Tag Archives: Engraving

John Sturt (1658-1730): Engraver, Illustrator, Calligrapher

One of the most extensive sections of the Thackeray Bequest is a collection of theology books, ranging from the Koberger Latin Bible printed in Nuremberg in 1478 to around 160 books in Gothic script published between 1530 and 1580 by such notable figures as John Calvin, Hugh Latimer, Philip Melanchthon, Sir Thomas More, William Tyndale, Luther and Erasmus. In this eclectic collection are two visually impressive books engraved by John Sturt (1658-1730), best known as the illustrator of Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress (1728).

Title page of The Book of Common Prayer (London: John Baskett; sold by John Sturt, 1717) with engraved royal device (Thackeray.C.67.12)

One of Sturt’s most notable works is The Book of Common Prayer (1717), executed on 188 silver plates which include more than 100 illustrations depicting scenes from the New Testament:

Engraved vignette depicting one of the Stations of the Cross

as well as portraits of Queen Elizabeth I, James I, Charles I, Charles II, and George I, among others:

Portrait of Queen Elizabeth I. Each page is set within an ornamental border

A remarkable feature of this book is the frontispiece portrait of King George I, on which Sturt inscribed in minuscule letters the Creed, the Lord’s Prayer, the Ten Commandments, a prayer for the King and the Royal Family, and Psalm 21:

Frontispiece portrait of King George I. Sturt’s skills as a calligrapher were such that he managed to engrave the Lord’s Prayer on a silver halfpenny

The book took three years to complete and was financed by subscribers, whose names appear in the volume. Sturt’s next project, providing the illustrations for Laurence Howell’s The Orthodox Communicant (1721), was published four years later and also features a list of subscribers at the end.

Title page of Laurence Howell’s The Orthodox Communicant (London: Sold by John Sturt, 1721); Thackeray.C.75.28

This volume further illustrates Sturt’s skills in miniature work. Each page has an engraved border enclosing engraved text with a vignette at the top of the page. The text and the borders were separately imposed, which means that copies may not always have the same border surrounding a particular page of text:

The Sermon on the Mount

The Flagellation

The Resurrection

Sturt was a very prolific engraver, and his work as a book illustrator includes Francis Bragge’s Passion of our Saviour (1694), Samuel Wesley’s History of the Old and New Testament in Verse (1704), Charles Perrault’s Treatise on the Five Orders of Architecture (1708) and Hamond’s Historical Narrative of the Whole Bible (1727). Though he died in poverty in 1730, John Sturt remains one of the most skilled and accomplished engravers and calligraphers of his generation.

Happy Easter from everyone at King’s College Library and Archives!

IJ