Mother’s Friend and the engraver John Swain

Mother's Friend magazine with a John Swain cover engraving from November 1888

Mother’s Friend magazine with a John Swain cover engraving from November 1888

The Mother’s Friend ran for almost 50 years from 1848 and was one of several magazines launched for mothers in the mid-Victorian era. Note the prominent cover credit for the editor, Mrs GS Reaney, who was also a prolific book author for Hodder and Stoughton, with titles such as For my Children’s Sake: A Christmas story for mothers.

The particular issue, dated November 1888, has a cover engraving signed by John Swain, one of the most skilled craftsmen of his day.

John Swain's signature in 1888

John Swain’s signature in 1888

Swain (1829-98) was a wood engraver who worked for a considerable time on Punch, where he was a favourite engraver of John Leech. The artists’s caricatures where interpreted by the engravers, who carved a representation of the image into wood. On a weekly such as Punch, large images were made up of several blocks, which were clamped together for printing.

The John Swain engraving of sleeping children shows his skill

The John Swain engraving of sleeping children shows his skill

An engraver could specialise in certain subjects, such as sea, sky or people. Swain was popular with Leech for his ability to carve dainty feet and hands, a skill that can be seen in this cover.

As well as Mother’s Friend and Punch, Swain made engravings for Once a Week and the Illustrated London News, along with many books. As a young man, he formed a partnership with  John Rimbault, one of a family of celebrated engravers, and worked on The Engineer. He formed a company in 1857, which later became John Swain and Son at 58 Farringdon Street and later at Columbia House, 80-89 Shoe Lane.

 


To see almost 500 magazine covers and pages, look out for my book, A History of British Magazine Design, from the Victoria & Albert Museum, the world’s leading museum of art and design

 

 


 

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One Response to “Mother’s Friend and the engraver John Swain”

  1. Punch magazine’s horn of plenty | Magforum blog Says:

    […] sell his share to Bradbury & Evans, the publishers. Bradbury & Evans replaced Landells with Joseph Swain and gained complete control in December 1842. Swain was not credited on the […]

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