Thomas Onwhyn: a Life in Illustration (1811 – 1886)
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Presenting the results of an internet-based research project into the life and works of Thomas Onwhyn, a nineteenth century artist, illustrator and engraver. The research was undertaken following the discovery of some original, engraved, woodblocks (one signed by Onwhyn) held in the special collections in the Charles Seale Hayne Library, University of Plymouth. Initially, the aim was to try and establish if the blocks had ever been published and if so, to establish the ‘story’ they were used to illustrate. It quickly became obvious that the provided ‘annotation’ to them having been used to illustrate ‘The Life and Adventures of Valentine Vox, the Ventriloquist’ by Henry Cockton (1840) was incorrect. This research was able to establish that these blocks were unpublished illustrations for James Fenimore Cooper’s ‘The Last of the Mohicans’. During the process of establishing this, a large part of the identifiable output of Thomas had been gathered, viewed and reviewed. It became clear to the author that there did not appear to be any existing ‘catalogue’ or formal ‘listing’ of his works, so the research was expanded to try to achieve this. The greatest limitation to the research results are that it is based on internet available information. As mentioned in the document, there are some UK print and ephemera archival collections that would require further investigation before one could declare that anything close to a complete catalogue had been produced. The contents include a biography of Thomas Onwhyn, providing evidence for a confirmed date of birth (previously given by sources as anywhere between 1813 and 1820); some comments on the confusion caused by his use of pseudonyms; some notes on his wider family; and a listing of all the works, including the woodblocks, identified as definitively or most probably by Thomas, many with illustrations.
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