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The Leiden engraver Frans van Bleyswyck (1671-1746)

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Frans van Bleyswyck (1671-1746), etcher and engraver of Leiden, was chiefly active in the book trade. He produced engravings on practically every subject imaginable and for every type of book, also when, looked upon as works of art, there was no glory to be gained by it. His activities earned him a comfortable income. In his own day he must have been quite well-known and appreciated. Van Bleyswyck engraved from designs supplied by others, but also designed engravings himself. He was influenced by French classicism whose principles he adopted especially in the design of title-pages and frontispieces for dissertations of graduates at Leiden University. More than any other engraver he left an unmistakable stamp on the form of these title-pages. He worked also in the Dutch tradition in the design of frontispieces and vignettes for literary works: architectural shapes adorned with medallions and realistic little pictures and landscapes. But the dividing line is never drawn all that sharp, often elements of French classicism and Dutch tradition are jointly found in the same engraving. It cannot be said that Van Bleyswyck was particularly original in inventing new forms, rather was he an untiring employer of existing forms which he varied in innumerable ways.


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