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CL 239 – The Birth of the Saviour

This print shows a familiar scene, the birth of Jesus Christ. The steel printing plate has no lettering so it can’t provide any information but the print is most probably from, or based on, a painting. As the plate is not dated we do not know an exact publishing date, Courtney Lewis (CL) quotes un-specified advert in 1853 and speaks of it as having “already been published”.

The first advertisement I can find mentioning this print is in the Art Journal Advertiser for November 1853 where it is priced at 1s 6d. An extensive advert in ‘Bents Literary Advertiser’ April 1853 lists prints available in Baxter No order, the last print on the list is 101, The Funeral of the Duke of Wellington. Baxter’s No. for the Birth of the Saviour is 108. Proving pretty conclusively that it was published between April and November of 1853 and not in 1852 as stated by CL.

The print can be found on a stamped mount when it is square topped with the title as above but ‘The Centenary Baxter book 1936’ says that it can also be found on a stamped mount with the title of ‘The Adoration’ but I have not seen a copy. 


Right - The Birth of the Saviour by George Baxter on a stamped mount - Below, the same print on the music sheet 'The Adoration' published by Cocks & Co

The Birth of the Saviour by George Baxter on a stamped mount
The Birth of the Saviour by George Baxter on the Music Sheet The Adoration published by Cocks & Co

It was also used on a music cover “The Adoration" by William Hutchins Callcott, published by Robert Cocks & Co, when it is dome topped with a gold border and the wording underneath is “Printed by G. Baxter, the Inventor and Patentee of Oil Colour Printing."  Although the print was published in 1853 I can’t find any mention of the music sheet until 1859. In 1860 Cocks & Co are listing ‘The Adoration’ as ‘New Musical Publications’.


Bents Literary Advertiser Dec 1859 states “The Adoration – 12 popular sacred melodies” so this appears to be similar to Baxter’s Holy Family which also appeared on a similar set of 12 music sheets, a separate print on each sheet. Later versions of the Holy Family music sheets were also published by Cocks and I would suggest that both of these Cocks & Co’s publications would date from around the 1859 / 60 period.

The plate was listed in the 1860 Southgate and Barrett Sale Catalogue but, along with most other plates, didn’t sell. The print was still being listed in Baxter’s republication list of 1864 and went on to be produced, most probably in very small numbers, by Vincent Brooks under Baxter’s supervision in 1865 before passing into the hands of Le Blond in 1868, more on that later in the article.

Right - Cocks & Co advertising 'New Musical Publications' in The Athenaeum June 23 1860
Below - Cocks & Co advertising The Adoration '12 Popular Sacred Melodies' in Bents Literary Advertiser Dec 12 1859

Right - Cocks & Co advertising 'New Musical Publications' in The Athenaeum June 23 1860

Below - Cocks & Co advertising The Adoration '12 Popular Sacred Melodies' in Bents Literary Advertiser Dec 12 1859

Baxter's steel engraved plate - every copy of this print by Baxter and Le Blond would have come from this printing plate
Birth of the Saviour  - George Baxter's steel engraved plate - every copy of this print by Baxter and Le Blond would have come from this printing plate

Above - George Baxter's steel engraved plate - every copy of this print by Baxter and Le Blond would have come from this printing plate

This print was produced from a plate and fourteen blocks, some of them zinc. The plate you see illustrated would have produced every copy of this print produced by Baxter and subsequently by Le Blond. 

In adverts I have only seen Baxter refer to this print as ‘The Birth of the Saviour’ but reference works often refer to a second title ‘The Adoration’, possibly after the music or perhaps the alternative stamped mount title. CL also mentions it is additionally known as ‘The Nativity’ but gives no reason for that. Of course you can appreciate how the image could be referred to by common usage as all three titles but recently I may have found the reason.

The Birth of the Saviour in ‘The Pictorial Expository Family Bible’
The Pictorial Expository Family Bible

Courtney Lewis doesn’t mention this book in any of his publications, the first reference to it appears in ‘The Centenary Baxter Book’ published in 1936. Nothing appears to have been written about it since.

In that book they say that this print is the frontispiece and is on a Sunk Stamped Mount. The word ‘Sunk’ in this context is used widely in the 1920’s and 30’s and I can only assume they mean a normal embossed stamped mount.

I had searched for the book, or at least proof that it contained the print, for many years but apart from the title we knew of no other information and the words Pictorial and Expository seem to appear to be commonly used in titles of Bibles.

