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George Bickham Sr.
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An English engraver, illustrator, draftsman, writer and publisher, George Bickham the Elder is best known for his book The Universal Penman, a work with examples of calligraphy prepared by twenty-five contemporary writing masters, illustrated with numerous scenes and containing altogether 212 plates. Engraved and published together with his son, George Bickham the Younger (d. 1771) and John Bickham (active in London 1730-1750, perhaps his son or brother), the work was issued in 52 parts over fifteen years, from 1733 until 1741. Little is know about Bickham’s early life or training, other than he was a student of the English writing-master and engraver John Sturt (1658-1730). His trade card from 1705 describes Bickham as an engraver and drawing instructor, and he taught pupils in drawing, engraving and writing for much of his life. He struggled to economically in the 1720’s and was imprisoned for debt in 1723. Among his numerous other works is a book of engravings with text, The British Monarchy, first published in 1743, which contained topographical views and a description of the history and economy of English and Welsh counties and British colonies. Bickham is also known for his portrait engravings of British royalty, contemporary writing masters and eminent persons of the day. His work is often very similar to that of his son, and secure attributions as between the two of them can be difficult. According to a contemporary book, Bickham died of palsy on May 4, 1758 and was buried in an unmarked grave at St. Luke’s Church, in the London borough of Islington. (TNB 4/2012) Selected bibliography: Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Thieme, Ulrich and Felix Becker, Allgemeines Lexikon der Bidenden Künstler von der Antike bis zur Gegenwart, vol. 3, p. 608. Leipzig: Wilhelm Engelmann, 1909.