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Sir William Newzam Prior Nicholson. 1872-1949.

An Alphabet. 1898. Set of 26 woodcuts hand colored by the artist from the édition de luxe of 50. Acording to Campbell, p. 182, "In this edition, woodcuts printed from the original blocks were hand-coloured by the artist, trimmed to the border, mounted on card, signed in pen and ink on the card and issued loose in a portfolio."

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Cover for An Alphabet. 18978. Vellum stamped with black and other colors. Folio 17 3/8 x 14 (fully opened 17 3/8 x 29 1/2, excluding endpapers. Cover for the édition de luxe of 50.

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A was an Artist. 1898. Woodcut with hand coloring by the artist. 9 3/4 x 7 3/4 (sheet 17 x 14).The original card for this woodcut has been replaced by modern card. Signed in ink.

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B for Beggar. 1898. Woodcut with hand coloring by the artist. 9 3/4 x 7 3/4 (sheet 17 x 14).

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C is for Countess. 1898. Woodcut with hand coloring by the artist. 9 3/4 x 7 5/8 (sheet 17 x 14).

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D is for Dandy. 1898. Woodcut with hand coloring by the artist. 9 3/4 x 7 5/8 (sheet 17 x 14).

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E for Executioner. 1898. Woodcut with hand coloring by the artist. 9 3/4 x 7 5/8 (sheet 17 x 14).

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F is for Flower Girl. 1898. Woodcut with hand coloring by the artist. 9 3/4 x 7 5/8 (sheet 17 x 14).

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G for Gentleman 1898. Woodcut with hand coloring by the artist. 9 3/4 x 7 3/4 (sheet 17 x 14).

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H for Huntsman 1898. Woodcut with hand coloring by the artist. 9 3/4 x 7 3/4 (sheet 17 x 14).

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I for Idiot 1898. Woodcut with hand coloring by the artist. 9 3/4 x 7 3/4 (sheet 17 x 14).

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J Jockey 1898. Woodcut with hand coloring by the artist. 9 3/4 x 7 3/4 (sheet 17 x 14).

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K is for Keeper 1898. Woodcut with hand coloring by the artist. 9 3/4 x 7 3/4 (sheet 17 x 14).

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L is for Lady 1898. Woodcut with hand coloring by the artist. 9 3/4 x 7 3/4 (sheet 17 x 14).

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M for Milkmaid 1898. Woodcut with hand coloring by the artist. 9 3/4 x 7 3/4 (sheet 17 x 14).

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N for Nobleman. 1898. Woodcut with hand coloring by the artist. 9 3/4 x 7 3/4 (sheet 17 x 14).

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O for Ostler. 1898. Woodcut with hand coloring by the artist. 9 3/4 x 7 3/4 (sheet 17 x 14).

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P for Publican. 1898. Woodcut with hand coloring by the artist. 9 3/4 x 7 3/4 (sheet 17 x 14).

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Q for Quaker. 1898. Woodcut with hand coloring by the artist. 9 3/4 x 7 3/4 (sheet 17 x 14).

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R is for Robber. 1898. Woodcut with hand coloring by the artist. 9 3/4 x 7 3/4 (sheet 17 x 14).

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S for Sportsman. 1898. Woodcut with hand coloring by the artist. 9 3/4 x 7 3/4 (sheet 17 x 14).

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T for Topers. 1898. Woodcut with hand coloring by the artist. 9 3/4 x 7 3/4 (sheet 17 x 14).

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U is for Urchin. 1898. Woodcut with hand coloring by the artist. 9 3/4 x 7 3/4 (sheet 17 x 14).

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V is for Villain. 1898. Woodcut with hand coloring by the artist. 9 3/4 x 7 3/4 (sheet 17 x 14). Series: An Alphabet.

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W is for Waitress. 1898. Woodcut with hand coloring by the artist. 9 3/4 x 7 3/4 (sheet 17 x 14). Series: An Alphabet.

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X Xylographer. 1898. Woodcut with hand coloring by the artist. 9 3/4 x 7 3/4 (sheet 17 x 14).

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Y is for Yokel. 1898. Woodcut with hand coloring by the artist. 9 3/4 x 7 3/4 (sheet 17 x 14).

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Z for Zoologist. 1898. Woodcut with hand coloring by the artist. 9 3/4 x 7 3/4 (sheet 17 x 14). Series: An Alphabet.

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Sir William Newzam Prior Nicholson (5 February 1872 – 16 May 1949) was an English painter of still-life, landscape and portraits, also known for his work as a wood-engraver, illustrator, author of children's books and designer for the theater.
William Newzam Prior Nicholson was born on the 5th of February 1872 in Newark-on-Trent, Nottinghamshire. Nicholson’s talent for art was noticed early on, and from the age of twelve he enjoyed private drawing lessons from his school drawing master William Cubley. Nicholson left school at the age of 16 to study at Hubert Herkomer’s School of Art in Bushey; however Nicholson was not impressed by the dogmatic teaching there and by October 1891 he left England for Paris. Once there Nicholson studied at the Académie Julian and soon discovered the treasures of the Louvre. Nicholson decided to return home after several months and at some point between 1890 and 1892 he made his first woodcut. In April 1893 Nicholson married Mabel Pryde, who he had met at Herkomer’s, and together they moved to Denham, Buckinghamshire.
In 1894 William Nicholson made his first poster design in partnership with his fellow artist, and brother-in-law, James Pryde. The two artists produced various poster designs under the pseudonym J. and W. Beggarstaff over the next few years; these were greatly admired at the International Artistic Pictorial Poster Exhibitions held at the Westminster Aquarium in 1894 and 1896.

Nicholson, however, was inspired by woodblocks in English 'chapbooks' (cheaply produced popular pamphlets) and by the 'primitive' character of old woodblocks which he discovered in a Newark bookshop. Another departure from tradition was the exclusion of moralising verses.
Nicholson soon turned to the woodcut medium in earnest. In 1896, after seeing William’s woodcut of the Prince of Wales’s Derby-winning horse Persimmon at the Fine Art Society, Whistler recommended the young artist to his friend the publisher William Heinemann. Marguerite Steen describes this first meeting in her book:
‘Heinemann received him cordially; it was not every day he received young artists bearing such credentials as an introduction from James McNeil Whistler. He wanted, he said, ideas; and William, who, on this occasion at least, showed some of the paternal shrewdness, suggested an Alphabet, at a fiver a letter. Having commissioned A, it was bound to go on to Z, which would secure the rent for twenty-eight weeks at any rate!’
Nicholson produced two sample cuts, A was an Artist and D was an Dandy, which Heinemann approved, then, on the 27th of November 1896, Nicholson signed an agreement with Heinemann to produce ‘a set of twenty-six woodcuts representing the Alphabet’.
Nicholson worked on his designs tirelessly over the next few months in his small house in Avonmore Gardens. An Alphabet was well received by critics and public alike when it was published in October 1897.
Heinemann wrote in the prospectus for An Alphabet:
‘The simplicity of his method will appeal especially to the artist, but the picturesquement of treatment must be appreciated by all, while the wholesomeness and truth to nature of these designs will ensure for them a welcome in every English home. The parent will pleasantly conjure up reminiscences of quaint customs of the past, and the child will be fascinated alike by the bizarre attraction of colour and by the impressive types selected.’

Nicholson used the side rather than the end grain of the block. He exploited the stark, almost total white background and the evocative suggestive qualities of overall blankness, from which the figure emerges. This became a hallmark of Nicholdon's woodcut style.

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Allinson Gallery Index

British Fine Prints.

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