Walking through the rare book room recently a title jumped out at me. Boldly printed in gold on a dark blue spine was the title, Dog Prints. Being a big fan of dogs and actually preferring to see people’s dog photos, I pulled the book off the shelf to take a look. It is a collection of 89 engravings of dogs dated from 1792 to 1835. Nearly all of the engravings are portraits depicting individual named dogs. About half are accompanied by brief comments outlining the pictured dog’s lineage, accomplishments, ownership, or sharing an interesting anecdote about the dog. Breeds pictured include greyhounds, harriers, pointers, foxhounds, spaniels, terriers, setters, beagles, bulldogs, staghounds, and deerhounds.
Here are three that I especially enjoyed.
“Pincher is the property of Mr. Cooper, the painter, for whom his attachment was extraordinary; he frequently gave him away, but to whatever distance he was taken, he speedily returned: at length his master met with an accident which proved fatal to him, and his body falling into the hands of strangers, no one could force the affectionate animal from him, until his son made his appearance, and many were bitten in attempting to remove him, not knowing it was his dog. S.M. Nov. 1811”
“Drake, a water-spaniel, the property of Lord Charles Kerr. In the month of August 1813, Lord Charles made a match with J. Cock, Esq. Jun., to play a game of Cricket, His Lordship backing his servant James Bridger and his dog Drake, against Mr. Cock with Wm. Witherell. The match which was for 50 guineas per side, was played at Hold Pound Cricketing Ground, near Farnham, Surry, on Monday, August 16th, 1813. The post assigned to Drake was that of catching the ball, the only way in which he could be serviceable, but, as he always caught it at the first bound, he was perhaps a more expert and efficient partner than many Bipeds. S.M. August 1814”
“The canine landing net. The late Mr. S. Burnes of Tooley Street, Southwark, well known as an excellent shot, was likewise one of the best fly-fishers in the kingdom. He had a pointer dog, called Old York, who frequently was his most orderly companion in that sport, and if a very heavy fish had entangled itself in the weeds, or the bank was particularly unfavourable, Old York would go in, and taking the fish behind the head, bring it out to his master, unbruised, and generally without breaking the tackle. S.M. May 1819”
The book itself is a bit of a mystery. There’s no publication information in it. No compiler or date of creation is listed. Looking more closely at the engravings I noted that they were all published by either, J. Wheble, J. Wheble & J. Pittman, or J. Pittman, all of Warwick Square, London. The commentary that accompanies many of the engravings is credited to S.M. and dated with a month and year, and one or two of these comments mention “this magazine.” A quick internet search turned up the book A Dictionary of Printers and Printing by C.H. Timperley which had a brief biography of John Wheble who published the magazine Sporting Magazine. Luckily NSLM has this magazine in our Main Reading Room, and I was able to confirm that the material in Dog Prints is indeed from that publication.
At this point however, I’m at a dead end. I would guess that Dog Prints was compiled and privately printed by an individual. It has certainly been customized by an individual as the engravings are numbered by hand and it has a handwritten index. There is also a clipping from a newspaper or magazine pasted into the book next to the index. It is a letter from a Mr. Grantley Berkeley to the Committee of the Society for the Suppression of Cruelty to Animals. Although no publication information is visible on the article, there is an ad with the date June 1839 on its reverse.
Beyond these bits of information one may only speculate on the origin of this book. Regardless of its origins, Dog Prints is a lovely collection of engravings well worth looking at. I would encourage readers to come to the library and peruse our copies of Sporting Magazine available in the reading alcoves in our Main Reading Room. This periodical contains all the engravings in Dog Prints as well as numerous others featuring a variety of sporting subjects. Dog Prints itself is housed in the F. Ambrose Clark Rare Book Room.
Erica Libhart has served as the Mars Librarian at the National Sporting Library & Museum (NSLM) since early 2016. The focus of her position is collection services, working to increase accessibility to NSLM’s collection of books, periodicals, and archival materials. The NSLM collections span over 350 years of the history of equestrian sport, as well as fly fishing, wing shooting, and other field sports. Have a question? Contact Erica by e-mail