Tales from the Treasure House with Sam Bartle

An image of a nut hatch by Benjamin Fawcett.
An image of a nut hatch by Benjamin Fawcett.

Stunning pictures of birds produced by Benjamin Fawcett, a renowned 19th Century bookseller, stationer and printer who was based in Driffield, are highlighted in rare books available to view at the Treasure House in Beverley.

Benjamin Fawcett performed the engravings and printing work for the much-celebrated Victorian book ‘A History of British Birds’ in 1851.

The book’s author, Reverend F.O. Morris was also an East Yorkshire man, being the vicar of Nunburnholme. Together, these men produced a spectacular record of British wildlife that was treasured by many Victorian ornithologists.

Next month sees the opening of the Wildlife Photographer of the Year Exhibition at the Treasure House as part of Hull UK City of Culture 2017 and, in anticipation of this, East Riding Archives (also at the Treasure House) have unearthed this revered book of birdlife from their vaults.

Many people are probably unaware of Benjamin Fawcett’s achievements but he was amazingly talented.

The images he produced for Reverend Morris’ book are stunning and, in a world before wildlife photography, there’s no wonder it was so popular.

Born in 1808, the son of a local fisherman, Benjamin Fawcett attended Bridlington Grammar School, before entering his chosen profession as a printer.

He was apprenticed to William Forth of Pocklington in 1823 and after serving his apprenticeship he set up on his own in 1831 as a bookseller, stationers and printer in Driffield.

His first book was a child’s textbook for the teaching of reading, which was illustrated with engravings of animals. It was reputedly a huge success with over a quarter of a million copies sold.

But perhaps his best work was done with Reverend Morris. The pair collaborated on six volumes of ‘A History of British Birds’ and a further three volumes called ‘A Natural History of the Nests and Eggs of British Birds’ all of which are available to read in the East Riding Archives.

As these are precious Victorian books they are not available to be borrowed, but can be read in the Treasure House itself.

To take look at them in the Archives, please call 01482 392790 for more details or just pop in to the Treasure House on Champney Road, Beverley.