View of Tintern Abbey


A view of the ruins of Tintern Abbey.

Accession Number: 

Thordarson t3473 – 3474

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Old England: A Pictorial Museum of Regal, Ecclesiastical, Municipal, Baronial

and Popular Antiquities, edited by Charles Knight, Edited by Charles Knight
Vol I, pg. 269 #1030

In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, Great Britain experienced an increase in population and industrial workforce. This industrialization spurred more and more people to leave farming and move to the city for an artisan job in the production of goods. Charles Knight believed that the rapid growth of towns and industry in the nineteenth century called for an even greater need to preserve and appreciate the historical sites of England (V. Gray, Charles Knight, 65-69).
Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge [SDUK]

After experiencing financial difficulties, in 1827 Knight became editor of the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge’s publications. Empathizing with the need for popular education, and believing that “good reading [should be] within reach of the very poorest,” the Society aimed to produce inexpensive, quality literature that would be made readily available to the working classes (R. Mitchell, “Knight, Charles”).

A view of the ruins of Tintern Abbey.
Charles Knight was exceptionally interested in British history and culture and championed its burgeoning accessibility by publishing a number of affordable books (selling for only sixpence in 1845) on these topics (R. Mitchell, “Knight, Charles”). Ruins served as a critical aesthetic in his work Old England because they prompted a curiosity for knowledge and an idea of a shared, national past that appealed to Knight and the romantic audience. The plethora of illustrated works, totaling over 2500 and including several depictions of English ruins, were not only enjoyable to look at, but also they educated and helped to enhance his readers’ awareness and appreciation of their national heritage, effectively promoting a feeling of English nationality and pride (V. Gray, Charles, Knight). By creating and successfully marketing a pictorial archive of national antiquities that was available to a wide range of people, Knight’s Old England demonstrates the popularity and fascination associated with ruins in the romantic era, both for their entertainment and their educational value.
Book illustration
Clowes, Alice A. Charles Knight: A Sketch. R. Bentley & Son, 1892.

Fletcher, W. Y. “Riviere, Robert (1808–1882).” Rev. Mirjam M. Foot. Oxford Dictionary of

National Biography
. Ed. H. C. G. Matthew and Brian Harrison. Oxford: OUP, 2004. 4 Apr. 2009 .

Gray, Valerie. Charles Knight: Educator, Publisher, Writer. Ashgate, Ltd., 2006.

Mitchell, Rosemary. “Knight, Charles (1791–1873).” Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Ed. H. C. G. Matthew and Brian Harrison. Oxford: OUP, 2004. Online ed. Ed. Lawrence Goldman. Jan. 2008. 21 Apr. 2009 .

Brakspear, Harold. Tintern Abbey, Monmouthshire. London: H.M. Stationery Off. by Darling & Son, 1908.

"Old England: Knight, (Charles)." Maggs Rare Books. 2009. Maggs Bros Ltd Rare Books & Manuscripts. 25 Mar. 2009 .

Peltz, Lucy. “Leighton, Charles Blair (1823–1855).” Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Ed. H. C. G. Matthew and Brian Harrison. Oxford: OUP, 2004. Online ed. Ed. Lawrence Goldman. Oct. 2006. 4 Apr. 2009 .

Old England : a pictorial museum of regal, ecclesiastical, municipal, baronial, and popular antiquities / edited by Charles Knight ; in two volumes.

Artist Unknown


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