The Universal Penman. Engrav’d by George Bickham.

  • Bickham, George
  • London: Printed for and sold by H. Overton 1743
  • ESTC T89366.


SKU: 3759 Category: Tags: ,


Folio, ff. 212 + engraved frontispiece. Modern quarter calf, black morocco label, marbled boards. One plate used for pen trials and consequently creased, stained, and torn at edges though now cut down and repaired, small reinforcement to fore-edge of first few leaves and edges of frontispiece, otherwise just a little minor staining in places.


The 'writing-book to end all writing-books' (Muir), featuring contributions from over two dozen of the period's most important writing-masters, carefully engraved by George and John Bickham. The plates include sample sentences and forms for a variety of uses, in a large number of different alphabets and scripts, all highly decorated (and several cleverly trompe l'oeil).
George Bickham (1683-1758) was skilled and ambitious but not an organisational genius; the book was intended to come out in 52 weekly parts across a single year, but in the end it took eight years before the plates were finally all complete, with the result being beautifully engraved but hopelessly disorganised and misnumbered. After attempts to regularise the foliation and produce a book-form edition, Bickham sold the rights to Henry Overton, a more experienced publisher, who took control and produced this edition, the fourth overall but the second in book form and the first to be continuously foliated throughout. The order established here remained the standard version of the book through further reprintings and sales of the rights to other publishers in ensuing decades (see Muir in The Library, December 1944, pp. 162-183).

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