Thread: thoughts
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Old 03-17-2008, 09:49 PM
Tom McArdle's Avatar
Tom McArdle Tom McArdle is offline
Join Date: Apr 2006
Location: Western NY USA
Posts: 1,036
Default Re: thoughts

Originally Posted by charles starks
yes most American done engraving of 18th century, concerning firearms is rather simple and not so over whelming.
Basically thatís the change we are talking about here . Why the change from what is being shown to works that are more like this

as you can see there was a drastic change that seemed to happen rather suddenly
If that is really the question, then the answer seems rather simple to me. The best, most established artisans did not emigrate to the new world. They had no need to. Now, certain folks did come over for religious reasons, but most of the most talented artisans stayed in Europe, where the money to finance the more ornate works was available. That is the other reason for the greatly lessened degree of ornateness and quality on arms assembled over here.There were wealthy residents of the new world, but the royal patronage and local concentrations of wealth that existed in Europe were just not found here for quite a long time into our country's history.

As an engraver,I have seen very few American engravings that even approached the quality found on the best contemporary European work. In my limited experience, the best decorative work being done in early America was on silver or furniture. Even in the days of Nimshcke and Young, the best engraving in the world was being done in Europe. Until very recently, the quality of engraving done in the US could not compare very well with the best European work.

I am an opinionated curmudgeon, but my experience has shown that most gun writers know very little about the difference between varying degrees of quality in the engravings they write about.

If someone likes what they see, that is great. But it does not necessarily mean that the work is well designed, or even well executed.

This book-

has a couple of great chapters on engraving, that will help you learn how to evaluate what you see better. There are some great photos of some of Winston Churchill's work in that volume as well.

Also, Ron Smith's first book on scroll design

can be of great help in that department also. It is a more thorough treatment of the subject.

The early American artisans , in my opinion, were more praiseworthy for their persistence and resourcefulness, not the absolute quality of their work. Their work is sometimes very beautiful, and often the European work, to my eyes, could be grossly overdone, and not beautiful at all. However, generally speaking, we are talking about two different worlds.

To simplify it, I see two basic reasons for the "sudden decline" in the quality of engraving, which really is not a decline at all. What we see, I believe, is more average quality artisans getting their work noticed and appreciated, because they did not have the competition over here,from the very best that were still in Europe, and the fact that we Americans have taken more note of them, because they are our artisans! Their work stood out on a rugged frontier, and in a provincial society, in a way they would not have stood out in London, Berlin, or Paris, just to name a few places of note.

The early American engraver was either not capable of producing the quality of work that was being done by the best in Europe, or he did not have the patrons who were wiling or able to pay for it.

take care,

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