Thomas Moring, a 19th century “die-sinker, gem engraver, heraldic artist and seal engraver” was known to have been active from 1840 to 1900, appearing in records at an address in Lincoln’s Inn Fields and then later in High Holbern. The engraver also seems to have been a prolific ex libris artist and in the early 1900s a collection of his book plates engraved on wood and printed directly from the blocks – One Hundred Book Plates Engraved on Wood by Thomas Moring – was published by the De La More Press, a publisher founded by Alexander Moring in 1895 in London, England and specialising in works on art and literature. The book included an introduction on the art of engraving book plates on wood by Alexander Moring and descriptive notes for all plates.
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Dealing more particularly with the class of design for which the wood-block is most suitable and to which we have entirely devoted this volume, it is noticeable that the Germans not only were the first to adopt elaborate designs, both in this style and in the more finished style of the copper plate, but that the artistic qualities of their Book Plates, even from the very earliest examples, are far ahead of those of any other country. Considerable controversy has taken place as to the cause of this pre-eminence, but the Teutonic vigour of character has no doubt a great deal to do with the readiness to appreciate fine work, while the great number of small princely courts each vying with the others in their desire to have the very best, both of books in their library and of labels to show the taste of their respective owner, created a demand which attracted and developed the talents of some of the finest minor masters of the time. In the search for good examples it is therefore only natural that we should turn to the older German Book Plates, and the majority of the examples in this book are founded upon the excellent work of Dürer and his contemporaries.
Another source of inspiration for this class of design must not be overlooked, and that is the trade marks and colophons of the early printers. These are exceedingly interesting, both from the artistic sense of proportion in their design, and also from the quaint and ingenious symbolism introduced. The marks of Aldus, Wynkyn de Worde, and others of a simple nature are well-known, but those of some of the more obscure printers are little known save to the bibliographer, but are, nevertheless, of great value from an artistic standpoint.
As so many books are available on the history of Book Plates, it is unnecessary to discuss at length the different styles of designing and engraving; we will therefore leave the following examples to speak for themselves as representing work of a modern artist, who has founded his style largely upon the examples of the best early periods.
Sources: ‘Thomas Moring’, Mapping the Practice and Profession of Sculpture in Britain and Ireland 1851-1951, University of Glasgow History of Art and HATII, online database 2011
One Hundred Book Plates Engraved on Wood by Thomas Moring – no visible notice of copyright; exact publication date unknown
More woodcut ex libris: