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James McBey

1883 - 1959

The Cowgate, Edinburgh by James McBey

The Cowgate, Edinburgh   1904-1905

  Original etching.
Signed and titled in pencil.
Hardie 33
S 280 x 180 mm; P & I 203 x 126 mm
Original James McBey etching.

Exceptionally strong trial proof impression printed prior to the only edition. This rare early work by James McBey was printed in an edition of only 26 impressions which were signed and numbered in Roman numerals in ink - no trial proofs were recorded by Hardie. This outstanding impression is a trial proof prior to the edition, inked to give the effect of evening just as the daylight fades; unlike the edition, it is signed and titled in pencil and is not numbered. No other trial proof of this subject has been found.

McBey's early etched works, produced whilst he was still in Scotland, are now rare. This etching dates from soon after McBey's arrival in Edinburgh where he was posted whilst working as a bank clerk. He began etching Edinburgh subjects in his spare time, however, many of his plates were spoiled due to his using perchloride of iron instead of nitric acid. McBey had changed to this chemical as his landlady was concerned lest he should damage her carpet with nitric acid. At that time McBey did not know that he should have put his plates in the bath face downwards when using perchloride of iron in order to prevent a deposit from forming in the lines. The Cowgate, Edinburgh was his most successful plate from this period, producing 26 proof impressions for the edition and this one trial proof. Few others of these early experimental plates produced more than two or three impressions. It was to be only a few months after this etching was produced that McBey received his first recognition as an etcher, with one of his prints being accepted for the Royal Scottish Academy exhibition.

On simile Japan paper, with full margins and deckle edge. One foxing spot in outer margin, otherwise very good original condition. Image surface excellent.