Block by Block

Documenting Historic Cornish Monuments

In our next Rare Books & Works on Paper auction, is a brilliantly rare lot, a collection of over seventy printers' blocks used in the seminal work by Arthur G. Langdon. 


The printer blocks were created for the book written by Arthur G. Langdon in 1896, ‘Old Cornish Crosses’, which was first published in 1896 by Joseph Pollard of Truro.  

The book can be described as a historically significant artefact. The book explores the history and significance of the ancient stone crosses found throughout Cornwall. It contains detailed descriptions and these exquisite illustrations from the print blocks. The crosses themselves can be dated back to the early Christian era and are considered important cultural artefacts. 

The book details, in the ‘Introductory remarks’, that Cornwall contains a “larger and more varied number of early Christian monuments than any other county in the British Isles”, in which the book documents many of the “300 crosses alone, besides other kinds of monuments”.  During the writing process, Langdon drew inspiration from J. T. Blight's 'Ancient Crosses and Antiquities of Cornwall'. However, he discovered that he needed to redraw all the intricate examples because very few of the ornaments had been accurately depicted. 

Through a blend of sketching and rubbing techniques the blocks are 'then ready to be photographed to the required scale’. These captivating artifacts, often depicted in reverse, maintain the same magnificence as their original counterparts. 

This book serves as an invaluable tool for those intrigued by Cornwall's history and art, as well as for those exploring the evolution of Christianity in the British Isles. The printer blocks embody the documentation process of the enduring monuments. 

These fantastic printer's blocks will be sold in our Rare Books & Works on Paper auction on Thursday 23rd May.  



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