Legerdemain Made Easy

Endless Amusements: or the Art of Legerdemain Made Easy to Young Persons (Boston: Theodore Abbot, 1846). Wood engraved cover and frontispiece illustration by Abel Bowen (1790-1850). Graphic Arts division (GAX) Hamilton 1533

The cover and frontispiece to this magic book were designed by Abel Bowen (1790-1850), a Boston printer. As an engraver he was self-taught and worked both in copper and on wood. A scrap of autobiography written by Bowen can be found in William H. Whitmore’s “Abel Bowen” in The Collections of the Bostonian Society, Boston 1887.Graphic Arts division (GAX) Hamilton 463

Bowen’s long career began at the age of 15 and he claimed he was the first to attempt a commercial wood engraving business in Boston. Nathaniel Dearborn made the same claim but it seems clear from Mr. Whitmore’s monograph that Bowen is entitled to be ranked as the first Boston wood engraver. Princeton owns 113 books with illustrations by Bowen, held in the Sinclair Hamilton Collection of American Illustrated Books from 1670 to 1870.