Tuesday, 11 October 2016

Thomas Rothwell (Copperplate Engraver)


Thomas Rothwell (1740-1807) was a British engraver working in England and Wales in the late eighteenth century, whose skills were utilised in both the book trade and in the making of enameled and pottery goods. He was born in Liverpool, and began working as an enamel painter,* later, in the early 1760s, working for Humphrey Palmer in Hanley, Staffordshire, (a rival of Josiah Wedgwood) painting enamel as well as engraving designs for the printed creamware being produced by Palmer.

Teapot with design by T. Rothwell "Delin & Sculp.",
meaning that he drew the design and engraved it.
Produced in the mid 1760s, maker unknown.
A detail of the lid is at the top of the post.

In 1769 Rothwell produced the copper plate engravings for a publication of A Pilgrim's Progress published in Wolverhampton by Thomas Smith, and by 1770 was in Birmingham; this time engraving plates for printer Christopher Earl. The work printed in Birmingham was The Genuine Works of Flavius Josephus, and Rothwell produced engravings taken from drawings produced by Birmingham born painter James Millar.

In 1774 Rothwell had set up a partnership with a Mr. Hick's on Birmingham's Church Street, but the next reference to him is not till 1782 where he takes on an apprentice engraver called Henry Allden in Birmingham;** he appears in Birmingham trade directories throughout the 1780s till 1788.

By 1790 he was in Swansea, producing topographical views of the city, as well as working within the Swansea ceramics trade, especially producing commemorative items.

Swansea commemorative ceramics.
Attributed to Rothwell. 

In 1794 he was in London (or possibly his son, Peter, was), producing engraved plated for books, including portraits of famous people and notable London buildings. It seems that he spent the next few years between London and Birmingham; in 1798 he takes on an apprentice engraver (Horace W. Fell) in Birmingham and in 1799 his copper plate engravings are published in London in The Cabinet of Arts. He was now nearly 60 years of age.

The Admiralty, from The Cabinet of Arts, 1799.

Rothwell was back in Birmingham in about 1803, and died in the town in 1807, being buried in St. Mary's Church on January 19th.

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