British Museum guidebook, £3.50
Width: 218.000 mm
Height: 103.000 mm
Chartered Institute of Bankers Collection
CM CIB 302
Coins and Medals
Cumberland and Carlisle Bank £5 note
Cumberland, England, early 19th century AD
Banknote engraving by a master
Today banknote manufacture is a specialized branch of security printing, carried out by only a few major firms. However, in the nineteenth century many printing firms throughout Great Britain produced notes for local banks throughout the country. Most of the printers and engravers were in London, but there were important firms elsewhere, such as that of Thomas Bewick in Newcastle.
Bewick is renowned today for his natural history woodcuts, but he undertook a wide range of work, including notes for banks in the north of England. He was interested in deterring forgery, and experimented with methods of engraving on copper to reproduce the effect of wood-engraving.
Even on banknotes, Bewick's love of nature is evident. On this note the formal emblem of a coat of arms is surrounded by delicate flowers and reeds, typical of the backgrounds for his book illustrations. Bewick's name can be seen in the lower left corner of the panel engraved FIVE POUNDS.
V. Hewitt, 'Beware of imitations: the campaign for a new Bank of England note, 1797-1821', Numismatic Chronicle-2, 158 (1998)
V.H. Hewitt and J.M. Keyworth, As good as gold: 300 years of (London, The British Museum Press, 1987)