Appleton's Cyclopedia of American Biography, edited by James
Grant Wilson, John Fiske and Stanley L. Klos. Six volumes, New York: D. Appleton
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ANDERSON, Alexander, wood engraver, born in New York City, 21 April 1775; died in Jersey City, New Jersey, 17 January 1870. At the age of twelve years he made his first attempts at engraving on copper, frequently using pennies rolled out, and on type-metal plates. He received no instruction, and his knowledge was acquired by watching jewelers and other workmen. Some of his earliest efforts were copies of anatomical figures in medical works. In deference to his father's wishes, he studied in the medical department of Columbia College, and was graduated in 1796; but at the same time he continued his interest in engraving and produced the illustrations for a little book entitled "Looking Glass for the Mind." Shortly afterward, on being informed that it was possible to engrave on wood, he obtained blocks of boxwood, designed his own tools, and produced the first wood engravings ever made in the Unified States. About 1798 he abandoned the practice of medicine, and devoted his attention thenceforth exclusively to engraving. At first he used both wood and metal as occasion required, but from about 1820 his illustrations were usually cut in wood, and for some time he was the only artist in that line in New York. His best-known productions include the illustrations in Webster's " Elementary Spelling-Book," a series of forty plates for Shakespeare's plays, and engravings of Bewick's "Birds," and of Sir Charles Bell's "Anatomy." For many years he was employed by the American tract society and engraved the illustrations for their publications. The New York Historical Society, with 38 illustrations, published a memorial address on this pioneer engraver, by Benson J. Lossing, many of them engraved by Anderson himself.
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