the artists, the drawing was pasted to a woodblock of the same size, and the engraver cut directly through the paper into the block, cutting away the white areas and leaving the black lines standing in relief.

Although this print was never cut and so, never published, the first long poem by Meg Blane in Robert Buchanan’s North Coast and Other Poems (1868) is set in a similar landscape. It’s possible that the drawing was designed for that publication.


Many of the proofs include handwritten comments indicating changes or correction still needed. Above on the right, there is a question about the intention of the artist. The man’s hand might be holding a torch or it might be handing food to a bird. Hopefully, the engraver clarified the image for the publication.


The Brothers Dalziel were a highly productive firm of Victorian engravers, founded in 1839 by George Dalziel (1815-1902) and his brother Edward Dalziel (1817-1905). There were eight Dalziel brothers altogether and two others, John and Thomas, joined the firm later.

The Dalziel brothers worked with many important Victorian artists, producing illustrations for books and magazines of the period. Among the artists they worked with were Arthur Boyd Houghton, Richard Doyle, John Gilbert, William Holman Hunt, and John Everett Millais.


See also, Dalziel’s Illustrated Arabian Nights’ Entertainments (1865). EX 2263.2864
Dalziels’ Bible Gallery (1881). Graphic Arts GAX 203-0010F