Friday, 1 June 2007

Eric Fitch Daglish, author and engraver

This week I would like to write about my father, Eric Fitch Daglish. He was born in Islington, London, in 1892, the son of James William Daglish and Kate Annie Fitch. The family originated in Whickham, County Durham - and had arrived in London in the mid 19th century, via France and Somerset. The family established a business in the area - firstly in cabinet making and upholstery and later as overmantel mirror makers.

Eric studied in London and in Bonn, Germany, before the outbreak of the First World War. During the war, he served in the Middlesex Imperial Yeomanry and the Royal Field Artillery in Ireland, Flanders and France. When the conflict ended, he continued in Army life as Officer in charge of education at Woolwich Garrison until 1922.

The family then moved out of London to the Buckinghamshire Chilterns, where Eric could pursue his lifelong interest in the countryside and natural history. His first of many books was published in 1923.

He became a member of the Society of Wood Engravers, which revived the art first developed in the 18th and 19th centuries by Thomas Bewick and others. Fellow members of the society were his close friends the brothers John and Paul Nash, and Eric Gill who lived close by. More information about wood engraving can be found at the web site of the Society of Wood Engravers.

He used wood engravings as illustrations in many of his books. Most wood engravings are black and white, but it was also possible to hand colour these - as was done in the book Birds Of The British Isles (see cover which shows a coloured wood engraving of goldfinches). He also illustrated books by other authors, including Walton’s Compleat Angler.

His wood engravings are in the permanent collections of the British Museum, the Victoria & Albert Museum and the art galleries of Liverpool and Manchester, the Metropolitan Museum of New York, Boston and Philadelphia.

As well as engraving, Eric also painted. His paintings show the same level of detail seen in the wood engravings. Shown here is detail from a painting of parrots.

Other interests included breeding dogs and he wrote several popular handbooks on a number of breeds. He judged at many dog shows, including Crufts. The picture above shows him judging at a local show at Thame in September 1953.

My father died in 1966, and his books are now out of print. In recent years there has been something of a revival of interest in the art of wood engraving and I have received a number of enquiries from libraries and museums in the last year about works by my father.


Patricio said...

Hello Stephen:
I'm writing from Santiago de Chile, in South America. I recently found one of you father's books, 'Name this Insect', on a second-hand bookstore. It is in perfect condition, and I must say its amazing. I am a big fan of classic insect illustrations, and stumbled upon your blog while searching the web for more information on Eric Fitch. Sad to know that he passed away, but I can assure you that his work lives on.

Doodle said...

Hi Stephen,

Following a clearout I have just rediscovered an old black and white print. On the front is written in pencil and presumably in your fathers hand :-

No 6 - The Lapwing - Eric Daglish

The reverse bears a title plate from The Redfern Gallery stating

Title. The Lapwing
Artist. Eric Daglish
Purchaser. Dr.A T de Montpied
Date. Dec 12th 1925

Can anyone enlighten me as to whether this was part of a limited print edition?

Stephen Daglish said...

Hi Doodle,
My father exhibited at the Redfern Gallery in 1925 and 1927.
Without seeing this I can't confirm if the handwriting is his (although it is likely to be - he should also have signed it).
I think the No.6 probably refers to its number within the exhibition, rather than being part of a limited edition.
With best wishes, Stephen

Anonymous said...


I am a publisher based in Dorset who is reissuing an old Edward Thomas book and would dearly love to use Eric's wonderful engravings from the first edition - would it be possible to get in touch about our project?

Best wishes


peter said...


I have found this information most useful as I am putting up an exhibition on Book Illustration in the University of the Witwatersrand Library including your father's Birds of the British Isles.

Peter Duncan (Librarian Special Collections)

Michael said...

Hi Stephen,

Count me as one more admirer of you father's wood engravings.

Would you please consider allowing me to use one his charming engravings along side some notes I've written about European Starlings here in northern Ontario?

I've posted a rendering here and I will remove if you disapprove.

Best wishes,


Stephen Daglish said...

Hi Michael,

Thank you - no problem at all. I enjoyed your blog.

We have a lot of starlings at our home in the UK that keep us entertained throughout the year.

In some parts of the UK, the roosting of great flocks of starlings is a treasured spectacle.

With best wishes,

superchick said...

im writing a blog on your dad, any info welcome however seemingly unimportant, ta m

Stephen Daglish said...

Please contact me and I will be glad to help - see profile page for contact details.
With best wishes,

Anonymous said...

Came across this whilst looking through the internet at vintage artists, thought the name was familiar . Ask a few family members and He was my Great Grandad! knew he wrote a few books but never knew the scale of his work and the fact that his work was so widely known. Filled me with lots of pride :)

Daniel Hay.

Anonymous said...

Hey there! he was also my Great Grandfather, and fills me with pride too that his work is so widely remembered.

Katie Reeve

Unknown said...

Hello Stephen. I am on holiday in the Lake District with my family. We are in a cottage in Matterdale End. My daughter has found a book in the bookcase here by your father. 'How to see birds'. She keeps reading us excerpts and finds it enchanting.
I will try to buy her a copy to keep.