Dictionary of National Biography, 1912 supplement/Whitman, Alfred Charles

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search

WHITMAN, ALFRED CHARLES (1860–1910), writer on engravings, youngest son of Edwin Whitman, a grocer, by his wife Fanny, was born at Hammersmith on 12 October 1860, and was educated at St. Mark's College School, Chelsea. On leaving school he was employed by the firm of Henry Dawson & Sons, typo-etching company, of Farringdon Street and Chiswick, with whom he remained till he was appointed on 21 Dec. 1885 an attendant in the department of prints and drawings in the British Museum. For some years he served in his spare time as amanuensis to Lady Charlotte Schreiber [q. v.] and assisted her in the arrangement and cataloguing of her collections of fans and playing-cards. He was promoted to the office of departmental clerk in the print department on 20 May 1903. His tact, patience, and courtesy, combined with an exceptional knowledge of the English prints in the collection, made his aid invaluable to visitors who consulted it, and he acquired, in particular, a well-deserved reputation as an authority on British mezzotint engraving. His earlier books, ‘The Masters of Mezzotint’ (1898) and ‘The Print Collector's Handbook’ (1901; new and enlarged edit. 1912), were of a popular character, and have less permanent value than the catalogues of eminent engravers' works, which were the outcome of notes methodically compiled during many years, not only in the British Museum, but in private collections and sale-rooms. ‘Valentine Green,’ published in 1902 as part of a series, ‘British Mezzotinters,’ to which other writers contributed under his direction, is less satisfactory than ‘Samuel William Reynolds,’ published in 1903 as the first volume in a series of ‘Nineteenth Century Mezzotinters.’ It was followed by ‘Samuel Cousins’ (1904) and ‘Charles Turner’ (1907). These two books rank among the best catalogues of an engraver's work produced in England. Whitman's health began to fail in the autumn of 1908, and he died in London after a long illness, on 2 Feb. 1910. His annotated copy of J. Chaloner Smith's ‘British Mezzotint Portraits’ was sold at Christie's on 6 June 1910 for 430l. 10s. On 12 August 1885 he married, at Hammersmith, Helena Mary Bing.

[The Athenæum, 12 Feb. 1910; private information.]

C. D.