BUCK, Samuel (1696-1779) and Nathaniel BUCK (fl. 1724-1759), The South-West Prospect of Yarmouth, in the County of Norfolk. ca. 1741.

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BUCK, Samuel (1696-1779) and Nathaniel BUCK (fl. 1724-1759), The South-West Prospect of Yarmouth, in the County of Norfolk. ca. 1741.



7 ¼ x 27 in. (18.4 x 68.6 cm) Watercolor drawing, pen and brown ink, grey wash, inscribed with title on upper edge and annotated with key on upper right (light spotting and browning, fading consistent with age).
Provenance: Sir Bruce Ingram; Sotheby’s London, 21 October 1964, lot 11 (£70 to Sabin)
This original drawing presents one of the earliest topographical views of Britain, and provides a rare visual record of the historic town of Yarmouth before the upheavals of the Industrial Revolution (R. Hyde, 7). Annotated with a key, it shows the principal features of the seaside town, including a splendid view of the port against a background of meticulously depicted houses and buildings.
Samuel and Nathaniel Buck were brothers born in Yorkshire, England at around the turn of the 18th century. They published engravings of 428 views of the ruins of all notable abbeys and castles in Britain, along with four views of seats and 83 large general views of the chief cities and towns of England and Wales.
From 1728 to 1753, the two young men set out on an ambitious journey through England and Wales in order to engrave some of the country’s most important cities and towns (R. Hyde, 7). What resulted was one of the most significant topographical undertakings ever done in Britain. Prior to the Bucks’ copperplate panoramas, there were few depicted views of English cities and towns. Only a handful were included in the atlas by Braun and Hogenberg in their Civitates Orbis Terrurum, published in Cologne in 1581.
Faced with difficult road conditions, squalid accommodations, and horseback robbers, the Buck brothers' trips through England and Wales were harrowing and arduous. As Ralph Hyde notes, "In such conditions, their persistence and single-mindedness in pursuing their systematic recording of England and Wales year after year...is downright heroic" (R. Hyde, 25).
The present drawing of Yarmouth was produced in preparation for the Buck brothers’ magnificent series, Cities, Sea-ports, and Capital Towns. Yarmouth, so called because it sits at the mouth of the river Yare, has always been the gateway to the sea from the Norfolk Broads (a large area of navigable rivers and lakes), and boasts one of the largest marketplaces in Britain. It was also a key setting for Charles Dickens’s literary masterpiece David Copperfield. The supreme naval commander of the Royal Navy, Lord Horatio Nelson, was once a resident of the town.
Although most of the Bucks' town prospects bear the legend “Saml & Nathl Buck delin. Et Sculp.”, the huge undertaking by the Buck brothers meant that other artists were employed to copy the original sketches, strengthen the outlines of the drawings, improve the appearance of the landscapes, and add figures to the foreground. The Bucks however were certainly responsible for the final appearance of the drawings prior to engraving.
There is a drawing in the British Museum by Thomas Rosse for the figures in the right. The staffage in the engraving differs considerably from that in the preparatory drawings.
The staffage that appears in the later engraving, absent in this preparatory drawing, can be found in the drawing by Thomas Rosse at the British Museum (1964,1010.23). References: Ralph Hyde, A Prospect of Britain, The Town Panoramas of Samuel and Nathaniel Buck, London, 1994.

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