Wednesday, 7 November 2007

The Late Mr. Vincent Brooks

"Other pens than ours will probably record the full details of Vincent Brooks’ busy and eventful life. We shall endeavour to confine ourselves to those details specially connected with the Trade we represent, and those features in his character which led him to become so close to our ideal of what a master Printer should be.

The subject of our memoir was born on October 25th, 1815, and was the son of John Brooks, of Oxford Street, Stationer, and Publisher of many books on the advanced side of politics, so that he early came into the society of men of letters who were much attracted to him by his energy, activity, and great physical strength. These influences who probably made him a Radical of the usual type, had he not also had the guidance of the philanthropists, John Minto Morgan and Robert Owen.

Vincent was educated at Tottenham, and on leaving school, he, for a short time, assisted Mr. Morgan in the management of his farm and estate near Uxbridge, but he was more inclined to commercial pursuits, and shortly joined his father in his Oxford Street business.

At this early age his capacity for work was enormous, and after working hard from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m., he would repair to the Birkbeck Institute, in Chancery-lane, or engage himself in the practice of book binding, a pursuit in which he was very efficient and used to occasionally practice throughout life.

To the lad’s clear intellect it soon became apparent that the active pursuit of politics was injurious to business, and by this consideration he was led to the practice of liberal principles rather than the profession of liberal views. We have dwelt rather fully on this period of his career, because we think that it was at this time that he formed that strong regard for the rights and interests of others, which was the chief characteristic of his commercial and family life.

Before succeeding to his father, he was for a short time associated with Mr. Charles Robertson, the well-known Artist’s Colourman, of Long Acre, where he doubtless learnt much that was of service to him in his eventual pursuit of Chromo-lithography.

His first effort as a Colour Printer was at the 1851 Exhibition, and it is wonderful how soon he reached almost the highest pitch of perfection. In his office at Gate-Street, Lincoln’s-inn-fields, may be seen two examples of his very earliest examples in Chromo-lithography, “Spanish Peasants,” after John Gilbert, and the marvellous and well-known reproduction of the Chandos portrait of Shakespeare.

Dying SoldierIn 1855, we find him conducting a Lithographic class, for ladies, at Marlborough House, where he came under the notice of the Queen, the Prince Consort, and the Princess Royal, by whom he was entrusted with the reproduction of the Princess’ well-known picture of the “Dying Soldier on the Battle Field”- painted and reproduced on behalf of the Patriotic Fund. At this time he was in King-street, Covent-garden, but he shortly after extended his business by removing to Chandos-street, in the same neighbourhood. Here a very large quantity of first-class work was done, and Mr. Brooks directed his attention to Colour Printing from blocks and aquatints for the first time.

It was 1867 that Mr. Brooks took the most important step in his career, by purchasing from the liquidators of Day and Son, Limited, the business which had been conducted in Gate-street for many years. The way in which he combined together the two businesses testify to his energy and experience, and the way in which they formed a harmonious whole, are a record of his remarkable tact and kindness. Here, his success followed him, and it would be impossible to recount a tithe of the important works on which he has since been engaged.

Although there have been many highly successful productions- perhaps the most remarkable feature has been the general average of success – this has undoubtedly arisen from the painstaking character of Mr. Brooks, which may be said to have influenced all parties concerned in the conduct of the business; in his view, it was not sufficient to get the proof passed, he must himself be satisfied. For example, he had a remarkable eye for portraiture, and no portrait was allowed to be etched till he had carefully gone over it with the artist. He was also equally careful with the title pages of books, and would always go through them and make alterations. The habit of this painstaking has thoroughly permeated the establishment, and is the guiding principle of his sons, Alfred William and Frederick Vincent, who have for some years been in partnership, and who succeed to the control of the business which will be carried on under the style of Vincent Brooks, Day and Sons, as heretofore.

As we have seen, Mr. Brooks commenced business wholly as a Chromo-lithographer, but he was fully alive to the necessity of moving with the times, so that although his business has been established almost as long as any, it has retained in the fullest degree the energy and freshness of its youth. This has arisen from the principal’s inclination to listen to every one who wished to show him a new process, thus he was very early in the field with photo-lithography, and purchased in 1866 Mr. Willis’ remarkable Aniline process of direct photography, which has so many years been of great assistance to the Architect and Engineer, and remains far and away the best of all the processes of direct photography, that is to say, of photography without the aid of a negative.

Mr. Brooks was among the earliest to work the Woodbury-type process, and the results in this direction attained at Gate-street at the present time are most interesting, but it is impossible within the limits of our space to record the full extent of the business, but we have done enough to show the breadth of view of the deceased, and we think that he leaves behind him a business with wider range than any other in this country. Mr. Brooks secured the goodwill and attachment of his customers by his spirit of fairness, and the disinterested character of his advice. His regard for the interest of his staff was remarkable, and he thus won for him himself a very high place in their regard, a fact that received remarkable testimony from the gathering of grief-stricken employees who mingled, with many other friends, at his grave.

The sudden nature of Mr. Brooks’ death has already been recorded in our pages, but it may be mentioned that the funeral took place at Wandsworth Cemetery, Wandsworth Common, on Saturday, October 3rd, and that he leaves a widow, and the two sons previously referred to, to mourn his loss.

We feel that we have scarcely done justice to his great love for his fellow-men, and the grand equity of his mind- the following recently-written verse comes across us, and fills the void more fully than we can, and indicates the lesson of his life:

Let us live for those who love us,
For those who think us true;
Let us live for the Heaven above us,
That is waiting for us, too.
For the right that needs assistance:
For the ill that needs resistance:
For the future in the distance,
And the good that we can do."

British & Colonial Printer & Stationer and Booksellers’ Circular.
Vol. XV, No. 17. Thursday, October 22nd 1885.
image of 'The Dying Soldier' kindly provided by Mic Relf of The New Baxter Society

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