Friday 5 March 2021

William Hogarth's Design for Blundell's School

In Snell (1892), it mentions that the famous painter and printmaker, William Hogarth, designed a Blundell's School celebratory dinner invitation (shown below). The British Museum has it catalogued as a "letterhead", so it might not have been designed specifically for this purpose.

Hogarth's design for Blundell's School - 1726
Hogarth's design for Blundell's School - 1726

From page 217 of Snell (1892):

It has not been ascertained when the anniversary of Blundell's School was first celebrated. It has been inferred, however, from certain intimations to be found in divers old manuscripts, that the custom dates back almost to the foundation of the school, though, as far as I can learn, it was never observed with any degree of regularity until the close of the last century. On one occasion the ticket of admission was designed by Hogarth, but some doubt exists as to when it was first used. Mr. Rankilor, one of the masters of the school, in a paper read before the Devonshire Association, (1891), gives the following account of the matter:

"In 1725 was celebrated the first anniversary of the school, when the sermon was preached by the Rector of Tiverton, and by him dedicated to the 'Master of Tiverton School, and to his much-honoured (the epithet will bear a double construction) friends and school-fellows.' There is some doubt as to whether Hogarth's well-known 'Ticket of Admission to the School Feast' was produced for this occasion, or in 1740, the date which the engraving bears. The former date seems more probable, for the reason that Hogarth did most of his copper engraving between 1718 and 1726, on the commission of booksellers generally. After the latter date he took up portraiture, and speedily acquired reputation and wealth. Of the engraving in question, two copies may be seen in the present Register, one of which was presented in 1825 by the Rev. W. Toms, of Southmolton, to the Rev. Alldersey Dicken, then head-master; the second, vastly inferior, was inserted in the Register, together with an autograph letter of Lord Palmerston's, in 1859. The principal figure in the engraving is Minerva, sitting near a well-filled bookcase, and indicating to a child standing at her knee the school buildings in the distance. Near her Mercury is watering a shrub, to the apparent edification of another small boy; on the left are two children reading, and near them again is an old man, possibly a schoolmaster, to all appearance in the act of discoursing in a casual way to a somewhat inattentive audience, not an altogether unusual experience, perhaps. Motto: 'In patriam populumque fluxit utrique unus et ex uno stemmate surgit honos.' Below the engraving, in bold lettering, is a note of invitation, followed by the names of the Stewards. Underneath all, in smallest italics, and yet important as a lady's postscript, 'Pay ye Bearer 10s. 6d.' At the School Feast in 1728, the sermon was preached by the Rev. John Jones, O.B., who afterwards became head-master. It was published at the request of the stewards, to whom it was dedicated. A copy of this pamphlet was presented to the school library in 1887 by a well-known member of this Association, H. S. Gill, Esq., J.P."

The Latin motto of 'In patriam populumque fluxit utrique unus et ex uno stemmate surgit honos' roughly translates to 'It flows into country and people [referring to education] from both sides, one and the same honour [or dignity] rises / grows tall from the genealogical tree'.

In the book William Hogarth: A Life and a World by Jenny Uglow, the year of 1726 is given as its date.