Cornelius Tiebout Engravings

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Publishers proved that a picture is worth a thousand words many times during the careers of early American copperplate engravers, including Cornelius Tiebout (pronounced TEE boh). Consider, for example, Gilbert Stuart's famous portrait of George Washington, left unfinished in 1796. The popularity of this portrait led Stuart to paint many look-alikes, but he could not provide the public with hundreds—or thousands—of copies. Instead, publishers paid engravers to create likenesses, a centuries-old partnership that was profitable for both publisher and engraver. Indeed, a historian has written that "In 1822, engraving in America was the only 'paying art'—that is to say, the only branch of art for which there was a public demand."

Among portraits engraved by Tiebout are two based on Stuart's 1796 original of Washington. You can see them in Part 3 of this website. (You've probably seen Stuart's 1796 image of Washington on one-dollar bills.)

One of the most important early American publishers was the firm of T. and J. Swords of New York, for which Tiebout engraved maps and dozens of illustrations for The New-York Magazine; or, Literary Repository—see Parts 1 and 2.

Tiebout moved from his native New York City to Philadelphia in 1800, where he engraved many images for the publisher Mathew Carey. During an age of devout Christianity, Carey published and sold thousands of Bibles, including engravings by Tiebout—see Part 4.

One of the most popular novels of the time was Charlotte Temple, first published in England, and then repeatedly published in Philadelphia by Mathew Carey. The impact of Tiebout's engraving of the fictional subject of this novel for Carey's edition of 1809—see Part 3—gained special attention in Matthew Pethers's "Portrait Miniatures: Fictionality, Visual Culture, and the Scene of Recognition in Early National America," Early American Literature 56 (2021) pp. 755-807.

To Susanna Rowson, the author of the famous novel, Carey wrote in 1812, "Charlotte Temple is by far the most popular & in my opinion the most useful novel ever published in this country…. It may afford you great gratification to know that the sales of Charlotte Temple exceed those of any of the most celebrated novels that ever appeared in England. I think the number disposed of must far exceed 50,000 copies."

Many publications that include Cornelius Tiebout engravings were American editions of works previously published in London. Along with Bibles and Charlotte Temple, another example is the first American edition of G. H. Maynard's translation of The Whole Genuine and Complete Works of Flavius Josephus. (Josephus was a first-century Jewish historian.) Published in London in 1790, the book includes more than 700 pages, with 60 engraved plates after English artists Conrad Morton Metz (1749-1827), Thomas Stothar (1755-1834), Richard Carbould (1757-1831), and others. The English copper plates were not reused when Maynard's translation was published in New York two years later. Instead, new engravings, based on the English images, were made by American engravers, including Tiebout. For images of his fourteen engravings, see Part 5.

Cornelius Tiebout was one of the foremost American copperplate engravers, but there were many other engravers, especially in Philadelphia. They collaborated, and they competed, and they often shared space in magazines and books. Several engravers whose works are found near those of Tiebout are listed below. For each engraver, the number in square brackets is his estimated age when his earliest known engraving was published. This number can be compared to Tiebout's number: [11] if he was actually born in 1777, and [15] if in 1773. (Both years are widely published, following the Library of Congress for 1777, and following The New-York Historical Society's Dictionary of American Artists for 1773.)

Alexander Anderson (1775-1870, wood engraver and physician, [17])
Amos Doolittle (1754-1832), [21]
David Edwin (1776-1841), born in England, in Philadelphia in 1797, [21])
Francis Kearny (1785-1837; surname also spelled Kearney, [21])
Benjamin Tanner (1775-1848, [19])

During Tiebout's last years, copperplate engraving was increasingly replaced by steel-plate engraving and improved methods in lithography, etching, aquatint, and the beginnings of photography. Although copperplate engraving has been obsolete for nearly 200 years, one can, by viewing these engravings, gain an appreciation of American (and British) culture and history during the years following the Revolutionary War, and also, of course, an appreciation for the great skill and patience required for producing fine engravings.

Beyond this introduction, this website is partitioned into eighteen parts, with titles and links as follows:

Part 1. Earliest Engravings (1788-1789)
Part 2. New York Magazine
Part 3. Portraits
Part 4. Biblical Illustrations
Part 5. American Edition of the Works of Josephus
Part 6. Buildings, Landscapes, Ships, Battle Scenes
Part 7. Mavor's Voyages
Part 8. Rees's New Cyclopaedia
Part 9. Emporium of Arts and Sciences
Part 10. Botany (Barton and Barton)
Part 11. American Entomology (Thomas Say)
Part 12. American Conchology (Thomas Say)
Part 13. Architecture: The Carpenter's Assistant (Owen Biddle)
Part 14. Chemistry (Lavoisier, Davy, and Henry)
Part 15. Ferguson's Lectures (Astronomy, Mechanics, Optics, etc.)
Part 16. Encyclopedia (Brewster) and Dictionary (Gregory)
Part 17. Maps
Part 18. Miscellany

Copper plate from AAS: Joseph and brethren
Photograph of a surviving (!) copper plate engraved by Cornelius Tiebout. This plate, shown here by permission, is preserved at the American Antiquarian Society, Worchester, Massachusetts. The engraving was used to print an illustration in an 1804 Bible. The printed illustration is included in the carousel in Part 4. (Can you read the reversed inscription shown here?)

