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81a - The John Wesley Missionary Ship
John Wesley Missionary Ship by George Baxter

The John Wesley was the first purpose built missionary ship when launched from Cowes in September 1846, it was registered in London on 7th November and the same month left Southampton on her maiden voyage arriving in Sydney, Australia in March 1847.

She served the Methodist Missions in the South Seas and “island hopping helped the islanders, by taking to market, their harvested oil and thus allowing them to receive a substantial income.” (1) In November 1865 she was sunk with no loss of life in a violent storm.

Courtney Lewis writes “Although never in colours, this little oval print is inserted because it is an excellent piece of aquatinting by Baxter, and is rather a favourite. Under tile print in three lines in the centre, engraved, is the above title and: "Sketched & Engraved by George Baxter, 11, Northampton Square."  Thus we see Baxter claims it as an original design and that he also engraved it.”

The print was obviously intended as an illustration for a book but (as yet) no book has been found containing the print. Of all the copies I have seen I have seen no obvious signs of a copy being removed from a book and although the print is not rare we see enough copies outside of the book and no book ever being found to wonder whether it was so used. The paper it was printed on is, for Baxter, of very poor quality and to me feels similar to paper used in the Wesleyan Juvenile Offerings or their Missionary notices type publications.

Departure of the John Wesley from Southampton - Baxter Print

Above - The Departure of the 'John Wesley' from Southampton and to the left  ' The Launch of the Missionary ship John Wesley at Cowes Isle of Wight.

The Launch of the missionary ship John Wesley at Cowes Isle of Wight by George Baxter

Baxter actually produced three prints of this ship, the other two being woodcuts that can be found in Wesleyan Juvenile Offering ‘The Launch of the missionary ship John Wesley at Cowes Isle of Wight’  in the February 1847 edition and ‘Departure of the John Wesley from Southampton’ in the March 1847 edition, note they are both signed Baxter Sc. 


The Price Guide to Baxter Prints gives a publication date of 1844 but, as you can see from the launch dates etc above, that can’t be correct. If it was going to be found in a book I would have thought it will be found in a Wesleyan publication circa 1846 – 1848.

It has always been noted that Baxter stated that it had been sketched by him. On the cover of the BP Collector and Baxter Times for 10th October 1926 was a picture of Baxter’s actual watercolour, something that seemed unknown until that date and as far as I can see only mentioned once since in the New Baxter Society newsletter in July 2000, something I had since forgotten about so I feel important to include here for future reference. 

The original water colour of the John Wesley by George Baxter, shown on the front of the BP Collector and Baxter Times of 10th October 1926

John Wesley - original watercolour by George Baxter

Copies of the Baxter Times are not rare but when the magazines were bound in annual editions the covers, and of course, this image were not usually included. Inside they describe the picture as “a unique water-colour drawing of the John Wesley Missionary ship passing the Isle of Wight, a drawing in the possession of Mr Frederick Harrild” (Baxter’s father in law’s family) on the reverse is the inscription “This painting representing the Missionary Ship the John Wesley, on her first trial trip, passing Osborne in the Isle of Wight was painted by Mr G Baxter of Northampton Square for my father the Rev E Hoole – Signed E Hoole.” The Rev Hoole was the secretary of the Wesleyan Missionary Society.

As can be seen Baxter illustrated the ships launch, trial trip and departure from Southampton all of which took place over a two month period.

As an aside, Rev Hoole is depicted in Baxter’s print ‘Destruction of the "Tanjore" by Lightning, off Ceylon’. Courtney Lewis states he was instrumental in Baxter getting the commission for the prints of Mr & Mrs Chubb, Hoole had married Miss Elisabeth Chubb in 1835. When you look at the dates it may have in fact been the other way around as the Chubbs were published in 1843 yet all the prints Baxter produced that are associated with the Wesleyan Missionary Society are dated 1844 and later! A Baxter woodcut of the Destruction of the Tanjore had appeared in The Missionary or Christians New Year’s Gift dated circa 1833 but that wasn’t a Wesleyan Missionary publication and was depicting an event in 1820.

john wesley missinary ship 1846-1865

A photograph of The John Wesley Missionary Ship - 1846 - 1865

courtesy of  www.

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