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Joseph Mansell engraved steel printing plate
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1) The full printing plate 2) The complete sheet in full colours, note the plate is engraved in reverse 3-6) close up images of the engraving 7) The back of the plate which some times can have the actual flat plate makers name, by not in this instance

Original Baxter printing plates are always highly sought after, each being a unique item and every copy of that print produced coming from that engraved printing plate. The New Baxter Society has held a record of all the known Baxter and Licensee plates since the 1980’s when the plates for over 100 of Baxter’s prints went through the auction house of Phillips & Son in London.

The reason why the whereabouts of so many of Baxter’s plates are known is that, in the main, they have remained together their whole life. Circa 1865 Baxter sold many of his plates to Vincent Brookes, after Baxter’s death George Baxter Jr negotiated their sale from Vincent Brookes to Abraham Le Blond. In 1893 Frederick Mockler purchased all the plates from Le Blond who had by now retired, this included some of Le Blond’s own plates. Mockler only owned them for a very short period before selling them to James Bramah who, although he sold some, held the remainder till 1921 when Alfred Ernest Owens, an avid collector of the day, purchased these and also added a number of others. It was his collection that was sold at Phillips some 60 years later.

The reason why I describe all this here is that it explains why we know the whereabouts of so many of Baxter’s printing plates, conversely we know of only a few of the plates of the licensees. In total the New Baxter Society knows the location of plates for about 124 of Baxter prints, 16 of Le Blonds, most of which would have most probably been purchased by Mockler along with all the Baxter plates from Le Blond himself. The licensee printing plates are a different story, only 9 printing plates for 13 prints are known of for all the licensees’, these all being from Bradshaw & Blacklock and Joseph Mansell.

The large majority of all of these printing plates, thanks to three donations over the last few years, are now safely looked after by either Manchester Metropolitan University or Reading University.

I am lucky enough to have a few of these original plates and was very pleased to recently acquire one of Mansell’s printing plates for a complete set of 15 needle box prints, noted as 266 – 280 in the New Baxter Society’s Catalogue of Mansell Prints. Like all printing plates the first thing you notice is the detail and intricacy of the engraving which, although we know the engravers were highly skilled and most probably worked at a very good speed, it must have still taken them many hours, days or possibly even weeks of work to get this finished design. Don’t forget they were engraving everything in reverse! The second thing you realise is that trying to take a photograph of a printing plate is incredibly hard, I have tried my best here to illustrate some views of the plate along with a set of the finished prints.

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