As well as exploring how Dalziel interpreted literary texts, Christmas gift books, and the Art Union catalogue for the Great Exhibition of 1851, the exhibition also has sections on how wood engravings were made, displays of specialist tools, and preliminary drawings by designers including Frederick Sandys and George J Pinwell. On show for the first time too are experimental engravers’ proofs commissioned by Lewis Carroll to compare wood and photomechanical print processes in preparation for his 1886 facsimile of Alice’s Adventures Under Ground.
The exhibition’s curator is Bethan Stevens, senior lecturer in English and creative & critical writing at the University of Sussex, and author of a monograph published earlier this summer, The Wood Engravers’ Self-Portrait: The Dalziel Archive and Victorian illustration. She also runs the Dalziel Project, which she established in 2015 to photograph and catalogue the entire Dalziel archive. Stevens has, in addition, set up the excellent Woodpeckings website. This contains more information on their work as well as a special online exhibition about their illustrations for Alice books between 1865 and 1871. The project has successfully identified the three dozen engravers at the company who all signed their work ‘Dalziel,’ thus making it extremely hard to name the hands behind individual images.
The Woodpecking Factory runs at the British Museum until September 4, 2022.