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Baxter or Le Blond Baxter - How can you tell the Difference?
Le Blond purchased many of Baxter's Plates and Blocks from Vincent Brooks circa 1868, the sale negotiated by George Baxter Jr, Le Blond (LB) reprinted from most and these are known as Le Blond Baxters (LBB)
It is said that the first thing LB did was to remove Baxter's signature from any plates that had it on and insert his own. We know this is not true as we have unsigned, untrimmed LBB's on mounts with Le Blond's 'blue' label on the reverse. I feel these are early printings and I have later versions signed LB. When they were signed they would have on them Le Blond & Co with a second 'signature' LA Elliot Boston being Le Blond's agent in America.
In the late 19th century / early 20th someone removed the LBB signature on many thousands of LBB's by trimming the LB signature from the bottom of the print to pass them off as genuine Baxters. It has been reported that this was done by Frederick Mockler who purchased from Le Blond all of Baxter's plates as well as Le Blond's residual stock of prints which amounted to a vast number. This would make sense as finding a signed Le Blond Baxter is actually quite hard. Surely a number of different people didn't decide to trim the LB signature so it had to be one person and Mockler was the only person to have access to that many prints. When he purchased Baxter plates the first thing he did was remove Le Blond's signature to make them, as much as possible, Baxter's plates again. By trimming LB's signature from so many prints I don't think he was trying to deceive, I think he was just to make them Baxter prints again not realising that there were some fundamental differences between the printings.
As I said initially, I feel, LB issued these LBB on full card mounts with a blue label on the reverse giving the title etc. These were high quality items, fully finished using all the blocks available to them and taking the greatest care, these are now hard to find items. Later, possibly for commercial reasons, they started to exclude some of the blocks and in most you will not find any colour to the eyes, lips or cheeks.
When we are looking at a print it leaves us with a problem, is this a genuine Baxter or a LBB? If a Baxter print is supposed to be signed in the plate and the signature is not where it supposed to be then it is reasonably straightforward but what about the many prints Baxter didn't sign?
Courtney Lewis (CL) writing in the 1920's told us a few ways to tell:
Checking the size of the print, if it has been trimmed it is most probably a LBB (but a genuine Baxter could have been cut a little shorter so not 100%)
Lack of colour to eyes, cheeks and lips (this only a guide as a faded Baxter can have exactly the same traits and fully finished LBB, as mentioned above, would be so coloured)
No gloss finish (Fully finished LBB's do have this gloss but it is omitted on most of the examples but many Baxter examples are exactly the same or never had a gloss finish in the first place)
The Baxter Times, also in the 1920's, suggested feeling the quality of the paper, (yes! true a lot of LBB feel on quite thin paper but I don't know this is true for all and what happens if they are mounted on anything).
Over the years I have been lucky enough to see, study and compare many different copies of the same print and I noticed that, on some prints, there are some fundamental and 'easy' ways to spot differences. When LB bought the plates some hadn't been printed from for many years, were some of the blocks missing or defective? LB obviously had to cut new blocks and a number of the differences we notice are down to this fact.
Christmas Time - CL 261
The main indication between the two printings is that the sky in a Baxter is decidedly grey, the colour of a winter sky, whereas in the LB it is sky blue. More subtly, in the LB version, the reds in the scarf and blues in the cap and trousers are noticeably more vivid.
All in all the Baxter version is very subdued and wintery whereas the LBB's colours are noticeably a lot brighter. The problem is that a faded LBB can then look exactly like a Baxter or perhaps every Baxter copy I have seen has been faded?
Baxter version, showing grey wintery sky and subdued colours
Le Blond Baxter, bluer sky and generally more vibrant colours
One small but definite difference is in the berries on the holly. In all the copies that I have compared the red berries on the holly are printed in the LBB but hand coloured on Baxters’. Sometimes this can be hard to tell but a simple test that I use is that if all the berries are nice and round, they are more than likely printed, Baxter’s hand coloured berries are not perfectly round and all will all be slightly different shapes
Baxter's hand coloured berries on the left and on the right the LBB where they are obviously printed, as all images, click to get an enlargement
Napoleon III - with Long Moustache - CL 227
This is an interesting and quite dramatic one, so 'dramatic' it is a wonder it hasn't been noticed in the past. Count the number of buttons you can see on his jacket. The Baxter version shows three and a half yellow buttons whereas the LBB only three. Also the red sash on the LBB is wider (covering the position of the half button on the Baxter). So how would this have come about? When you look closely at the Baxter version you can see a line where the wider sash would be and the half yellow button has no detail just colour.
Napoleon III - Le Blond Baxter (LBB) to the left and the genuine Baxter to the right
The plate for this print was amended from another version of Napoleon III (with Short Moustache) - CL 229. Baxter amended the plate and most probably at the same time widened the sash and removed the half button BUT never amended the red and yellow colour blocks - the Baxter print then appears without the amendments but the line for the wider sash and no detail on the button can clearly be seen. LB on receiving the plates must have needed to cut red and yellow colour blocks (they may have been missing or damaged) so as normal would have cut the blocks using the (amended) plate as a template. This steel plate is interesting as Baxter made a number of changes over the years but this is a topic for another chat.
Stolen Pleasures - CL 272
Baxter’s print is particularly fine, Le Blond’s on the other hand is noticeably harsh not helped by the fact that by reducing the number of colour blocks used, it gives it an overall orangey appearance. This appearance is normally enough to tell the difference but, of course, only if you know the colouring of a Baxter!
