Some of the more remarkable groups of papers surviving from my ancestor’s miscellany are the cut-out illustrations. There are dozens of them, and each must have taken a fair amount of time, concentration, a steady hand – and sharp scissors!
The blades of the scissors would almost certainly have been made of steel, and in all probability have been around one and a half inches long (with two-inch handles). The ones shown are modern embroidery scissors, but of a traditional design. Richard would have kept two areas of paper uncut at opposite sides, so that he could hold on to these while he turned the paper around and cut out the detail. These holding ‘knibs’ would then have been the last two bits to be chopped off, leaving the cut-out as an incredibly delicate art-work.
I like the way Richard appears to catch movement by showing different images of the same object (in this case, deer in a forest setting). He used the same technique when showing a marching column of men, or a troop of cavalry on horseback.
Cavalry on the move
Richard often recorded familiar ‘stories’ of travel by coach with (the pre-Turnpike Trust) bumpy roads, as with this scene with a coach and four:
Contrast this with a scene where the roads are less bumpy:
Any traveller would have been familiar with the risks from highway robbers:
but equally would know that when caught they would get their come-uppance (on the gallows).
Richard also cut out everyday scenes of country pursuits and farming activities:
The art of paper-cutting was popular in Germany and Switzerland in the 18th Century and emigrants took the craft to the United States, where its popularity is such that it merits its own museum, and magazine. There is even a Guild of Paper Cutters. It has to be said however that the ‘art form’ was never really popular in England, and for that reason many paper cutters showed an interest in The Journal of a Georgian Gentleman when it was published, because it showed a style with which they were not familiar.
Me, well I am happy to enjoy them for what they are – fragile mementos of family history.