Wednesday 21 January 2015

A fine line and a backward glance

The beauty of some artifacts is obvious at first glance while others need a second look. Today’s hidden history object often requires a third look… and the ability to read backwards.

This favorite gem from our collection is a series of advertising printing plates hand engraved by C. H. Flewwelling of Saint John. Although they are rather unassuming at first glance, a closer look reveals each as a miniature work of art - in reverse. Engraving plates are carefully crafted by carving fine lines into the surface of wood, copper or other metals to create a reverse image plate for printing images onto paper. We think you’ll agree, C.H. Flewwelling was a master of the art.

The artistic Charles was not only talented, he was honing his craft at an important moment. When he began Flewwelling Press in 1877, advertising and product branding were just developing into the modern approach we know as consumers today. No longer were consumers simply buying flour from their local merchant – they wanted Robin Hood branded flour. Brands were important - and the images used for those brands needed to be excellent.

C.H. Flewwelling was the only professional engraver east of Montreal at the time and his reputation for quality work meant that many of the businesses of our area had logos, images and advertisements created by his firm. Flewwelling’s hand-carved engravings graced newspaper ads, packaging labels, books and more. Our collection of Flewwelling's work includes wood and metal plates with logos and advertisements for everything from Hampton Star Matches (produced by his cousins, the G.&G. Flewwelling Mfg. Co. of Hampton),

to Arven’s White Lily Biscuits, 

to the Sumner Company of Moncton. 

Flewwelling Press was also responsible for printing things like tourist brochures for the various steamship companies. A close look at many of these booklets reveals C.H. Flewwelling’s signature in the engraved maps of steamer routes, or in the advertisements for businesses at the various steamer stops.

Take a moment and enjoy a second look at this beautiful collection.

We won’t tell if you cheat and use a mirror to decipher the text.


For some stunning examples of C.H. Flewwelling’s book illustrations, check out the Nova Scotia Archives' digitized copy of Story of the Springhill Colliery Explosion by R.A.H. Morrow. It contains several of Flewwelling's engraved images.

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