Biographical Article

For information about Tiebout's disputed year of birth, his family, connections with publishers and other engravers, and their impact on American culture, click here: Cornelius Tiebout: His Life and Engravings.

References and Resources

By far, the most comprehensive resource of its kind is the American Antiquarian Society's Catalog of American Engravings, which covers engravings dated before 1821. To search for Cornelius Tiebout, type this into the search box: Tiebout, Cornelius. (If you type only Tiebout, you will also retrieve records for New York publisher John Tiebout, whose relation to Cornelius Tiebout remains to be determined.)

Extending past 1820 is the General Catalog of the American Antiquarian Society.

The two catalogues just mentioned were originally based on a 3-volume work that remains essential for the study of early American engravings. Known as "Stauffer" and "Fielding", the first two volumes, by David McNeely Stauffer, were first published in 1907. Volume 1 includes biographical sketches of about 700 engravers on copper and steel, and, at the end, an Index showing titles of engravings, check-list numbers, and artists. For example, the title "Thomas Jefferson" with the artist "Peale" is assigned the number 3182 for one of Tiebout's three engravings of Jefferson. These check-list numbers are often used, in many publications, to identify specific engravings. Volume 2 describes individual (or groups of) engravings and assigns check-list numbers 1 to 3438, among which Tiebout's numbers range from 3161 to 3239. Volume 3, published in 1917 by Mantle Fielding, continues with additional engravings, matched with check-list numbers 1 to 1932. Here, Tiebout's numbers range from 1592 to 1686. (For example, "Fielding 1608" identifies Tiebout's earliest London engraving, now lost—or privately owned—entitled "Anthophile".) All three volumes are accessible online: Stauffer and Fielding.

Another leading resource for the study of early American engravings is the catalogue of the Library Company of Philadelphia. Others are the New York Public Library, the Library of Congress, and large university libraries. Highly recommended reading about the engravers of Philadelphia during Tiebout's livelihood there (1800-1826) is Donald C. O'Brien's The Engravers of Philadelphia's Port Folio Magazine.

How to Zoom

Each of the eighteen parts in the site includes a carousel showing images of Cornelius Tiebout engravings. To enlarge an image, first click on it. After that, you can find zoom icons in the upper right corner of the page. In some cases, the corner may be black, but moving your cursor slowly there will cause the icons to appear. You can also slide zoomed images horizontally, and at the far left and right of the screen are icons for moving to neighboring images.


I thank many people for valuable assistance during the preparation of this site, especially—
Carley C. Altenburger, Winterthur Museum, Garden & Library
Meg Atwater-Singer, Librarian, University of Evansville
Gabrielle Baglione, Muséum d'historie naturelle, Le Havre, France
Brianna Barrett, Library and Program Assistant, American Antiquarian Society
Charles Doran, Special Collections Specialist, Princeton University
Jennifer Fain, Special Collections Research Coordinator, Bowdoin College Library
James N. Green, Librarian Emeritus, Library Company of Philadelphia
Adriana Harmeyer, Purdue University Archives & Special Collections
Lauren Hewes, Vice-President for Collections and Andrew W. Mellon Curator of Graphic Arts, American Antiquarian Society
Jessica M. Lydon, Brooke Dolan Archivist, The Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University
Mark Mitchell, Website Designer
David Morgan, Professor of Religious Studies, Duke University
Leslie K. Overstreet, Curator of Natural-History Rare Books, Smithsonian Libraries and Archives
Caroline Palmer, Western Art Print Room Manager, Ashmolean Museum of Art and Archaeology, University of Oxford
Erika Piola, Curator of Graphic Arts, Library Company of Philadelphia
Jenny Ruthven, Printed Special Collections, University of Southampton
Anne Ryckbost, University Archivist and Special Collections Librarian, Xavier University (Ohio)
David K. Thompson, Yale Center for British Art
Joanna Tinworth, Curator (Collections), Sir John Sloane's Museum (London)
Crystal Toscaro, Reference Librarian, New York Historical Society
Linda Warrum, Historian, Workingmen's Institute Library, New Harmony, Indiana
Laura Weaver, Professor Emerita, University of Evansville
Jocelyn Wilk, Columbia University Archives
Heather Willever-Farr, Special Collections Librarian, La Salle University

Final Notes

All the images in this website are in the public domain. You may make copies, but when you do, please cite this site: Comments and suggestions can be sent to Clark Kimberling, This website was published on 13 June 2023.