Price and Provenance 10

The First Illustrated edition of Mansfield Park

Mansfield Park by Jane Austen was first published in 1814 by T. Egerton as a three volume novel. A second edition, also in three volumes, was published in 1816 by John Murray. Neither of these two editions had any illustrations. The next edition to be published was a single volume edition published in 1833 by Richard Bentley. It had an engraved frontispiece and an engraved title page with a vignette illustration. Figure 1 shows images of these two pages.

Technically, the Bentley edition is the first edition of Mansfield Park to have any illustrations, but in most collector’s opinions this would not count as an illustrated edition, as there are no illustrations either embedded or interleaved in the text. Several other editions of Mansfield Park were published following the Bentley edition, particularly editions by Simms and M’Intyre (1846), Routledge (1857), Derby and Jackson (1857), Ticknor and Fields (1863) and Tauchnitz (1867). None of these were illustrated, even with a frontispiece.

The first illustrated edition of Mansfield Park was an undated edition published by Groombridge and Sons, 5 Paternoster Row, London. It is generally accepted that this edition was published in October 1875. The book contains 7 full-page engraved illustrations of drawings by A. F. Lydon. Not only is this the first edition of Mansfield Park with a set of illustrations, it is the first edition of any Jane Austen novel to be published in English with a set of illustrations. It is only preceded by some French translations of Austen published in the 1820s in three volumes with an engraved frontispiece in each volume. The top board and both title pages of my copy of the Groombridge Mansfield Park are shown in Figure 2 below.

The binding is a standard one used by Groombridge and Sons for some of their published fiction. They published several of the works of Grace Aguilar, often in this style of binding. The last page of the text block of my Groombridge edition of Mansfield Park is numbered 440, and bears the name of the printer, “B Fawcett, Engraver and Printer, Driffield.” The page height is 18.7 cm. These three characteristics all support the idea that this edition was printed de novo, rather than being a reprint of an earlier known edition, as no other known edition of Mansfield Park fits this description. David Gilson gives this book the designation E43 in his A Bibliography of Jane Austen, where he reports a publication date of October 1875, derived from the English Catalogue of Books. WorldCat also gives the date 1975, which comes from the deposit copy held by the British Library, the only copy listed on WorldCat. This is a very rare book, which means that few people have seen the illustrations. I will show all seven on them in the following sections.

A F Lydon, the illustrator and B Fawcett, the printer

The seven illustrations were all engraved by the firm of Benjamin Fawcett (1808-1893), a fine printer and engraver, from original drawings by Alexander Francis Lydon (1836-1917), an Anglo-Irish watercolourist and engraver. The pictures are all signed “A F Lydon” as the artist, but they also have small and indistinct second signatures or marks, which will be by the individual engravers. This indicates that Lydon probably did not execute the engravings himself, even though he was an accomplished engraver. This is underlined by the statement on the printed title page “Illustrated from Drawings by A.F.Lydon”. Indeed, much of the firm’s work was engraved by Benjamin Fawcett himself. Lydon was in fact an employee of Benjamin Fawcett (1808-1893), and had served his appenticeship as an engraver with Fawcett. This was mutually convenient as Driffield, a town in East Yorkshire, was both Lydon’s family home and the site of Fawcett’s business. There is a modern pub in Driffield today called “The Benjamin Fawcett”.

Lydon and Fawcett worked together over many years to produce mainly illustrations of wildlife, landscapes or architectural subjects. Lydon excelled in fine watercolour paintings of birds and plants, and also of grand houses in landscaped parks. Fawcett’s expertise was highly skilled colour printing from woodblocks. Much of their work was published by Groombridge and Sons, including the magnificently illustrated six volume series of A Natural History of British Birds by Reverend Francis Orpen Morris. I show two fine examples of typical work by Lydon and Fawcett below in Figures 3 and 4.

Picture of a Hoopoe (bird)
Figure 3. Hoopoe painted by A.F Lydon and printed by B Fawcett
Painting of Warwick Castle
Figure 4. Warwick Castle by A F Lydon, printed by B Fawcett

The Lydon illustrations for Mansfield Park

The illustrations for the Groombridge edition of Mansfield Park are all black and white printings of finely executed engravings on woodblocks of line drawings by Lydon. Several of them show off the artist’s skill in landscapes. This starts with the frontispiece, shown below in Figure 5.