Above - (The) Pictorial Expository (Family) Bible - Below - The Baxter colour frontispiece and the title page 

Birth of the saviour in The Pictorial Expository Family Bible
George baxter's Birth of the saviour in The Pictorial Expository Family Bible

A few years ago by accident, as so many things are discovered, I came across a copy and as stated it contained the print. It was not on a stamped mount but just mounted onto a plain sheet with underneath, the title, ‘The Nativity’ in blue. The print is, as we know, not signed so in this form there is no mention of Baxter.


One of the reasons I struggled to find the book is that the title was slightly wrong, ‘The Centenary Baxter Book’ omitted the word Family and just described it as ‘The Pictorial Expository Bible’. I can now advise that the book was “published in Glasgow and London by W R McPhun  - Book seller and Publisher to H R H Prince Consort" in 1858. That makes it the last book to contain a Baxter Print when first published.


The print is stuck to the page rather than printed on to it which, although unusual, is not unheard of. Without thoroughly checking I can think of Sinclair’s Beauties of Nature with ‘Ben Nevis’ and Corbett’s ‘England Queen…’ both have the Baxter prints mounted on to the page rather than the print being printed on to it. Perhaps in all three instances the publishers purchased the prints from Baxter and applied them to the book page themselves? I have seen a later edition of this book dated 1860 but that had a different frontispiece so the Baxter print might have only been used for this one edition?


Whatever the case I don’t think they should be considered to be any less important. How many times has the print been seen in the book and no one realised that it was by Baxter? How many times has the print been seen on a loose page with the title ‘The Nativity’ under not knowing that it had been taken from this book? I had a copy in my collection for some years unaware that is from the book.

The Birth of the Saviour is issued in 6 states:

•    Stamped Mount with Title “Birth of the Saviour.”
•    Stamped Mount with Title "The Adoration."
•    On Music "The Adoration.” By WH Callcott published by Cocks & Co
•    Unmounted
•    Plain Mount, with Baxter's republication Label, 1864. 
•    As a frontispiece to "The Pictorial Expository Family Bible"

The size of Print is 15.4 x 11 cm 

Le Blond Baxter printing

In 1868, after Baxter’s death Le Blond, Baxter’s first licensee, purchased a number of Baxter plates and colours blocks including this one. Le Blond printings from Baxter plates are known as Le Blond Baxters, but how do you tell the difference between the printings?

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 illustrations 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 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 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.

Use the link to see more information on Le Blond Baxters

Birth of the saviour Le Blond Baxter
Birth of the saviour by George Baxter

Above left - The Le Blond Baxter with lighter blue sky and omitted dark brown block - Right - Genuine George Baxter Print

Stolen Pleasures - Le Blond print from George Baxter's printing plates
Birth of the Saviour  - Le Blond print from George Baxter printing plate

To the right the Le Blond Baxter - Le Blond seems to use this ochre brown palette on a number of his Le Blond Baxters most noticeable on Stolen Pleasures shown on the left.

Later Chromolithographic versions on music
The Adoration Birth of The Saviour printed by Chromolithography
George Baxter's Birth of the Saviour printed by Chromolithography

A later Chromolithographic version of Baxter's The Birth of The Saviour by an unknown printer or could it be Baxter son George Baxter Junior?

As we mentioned earlier ‘The Adoration’ music sheet featuring the Baxter print doesn’t appear to have been published until about 1859. Baxter first tried to retire from business in 1860 but he was still actively trying to sell his prints for another four years after that. In fact we can find D’Albert’s Prince of Wales Galop featuring the Baxter print being advertised as ‘New Music’ in ‘The Illustrated London News’ for  Jan 3rd 1863. If this was truly new music it shows that Baxter was still supplying music publishers and the like and could have continued supplying Birth of the Saviour to Cocks & Co for a similar period.

At some stage that stopped and we can find Chromolithographs of the same subject still on the music published by Cocks & Co but obviously not by Baxter. Could they be by George Baxter Jr who printed Chromolithographic versions of The Holy Family for Cocks & Co?  

In my opinion the Chromolithographs are printed using Baxter’s plate as the basis which seems to strongly infer that these productions are by GB Jr but it is strange that they are not signed by him, he did sign his Holy Family versions. It would also be strange as the printing plate never seems to have been out of Baxter’s ‘control’ through Vincent Brooks and then on to Le Blond. Baxter Jr arranged the sale of the printing plates to Le Blond as his last task for Vincent Brooks before starting out on his own printing venture. So he wouldn’t have been printing at the time he had access to the plate unlike the printing plate of the Holy Family which we know GB Jr retained and definitely printed from and signed, please see my article on the Holy Family for more details.

Whoever printed the chromolithographs it seems to have happened at the time Baxter stopped or was unable to supply further prints. I have series 1, 2 and 3 of The Adoration bound with other music in the same book. Series 2 has a Baxter Print whereas Series 1 and 3 both have the Chromolithographic examples.

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