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The Thomas Earl Copy Book
Catalog#: Spring 2010
Artist: Not Available 
Category: Folk Art
SubType: Books, Manuscripts & Maps
Origin: America-USA
Era: 18th Century
Height: 16 inches
Width: 12.5 inches
The Thomas Earl Copy Book
drawn and compiled, 1740 and 174l

“Schoolmaster in America”
Burlington Township, New Jersey Colony

Thomas Earl was born in Little Compton, Rhode Island in 1704, and was a distant cousin of the artists Ralph, James and Ralph E.W. Earl. By 1736, Earl was married to Judith Bastedo and was living in Burlington Township, New Jersey Colony, where he was listed in a register of freeholders as “School Master.” He was a highly specialized “writing master,” traveling from place to place, conducting classes at the local elementary schools and classical academies. Although he found students scattered within New Jersey, by far the most profitable region for practicing his profession must have been over the border of Pennsylvania.

In the years 1740 and 1741, Thomas Earl compiled a book to demonstrate to potential students and their families his considerable skills as a calligrapher and the gamut of subjects he was qualified to teach.

Earl made all the inks and colors used in his book, a secret of his profession. The remarkable and flamboyant use he made of these colors in conjunction with the embellishment of principal pages and chapter headings of text is a type of decoration associated with documents produced a number of years later in a number of regions on the eastern seaboard commonly referred to as Pennsylvania “frakturs.” It can scarcely be a coincidence that a generation after Thomas Earl was teaching throughout the region, the types of penmanship following his formats and bold use of color were flourishing and examples proliferating.

Thomas Earl died in 1751, and the book descended directly through members of his family until the early 1980s when it was “discovered” by Dr. James A. Piccolo. Almost every page bears the watermark of King George II, the reigning monarch of the period. The still vivid colors of the decorations bear testimony to both the skill of Thomas Earl and the devotion of his family and Dr. Piccolo, who carefully preserved the work for more then two and a half centuries.

We are pleased to offer many of the major drawings and text from the copybook.

Thomas Earl
The Mariners Compass
Watercolor on paper
Circa 1740
16 x 12.5 inches

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