Pre-Raphaelites, John Bull and lobsters: Highlights from cataloguing the Stationers’ Company copyright collection

For the last few years, our dedicated team of volunteers have been working hard both on site and remotely to catalogue a wonderful collection of records in records series COPY 1. These records consist of items registered for copyright protection with the Stationers’ Company between 1862 and 1912.

Our volunteers are currently working on cataloguing the images in the ‘paintings and drawings’ category and they are always coming across amazing finds. Here are just some recent highlights from this cataloguing project.

Cartoons by Harry Furniss, 1903

These two large satirical cartoons were produced and registered by Harry Furniss, a well-known illustrator who worked for both the Illustrated London News and Punch magazine in the late 19th century. He was particularly famous for his Punch column called ‘Essence of Parliament’, where he satirised political figures and events of the day.

Harry Furniss, 14 July 1903. Catalogue ref: COPY 1/205/282-283

The two cartoons are described as ‘Open Eye’ cartoons and satirise British economic policies. In his book, ‘Harry Furniss at Home’, published in 1904, he writes about one of these cartoons:

This one represents John Bull, tied hand and foot to the statue of Cobden, the great Free Trader, while foreign competitors laugh at him. Free trade, according to Mr. Chamberlain, spells ruin to Britishers, and prosperity to foreigners, who have not abolished it. Mr. Chamberlain’s shadow shows him approaching to free John Bull.

Harry Furniss, ‘Harry Furniss at Home’, (London, 1904), p. 67

William Holman Hunt, 1899

One significant artist who appears in the collection is William Holman Hunt. He was born in London in 1827 and was a founder of the Pre-Raphaelite movement. The image he registered for copyright protection in 1899 is a portrait of Dante Rossetti, poet and painter and co-founder of the movement.

(left image) William Holman Hunt, 1899. Catalogue ref: COPY 1/158/501; (right image) Portrait of Dante Gabriel Rossetti at 22 years of age, 1961P33, Photo by Birmingham Museums Trust, licensed under Creative Commons

The interesting thing about the way this particular portrait was registered is that Holman Hunt drew a tiny sketch of the portrait and attached it to the form, including a note that the portrait had a green background.

This sketch can be matched up to a few versions of this portrait in existence, including this one (on the right, above) held by Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery. While the portrait shows Rosetti at 22 years of age, it was actually painted after his death (see footnote 1).

Illustrations by Beatrix Potter, 1896

These illustrations were registered by Helen Beatrix Potter on 7 August 1896 with the description, ‘A lithographic drawing of Sphinx Ligustri containing 11 figures’.

Helen Beatrix Potter, 1896. Catalogue ref: COPY 1/128/300

Potter had a keen interest in natural history and created many detailed illustrations like this one, which was one of a set commissioned by the scientist Caroline Martineau. At the time this image was registered, Beatrix Potter was living with her parents at 2 Bolton Gardens in London. Another print of this illustration can be found in the collections of the Victoria and Albert Museum (footnote 2).

Colour photographs of lobsters and fish

We also stumbled across some particularly unusual photographic images in the collection. These coloured photographs of a sole and a lobster were registered for copyright protection on 9 December 1909 by the Photochrom Company Ltd. of 35/36 Hosier Lane, Snow Hill, London. The photographer was Edwin Albert Sweetman.

Photographs of sole and lobster, The Photocrom Company Limited, Edwin Albert Sweetman, 9 December 1909. Catalogue ref: COPY 1/540/119-120

The Photochrom Company originated in Zurich and was highly experimental in using coloured ink printing over photographs to achieve what they called ‘natural colour photography’. This technique may be in evidence in these images, which are strikingly realistic. They were intended as greetings cards. On the back of the sole photograph, it reads ‘from One Merry Sole to Another’.

C W Faulkner & Co. calendar, 1900

This elaborate paper calendar with moveable parts was registered on 26 May 1900 by Charles William Faulkner, a prolific manufacturer of greetings cards and card games as well as an art publisher.

C W Faulkner & Co, 1900. Catalogue ref: COPY 1/166/33-34

This calendar includes parts which can be rotated to select the day of the week and the month as well as a thermometer-style moveable section to allow the day of the month to be selected. The watercolour illustrations are by artist Jessie Watkins.

There are many more boxes of records remaining to be catalogued in the COPY 1 collection, so it is likely that many more interesting finds will be revealed over the course of the project. This project operates on site at Kew and also online via From The Page. If you’re interested in finding out more about the collection, please see our research guide to copyright records. If you’d like to get involved in cataloguing the material, please get in touch!


  1. Portrait of Dante Gabriel Rossetti at 22 years of Age, 1961P33:
  2. V&A, ‘Sphinx Ligustri’, Linder Bequest cat. no. LB.340:

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