Black and white picture of woman in woods viewing a distant house.
Figure 5. Frontispiece to Mansfield Park

This shows the heroine, Fanny Price, looking back towards the riding party of Edmund Bertram and Miss Crawford in front of the house at Mansfield Park. The incident is from chapter 7. Lydon’s expertise in the depiction of landscape is very much to the fore in this design.

The second illustration (Figure 6, left) shows an incident from chapter 9, where Fanny, Edmund and Miss Crawford have rested on a seat during a walk in the woods. Edmund and Miss Crawford then walk on together to the end of the wood, leaving Fanny still on the seat to watch them disappear together down the path.

The illustration shown on the right of Figure 6 depicts Edmund explaining to Fanny his concerns about the propriety of the amateur dramatics that the house party is engaged in.

In the next illustration (Figure 7), which is from chapter 25, we return to Lydon’s love of landscape as he depicts Henry Crawford’s story of stumbling across the village of Thornton Lacey, his promised living, while walking his lame horse back to Mansfield Park.

Figure 7 Henry Crawford views Thornton Lacey.

In the next illustration (Figure 8 left), taken from chapter 35, we see Edmund and Fanny walking together arm in arm as Edmund tries to find out what feelings she might have for Henry Crawford. In Figure 8 (right), we have moved on to chapter 41, where Henry Crawford is talking about his future prospects to Fanny Price at Portsmouth docks, rather wishing that Fanny’s younger sister, Susan, was not present.

The final illustration, shown in Figure 9 below, comes from an event in chapter 46, when Fanny, accompanied by her excited sister Susan and a nervous Edmund Bertram, returns to Mansfield Park by carriage from Portsmouth. This picture shows off Lydon’s facility in drawing country houses and landscaped grounds.

Figure 9 Fanny’s return to Mansfield Park

These seven drawings give an interesting view of an Austen novel through the eyes of a landscape and wildlife artist. Although the clothes depicted are decidedly from the 1860s and 1870s rather than Regency period, the drawings offer an interesting contrast to the classic illustrations of Austen by Charles and Henry Brock, Hugh Thomson and Chris Hammond, all whom tended to concentrate on fine line drawings of interiors, with accurate depictions of costume, manners and decor of paramount importance. It should be said that Thomson was also a fine illustrator of landscape and particularly well regarded for his depictions of horses.

This is the only novel of Jane Austen known to be illustrated by A. F. Lydon.

A few comments on the publisher, Groombridge and Sons

Richard Groombridge started as a publisher in 1833, when he operated out of his home, 6 Panyer Alley, using the imprint of Richard Groombridge or R. Groombridge. Four of his sons served as his apprentices and joined the firm to work as publishers and booksellers. In 1845, when his two eldest sons were 28 and 25 years old respectively, the imprint of the firm was changed to “Groombridge and Sons”, usually followed by “5, Paternoster Row” on the title page. Following Richard Groombridge’s death in 1855 the firm was run jointly by the two oldest sons. Sadly, the three oldest sons all died between 1860 and 1868, leaving the youngest, Charles Groombridge, as the last surviving son of the founder. He seems to have lost interest in publishing sometime during the 1860s, and by the 1870s, the firm was run by three grandsons of Richard Groombridge until it ceased to trade sometime around 1900.

R. Groombridge and Groombridge and Sons were best known as publishers of books on religion, agriculture and natural history, although they did also reprint several of the novels of Grace Aguilar (1816-1847), a popular writer on themes of Jewish history and religion. The Groombridges worked closely with Benjamin Fawcett, publishing many of his finely illustrated books between 1844 and 1890.

It is not known why Groombridge and Sons decided to publish an illustrated edition of Mansfield Park in 1875. It is even possible that the genesis of the book came from the printer, Benjamin Fawcett or the illustrator A F Lydon. We shall probably never know. For more details about the Groombridge family of publishers, read my Groombridge, Publishers page.

In the next post, Price and Provenance 11, I will explore the provenance of my copy of Groombridge and Son’s Mansfield Park.


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