The Pease Collection of Bewick books was bequeathed to Newcastle Libraries in 1901 on the death of local businessman, John William Pease (1836 – 1901), the result of 40 years of collecting. The Bequest contains 331 volumes, in fine bindings, of first and later editions of all Bewick illustrated books, over 1000 wood blocks by Thomas Bewick and his workshop, letters, drawings, water-colours and Bewick’s own tool chest and the table where he worked.
The quality of the collection has been enhanced in that there has been an ongoing policy to acquire all new publications and materials relating to Bewick and his pupils. The collection now consists of over 600 volumes and items including all critical and descriptive works relating to Thomas Bewick and his ‘school’.
Pease thought of Bewick as a ‘heaven-sent guide to youthful ornithologists’, as well as ‘the great engraver of his time, who understood the art as no one else ever understood it before, and who will ever remain the wonder of the student of nature and of art’.
Pease began to seriously collect Bewick’s work after moving to Newcastle in 1859. He was acquainted with Bewick’s two daughters who firmly believed that their father’s talent was not fully recognised in the north. As a result, Bewick’s best water colours were sent to the British Museum. Pease did not agree with the opinion of Bewick’s daughters so he began his own collection, intent on keeping some of Bewick’s work in the region. He delighted in hunting down or ‘stalking’, as he called it, the various items that he eventually acquired.
The Pease Collection represents all aspects of Bewick’s ability. When John William Pease died on the 25th of March, 1901, his donation of this unique collection to Newcastle Libraries left a lasting legacy of Bewick’s work for all to enjoy