2007年11月30日 星期五

Gibbings, Robert

The Life and Work of Robert Gibbings

Sweet Thames, Run Softly - Robert Gibbings - 1940

Coming Down the Wye - Robert Gibbings - 1943

Coming Down the Seine - Robert Gibbings - 1953

wye.jpg (24997 bytes)Books about following a river from its source to the end. Ideal! I'd been looking for this book for a long time and had almost given up. Isn't that always when you find things you seek? In a second hand bookshop in the hinterland near Noosa in Queensland, on a rainy day when the surf was flat, I found two of Robert Gibbings' books, Coming Down the Wye and Coming Down the Seine.

While the engravings are much of the charm of these books, the love of the local, the small detail and the fundamental interest in the waterway make this worth finding. Here, he describes his first attempt to find the source of the river Wye:

It was mid-winter when I first tried to reach the source of the Wye, on Plynlimon. In the morning, when I left Llangurig, the sun had risen in a clear sky, and was throwing its radiance over the snow-covered hills. To the west the sky was green as olives and the ice-fringed river, reflecting that colour, showed all the lights of an aquamarine. Higher in the hills the water in the tributaries flowed through crystal gorges, It was as if some giant crucibles of molten glass had been spilled along either bank. In sheltered pools, where the water was deep and calm, delicate fern-like plates of ice stretched out to meet each other over mid-stream, but on windier stretches the frozen surface was rippled and polished, and dark as the water flowing beneath. Where there had been a waterfall there were now caverns of ice, festooned with stalactites, the rock faces on either side shining like chandeliers with frozen spray. (2)

Gibbings fails to find the source of the Wye on that journey because the weather turns against him, but later he does find the source as he relates here:

I was at the source of the Wye. After a gently murmuring underground the water welled up, brushing aside the young spring grass to form a pool no bigger than a bowler hat. Then gently it glided between rich tussocks of moss and rushes still bent from their load of winter snow, until it tumbled like a shower of sequins over the black velvet of a peat face. (3)

So the narrative begins, at its original source. I liked the way he wanted to find the source, and his unshakeable confidence he had found it. There is something important about being at 'that place', something I felt when I stood at the junction of the Buchan and Snowy Rivers in Victoria late in 1996. You could point to this place on the map, where two rivers joined, or where, more nebulously, a river began.

thames.jpg (16891 bytes)I also liked the extract from Coming Down the Seine when Gibbings describes his 'coracle' drifting over flooded farmlands away from the river's course. Like Thoreau's axe at the bottom of the pond or the ancient city of Atlantis, Gibbings is able to see into a hidden otherworld:

. . . looking down on submerged grasses as though they were soft corals gently swaying on a tropic reef . . . floating over it I could see field paths and cattle tracks and once an iron plough reminded me or Tir na n-Og and other islands drowned by enchantment. (42)

Like Gilbert White, Robert Gibbings is interested in the small details that make up the local; I suppose they are celebrations too of an England that was already passing, if it hadn't gone already. The book I found in that bookshop in Noosa is a first edition, published in the dark days of 1943 'in complete uniformity with the authorised economy standards'. In 1943 there may have been something of an urgency about celebrating the most English of things.

green-eyed monster
Robert Gibbings: Oh, Beware my Lord, of Jealousie


Gibbings, Robert (1889-1958), artist, book-designer, and travel writer. Born in Cork, he was educated at UCC and served at Gallipoli. He came under the influence of the artist Eric Gill, running the Golden Cockerel Press from 1924 to 1933. Besides a series of books on rivers including Sweet Thames Run Softly (1940) and Lovely is the Lee (1945), he wrote about the South Seas in Coconut Island (1936).

rish Literature Companion. The Concise Oxford Companion to Irish Literature. Copyright © 1996, 2000, 2003 by Oxford University Press. All rights reserved. Read more
Wikipedia. This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Robert Gibbings". Read more

Robert Gibbings (1889-1958) was an artist and author who was most noted for his work as a word carver and for his books on travel and natural history.

Of Irish parentage, he studied at the Slade School of Art and the Central School of Art.


