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Frontispiece to Bisset’s Magnificent Directory

Image from: Bisset’s Magnificent Guide or Grand Copper Plate Directory for the Town of Birmingham, 1808
[From Birmingham Central Library]

01. Frontispiece to Bisset’s Magnificent Directory and Literary and Commercial Iconography Respectfully Dedicated to His Royal Highness George Prince of Wales.

The engraving by Francis Eginton shows a bust of Prince George, the eldest son of George III. Twelve years after 1808, the date of the publication, he inherited the throne as George IV and reigned from 1820 to 1830. The Prince is portrayed as a beneficent and handsome figure, very different from the selfish, greedy and overweight libertine of the anti-monarchical cartoons of the time.

Above the image, two cherubs support the Prince of Wales’ crest with his motto “Ich Dien”, translated as “I serve”. Behind the bust is a picture of ships on the high seas, signifying Britain’s global significance as a trading nation and unrivalled naval power following the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805. The nautical imagery is emphasised to the left by the anchor, trident and globe. Other representations strike additional notes:
• The long tradition of English liberty is demonstrated by Magna Carta,
• The winged staff of Mercury points to the transmitting of information around the world,
• Cultural achievements are shown by a lyre, artist’s palette, a book and two quill pens.

In front of the bust a child holds a crown and the other unfurls a map of Great Britain. Linked with the other icons they present a United Kingdom, watched over by an enlightened prince and benefiting, according to the engraving’s symbols, from international trade, the arts and a libertarian tradition. The themes of the frontispiece are represented in many of the engravings for individual businesses illustrated in the pages of the Directory.

Engraving was a fine art and a highly skilled trade. The engraver gouged lines or flicks into a copper plate by a pointed steel burin or graver with a mushroom-shaped wooden handle. As the engraver pushed the burin forward, he removed shavings of copper from the plate. By altering the angle and pressure on the burin, the engraver could vary the depth and width of the line. A less laborious process involved coating the copper plate with wax and using a needle to incise images into the wax. The plate was then immersed in acid, which ate into the copper exposed by the needle, leaving the wax-coated area untouched. The plate was printed by inking and wiped to clean the surface. Forcing the ink onto paper by means of a special press created a print.

 



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972-0A Catalogue of Commerce and Art: Bisset’s Magnificent Guide for Birmingham, 1808 84-0Frontispiece to Bisset’s Magnificent Directory 83-0Plan of Birmingham, drawn by J. Sherrif of Oldswinford, late of the Crescent Birmingham 85-0Birmingham Fire Office 86-0Bankers and Public Companies in Birmingham 87-0Physicians, Surgeons, Apothecaries and Chemists in Birmingham 88-0Attorneys at Law in Birmingham 89-0Sword, Gun and Pistol Manufacturers in Birmingham 90-0Mercers, Linen Drapers, Haberdashers, Hosiers and Lacemen in Birmingham 91-0J Taylor, Gold and Silversmith, Jeweller, Tortoiseshell and Ivory Box and Toy Manufacturer, Birmingham 92-0Cabinet Makers, Upholsterers, Gun Makers and Saddlers in Birmingham 93-0Birmingham in Miniature or Richard’s Magazine for the Manufacturers of Birmingham and its Vicinity 94-0Bankers in Birmingham and Businessmen adjacent to Birmingham 95-0Merchants in Birmingham 96-0Miscellaneous Businesses in New Street, Birmingham 97-0Miscellaneous Businesses in High Street, Birmingham 98-0Gun Makers in Birmingham 99-0Inns, Hotels and Taverns and Swinney’s Type Foundry in Birmingham 100-0Factors or Commercial Agents in Birmingham with a view of the Crescent and Wharf 101-0Miscellaneous Professions and Businesses in Birmingham with a View of St Philip’s Church 102-0Miscellaneous Professions and Businesses in Birmingham with Emblems of their Trade 103-0Henry Clay, Japanner, and Artists in Birmingham 104-0Sword Makers in Birmingham 105-0Brass Founders with a view of the Brass House in Broad Street, Birmingham and Miscellaneous Businesses 106-0Toy Makers in Birmingham with a View of the Navigation Offices 107-0Miscellaneous Professions and Businesses in Birmingham with a View of St Paul’s Chapel 108-0Japanners in Birmingham and a View of the Park Glass House 109-0Cards of different Professions and Businesses in Birmingham 110-0Miscellaneous Businesses in Birmingham with a View of the Town from the Warwick Canal 111-0Button Makers in Birmingham 112-0Miscellaneous Professions and Businesses in Deritend near Birmingham 113-0View of Matthew Boulton’s Soho Manufactory and Royal Mint Offices in Handsworth near Birmingham 114-0View of the Eagle Iron Foundry and Mr. Whitmore’s Engineering Works in Birmingham 115-0View of Lloyd’s, New Hotel and Hen and Chickens Inn, New Street, Birmingham 116-0Exterior and Interior View of Jones, Smart and Company’s Glass Manufacturers, Aston Hill, Birmingham 117-0Thomason’s Button and Toy Manufactory, Church Street, Birmingham 118-0View of the Westminster Life and British Fire Insurance Offices, Strand, London, with a List of the Directors. J. Gottwaltz, Birmingham Agent 119-0The Phoenix Fire Office, Lombard Street and Charing Cross, London, with a List of the Directors. J. Farror, Birmingham Agent. 120-0Two Manufacturers, a School, an Engineer and an Inn near Birmingham 121-0Blair and Sutherlands, Gun Makers, Brook Street and Harper’s Hill, Birmingham 122-0Button Makers and other Businesses of Birmingham 123-0View of Birmingham from Aston Wharf with the Names of various Businesses 125-0Miscellaneous Metal Manufacturers and other Businesses in Birmingham 126-0Toy Maker and Japanners in Birmingham 127-0Surveyor, Sutton Coldfield and Coach Spring Manufacturers, Birmingham 128-0A Bookseller and list of Appraisers and Auctioneers in Birmingham 129-0Merchants and Factors in Birmingham 130-0Hepinstall and Parker’s File Manufactory, Ann Street, Birmingham and Walsall, Staffordshire 131-0Miscellaneous Traders, Professions and Manufacturers in Birmingham 132-0Trade Cards for various Businesses in Birmingham 133-0View of Warstone Brewery, Warstone Lane, Birmingham, belonging to Alex Forrest and Sons 134-0Various Toy Makers and Jewellers in Birmingham 135-0Thomas Robinson, Chemist, and Roberts, Jeffery and Co, Button and Toy Manufacturers, Snow Hill, Birmingham