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The Beauties of Writing Exemplified in a Variety of Plain and Ornamental Penmanship, Designed to excite Emulation in this valuable Art, By Thomas Tomkins W.M.

Thomas Tomkins

RA Collection: Book

Record number




Foster Lane London: Published the 5th of June, 1808 (- November 28 1809), For the Author, Foster Lane.

Physical Description

[3], 41 pl. (incl. t.-pl.) 366 x 467 mm. (Broadsheet.)

General Note

The first three unnumbered plates consist of a frontispiece portrait and two plates of dedication. In the sequence of plates 1-41, the following lack their engraved number: 1 (title-plate), 7, 11, 21, 23, 26, 28, 33, 34, 40, 41.


[Frontis. (port.), two-leaf dedic.] - [T.pl., dedic.] - [Plates 3-[41]].

Responsibility Note

The frontispiece portrait is captioned, 'Mr. Tomkins From the original Picture, by Sir Joshua Reynolds', and is signed, 'The last Portrait Sir Joshua Reynolds Exhibited. 1789. Engraved by Charles Turner'. It carries the publisher's imprint, 'Published by the Proprietor, Foster Lane, London. May 6. 1805'.

All the numbered plates (1777) and the unnumbered plates [26] (1777) and [34] (1786) are signed as scripted by Thomas Tomkins and engraved by Josh. Ellis or H.Ashby. The unnumbered two-leaf dedication (1809) preceding the title plate is unsigned. Plate [1] (title plate) is signed as engraved by R. Halliwell. All other unnumbered plates [7, 11, 21, 23, 28, 33, 40, 41 (1808, 1809) are signed as scripted by Thomas Tomkins and engraved by Woodthorpe, Robert Halliwell or Kirkwood.

The inserted card carrying a dedication to the Royal Academy is signed as scripted by Walter Paton and engraved by Willm. Beckett.

The two-leaf dedication preceding the title plate is from Thomas Tomkins 'to the President and Council, and the rest of the Members of the Royal Academy of Arts in London', and carries the date November 28 1809; that following the title plate is from Thomas Tomkins to George Prince of Wales (afterwards King George IV), and carries the date 19 May 1777.

Summary Note

The work was first published in 1777: all the numbered plates and the unnumbered plate [26] carry the date 19 May 1777. In the present edition the title plate is dated 5 June 1808; and the frontispiece carries the earlier date of May 6 1805 and plate [34] the earlier date of 24 August 1786. But all the other new unnumbered plates carry later dates: the two-leaf dedication preceding the title plate is dated November 28 1809; plates [7], [23] and [33], November 2 1808; [11] and [41] October 25 1809; [21] January 1 1809; [28] January 18 1809; [40] October 25 1808.

The frontispiece is a portrait of Thomas Tomkins. Plates 3-41 are examples of writing.

The kind of writing demonstrated here is not only represented by means of copper-plate engraving but also much influenced by it.


A facsimile of the 1777 edition was published in 1983 by Dover Publications, New York (ISBN 0486244490).


Presented by the author in 1810 (see RA Council Minutes, IV, 207).

Copy Note

The Academy's copy has an inserted card, engraved, 'To The President & Members Of The Royal Academy Of Arts. As a token of the Author's gratitude for the distinguished patronage of the Royal Academy, During the last 20 Years'.

Binding Note

19th-century red, ribbed-morocco-grain cloth, with gilt borders on upper and lower covers; spine lettered 'Tomkins's Specimens Of Penmanship'.


Penmanship - Handwriting - Calligraphy - Writing, Copperplate - History - 18th century - 19th century
Manuals - Pattern books - Copybooks - 19th century


Thomas Tomkins, draughtsman, publisher, donor
Sir Joshua Reynolds PRA, source artist
Charles Turner ARA, engraver
Josh. Ellis, engraver
Harry Ashby, engraver
Robert Halliwell, engraver
Vincent Woodthorpe, engraver
Kirkwood, engraver
Walter Paton, draughtsman
William Beckett, engraver
George IV King of Great Britain, dedicatee
Royal Academy of Arts (London), dedicatee