Another definite way to tell is to look at the cloth draped over the stairs on the left. In the Baxter it is always blue and in the LBB it has now been incorporated into the colour block for the old ladies dress and is now green.
Princess Royal, Princess of Prussia - CL 214
LB must have printed many more copies of this print than Baxter. Baxter's versions are actually quite hard to find (the same with her husband Prince Frederick Wm. Of Prussia CL 215). When you see an unmounted copy of this print it will be, more than likely, a LBB. Luckily it is easy to tell the different. The jewel around her neck and earrings are coloured red in the LBB shown on the right but not in the Baxter. A word of warning if you are looking at a faded copy the red's disappear first to a very pale pink, so could look like a Baxter - in the Baxter they are always grey in colour.
Eugenie, Empress Of The French - CL 228
This is most probably the easiest print to differentiate between the two printings - as long as you can remember which way round it is!
The Baxter printing has a blue background where as the LBB is sage green / light brown colour.
When you look more closely, in every Le Blond I have seen, the ring is coloured yellow but in Baxter’s version the ring is always uncoloured
The Bride - also known as The Large Bride - CL 147
The Baxter version of this print is signed bottom right, which makes the task of differentiating between this and the Le Blond printing quite straight forward. Unfortunately it is signed very low down and Baxter copies can have the signature trimmed. The signature is very hard to see anyway as it engraved into the brick in relief rather than engraved in black letters as he would normally do. Luckily there is a very straightforward way to tell the difference.
The Baxter Bride carries two flowers, one red and one yellow. Le Blond must have re-cut the red colour blocks, so now the red covers both flowers. This one is nice and straightforward and hopefully easy to remember.
To the left, the Baxter version clearly showing a red and a yellow flower - to the right the Le Blond Baxter whereas the red colour block has been re-cut and it now appears as two red flowers
Late Duke of Wellington (with Arm) CL 226
The Baxter version of this print (on the left) is considerably rarer than the LBB hence why the majority of copies seen will be LBB and quite likely with the 'applied' fake 'published by George Baxter' stamp as seen on this example and also discussed in our Fakes and Forgeries page.
The easy way to tell the difference between the printings is the colour of the sash, blue in a Baxter version but white in the LBB.
Make sure the print isn't faded as the sash of a faded Baxter could also look very pale.
Birth of the Saviour - CL 239
The main difference is all to do with the colour of the sky, the Baxter is noticeably darker, a more grey colour as against a lighter more blue sky in the LBB. Ageing and fading can shade these colours but the difference should always be clear, greatly helped if you have at least one definite copy of a LBB or Baxter, somewhat harder if not. Hopefully my illustration will help.
Another minor difference and not so easy to see is that the LBB seems to have a missing darker brown block so all the colours in the cloak of the man to the left, the ground above his
The Le Blond Baxter with lighter sky
The Baxter copy note darker sky and extra brown colour block
head and the walls of the barn appear lighter in the LBB. The ochre brown shade LB uses reminds me of the colour in a number of his LBB’s, especially Stolen Pleasures.
CL says that is doubtful that Le Blond signed this print. Finding any Le Blond Baxter signed, apart from a couple of prints signed high up in the design, is quite hard as so many were trimmed many years ago. I have found one copy of this print that appears to be signed in the bottom right hand corner but the background is so dark it is as good as unreadable, so unclear that I can’t get a photograph to show you but when angled against the light letters can clearly be seen in the format of LB’s normal signature.
For a full in depth review of this print, please see HERE
See Saw Marjorie Daw - Baxter CL 268.
The main and quite obvious difference is at the base of the print on the left hand side. On a Baxter version this is where he would have signed the print. As we know Le Blond removed Baxter’s signature and added his own. On any other print that Baxter signed this could be evidence enough.
To remove the signature from the metal plate Le Blond would have had to hammer the plate from the back and then, erase or polish it away from the front. On a number of LBB’s, The Lover’s Letterbox and The Large Crucifixion for example, this erasure is quite noticeable where you can see obvious ‘scratches’.
As the background of this print is quite plain I feel that the removal would have been too obvious on this small print so the answer was to add some shading. Luckily for us, this shading comes up high enough on the print so even if the print has been trimmed, so commonly seen on many LBB’s, the top of the shading is still clearly visible.
As I said, knowing that a Baxter is signed would normally suffice but on this print it is important to know as there is a unique type of fake whereas a fake Baxter signature has been applied to a LBB and, unlike other fake applied signatures, the faker has taken the extra time to try and get it looking right.
The date, wording and font all appear correct but in the genuine Baxter the word ‘Baxter’ is in bold and stands out from the rest of the text unlike the fake signature which has text of all the same 'density'.
This could so easily confuse anyone so here it is more important than ever that you can recognise a LBB version of this print and the shading is a clear differentiation.
Above - See Saw Margorie Daw - to the left a close up of the George Baxter version fully signed and to the right, a LBB showing the shading to the background, this is an early unsigned, untrimmed version.
Below - To the left, a genuine Baxter signature, note how the word 'Baxter' is in bold and to the right a LBB, with background shading and an applied fake Baxter signature. Note on this occasion the faker has gone the extra mile and made a rubber stamp particular for this print getting the publishing date correct