  • Coming Down the Seine
  • Sweet Thames Run Softly
  • Coming down the Wye
  • Till I End My Song

洛勃脫 蓋平斯
雕刻家 同時是自寫自插圖的著作家 初年是在愛爾蘭過Cork的 在倫敦 Slade和 Central 藝專畢業後 就趕上了第一屆大戰 而且參加了幾乎全軍覆沒的 Gallipoli 一役
曾充英國專出版精本書金雞書店Golden Cockerel Press的編輯 教過書 是英國藝術家到海底寫生的第一人 所著自己的書不下半打 如 椰子島 Coconut Island 馨田甜的泰晤士河溫柔地流著
Sweet Thames Run Softly
蕭乾編《英國版畫集》 頁111

cockerel 是一歲以下的雄雞 我相信中文也有類似的稱呼


The Golden Cockerel Press was founded by Harold M. Taylor in 1920. In 1924, Robert Gibbings joined the press and further developed the aim of making finely produced books available to a wider public at a reasonable price. Eminent artists such as Eric Gill, Osbert Lancaster, Blair Hughes-Stanton and Gibbings were commissioned to illustrate the publications. In 1933, Christopher Sandford, along with Owen Rutter and Francis Newbury, acquired the press. Separate bibliographies of the press's output were issued. Pertelote covers the years 1936 to 1943 and features four books illustrated by JBW.

Robert Gibbings (British, 1889-1958)

Robert Gibbings was born in Cork, Ireland. He was educated locally and went on to study medicine for two years at University College, Cork. He later studied art, briefly at the Slade and also at the Central School of Art. He began to experiment with wood engraving, and while on active service in World War I made numerous drawings which he later engraved. After the war he was instrumental in setting up the Society of Wood Engravers. Between 1924 and 1933 Gibbings owned the Golden Cockerel Press at Waltham St Lawrence, near Reading. He directed all aspects of book printing and illustration, decorating many of the publications with wood engravings by himself and other leading artists including Eric Gill. During his time at Waltham he carved a small number of major pieces in stone. The economic slump forced him to sell the press in 1933 and he moved to Cornwall. In 1936 Gibbings became senior lecturer in typography, book production and engraving at Reading University. In 1938 he held a one-man exhibition at Reading Museum titled ‘Twenty Years of Engraving’. His long interest in natural history and his travels resulted in a number of books which he both wrote and illustrated:Sweet Thames Run Softly (1940) was a particular success. In 1955 Gibbings moved from London to Long Wittenham, a village on the banks of the upper Thames. His last book,Till I End My Song, published in 1957, is principally about this village.

Reference: Patience Empson (ed.), The Wood Engravings of Robert Gibbings (1959). Mary A Kirkus, Robert Gibbings: A Bibliography, ed. Patience Empson and John Harris (1962); Andrews, Martin, J. The Life and Work of Robert Gibbings, 2003.

Robert Gibbings. The Mill

The Mill
Wood engraving included in Twelve Wood engravings (privately published, 1921)
Wood engraving on paper, signed by the artist
108 x 70mm.

References: recorded in Empson, Patience, The Wood-engravings of Robert Gibbings, 1949: 11.


A rare and early engraving by Gibbings from 1918.

Robert Gibbings. St. Pachome, Abbot of Taberne

St. Pachome, Abbot of Taberne
Wood engraving for Beasts and Saints by Helen Waddell (1934)
Wood engraving on paper, signed by the artist
120 x 94mm.

References: recorded in Empson, Patience, The Wood-engravings of Robert Gibbings, 1949: 140; illustrated in Andrews, Martin, J. The Life and Work of Robert Gibbings, 2003: 185.

A striking wood engraving from 1934 to illustrate Helen Waddell’s book Beasts and Saints which was a collection of stories and folk tales on the theme of ‘the mutual charities between saints and beasts’ dating from the fourth to the twelfth centuries and translated from the Latin by Waddell. Gibbings was particularly satisfied with his work for the book, recalling ‘My engravings in these two books were the best that I had so far accomplished, and gradually the sadness I felt at losing my press was dissipated.’ (Robert Gibbings, Some Recollections, from Patience Empson, The Wood-engravings of Robert Gibbings, 1949: xlii).


The first full-scale biography with more than 400 illustrations, of Robert Gibbings - private pressman, artist, wood engraver, book illustrator, journalist, television personality, traveller, adventurer and raconteur. Martin Andrews treats the whole Gibbings, the milieu in which he lived and worked, a colourful man larger than life, who perhaps did more than anyone else to bring the art of wood engraving to the attention of the general public. The wealth of illustration records Gibbings' work and life, several in colour and many unpublished, accompanied by a critical evaluation of his style and technique as artist and engraver and his achievements as designer, printer and entrepreneur in producing some of the finest private press books ever. 446 pp, casebound with dustjacket.