Turner, Joseph Mallord William RA (1775-1851): Pendennis Castle with entrance of Falmouth Harbour, Cornwall, engraver: Cooke, George, publisher: Murray, John, dated 1817, Line engraving, 21. 5 x 28.5 cms.
Picturesque Views on the Southern Coast of England
This, Turner's first major topographical print series was devised by engraver and print seller William Bernard Cooke syndicating with the publisher John Murray. The original prospectus proclaimed '... it is intended to proceed with the whole circuit of England including that of Wales.' A statement that was to prove rather optimistic as the unreliable Cooke and temperamental Turner were far from ideal colllaborators.
Arranged topographically from Whitstable in Kent to Watchett in Somerset the work included forty eight full-page illustrations and thirty two vignettes. Subject matter for the series was largely left to Turner and included typical coastal activities from fishing to beach combing all of which encapsulated their sense of place and typography in all weathers from balmy calm to violent storm. Most of the locations featured castles and ruins, a topical picturesque Turnerian leitmotif. The series was issued in sixteen parts, three full-page plates and two vignettes per part with accompanying commentary by hack author William Combe. However, that Turner wished to write the commentary himself led to the first of the troubles. Combe, also acting editor, in a letter to Cooke described the artist's submission for the first plate 'St Michael's Mount' as "the most extraordinary composition he has ever read." To which the latter responded by suggesting a partial inclusion by way of compromise adding "if you do not wish to drive Mr Turner starting staring mad you had better have two uncorrected sheers of his piece sent to him by the printer". Despite the artist's drafts were all discounted. Due to a different dispute, Murray withdraw from the syndicate on completion of Part X in 1820, it was thereafter concluded in association with the Quaker publishing firm of John and Arthur Arch of Cornhill.
Turner's original contract was to provide twenty four drawing at Â£7.10 shillings each. However, after four issues the superiority of his work so exceeded that of the other artists involved he was invited to add another sixteen at Â£10. Unable to keep up with the amount of work, Cook, his brother and fellow-engraver George, enlisted William Miller and Edward Goodall to assist. Thus began a mutually beneficial lifelong connection between the latter two engravers and Turner. Shortly after the final part appeared in 1826 Cooke and the artists fell out over terms for the projected sequel. Turner now demanded a two and a half guinea increase for every new drawing in addition to his dividend and the twenty-five sets of 'proofs before letters' he insisted upon. This proved too much for Cooke who consequently broke off relations in January 1827. In spite of the scheme's problems its financial and critical success was sufficient to inspire the even grander one that followed.
Words by Vaughan Allen
This animated view across Falmouth Bay and Gyllyngvase to Pendennis is from Pennance Point to the west. In the distance the river Fal harbour entrance can be seen bathed in sunlight. Along the coast, in the aftermath of the wreck, salvagers grapple with what they can amongst the rocky foreshore. Co-ordinating their efforts, a group poised on a cliff ledge extend a line out to men attempting to haul a shattered mast ashore. Further out surrounded by waves others glean lighter booty beneath seagulls wheeling above. By illustrating scenes such as this Turner drew attention to the lengths to which the Cornish were driven in order to sustain their impoverished living conditions.
The original for this print is in a Private collection, UK