Ask A Worthologist Question: Early Golf Reprint


Jessie D. discovered a print titled “To the Society of Goffers At Blackheath” similar to this one while trying to recycle an old frame. By using WorthPoint’s “Ask A Worthologist” service, it was learned that the print could be a 19th century reproduction of the original.

Jessie D. found an old print hidden behind a framed mirror. Not wanting to toss out something that might be valuable, Jessie turned to WorthPoint’s “Ask a Worthologist” service. The question was forwarded to me. Here is the question:

“This print was found when I was removing a discolored mirror from an old frame I wanted to use. It was under the wooden backing, between it and the back of the mirror. The mirror has hung behind a door in a spare room in my grandmother’s house for years and nobody knows anything about it. It appears quite old, but is in good condition. There is a title on it that reads, “To the Society of Goffers At Blackheath,” and near the top is printed “R. Powell of London.” The piece is about 28 inches by 20 inches. Any information you could provide would be great. We don’t want to throw away a fortune.”

I was able to identify the print and the printer through the photograph, but without inspecting it first-hand. Here is my reply to Jessie:

Well it’s not worth a fortune, but has an interesting story. This print has a long history, and is one of the most copied of the early golf prints. The original “To the Society of Goffers At Blackheath” was based on a painting by Lemuel Francis Abbott (1760-1802) and was issued by Valentine Green as a Mezzotint print, circa 1790. It is one of the first golf portraits ever published, and the Blackheath golf course depicted in the print was a primitive five-to-seven-hole golf affair, its members being wealthy merchants.

Based on the records that survive from those early days, the Blackheath club had 45 members at the time depicted in this print. The print itself shows William Innes (1719-1795), Blackheath’s captain, and an unnamed Greenwich Hospital Naval pensioner serving as caddie. Originally, it was printed in black & white and hand-tinted. Of the 50 first-issue prints, it is estimated less than 15 are still in existence.

Like many early Mezzotints prints, this one has been reproduced as lithographs, etchings, offset prints, etc., since the early 19th century. Without actually physically examining the print, it is difficult to determine the date of issue. But most prints were produced from the late Victorian period to 1920s. The clue to the origin of your print, though, is the name “R. Powell Of London” and the dimensions, both of which match the earlier reprints, which could make this a 19th century reproduction of the original.

Most of these early reproductions currently sell in Fine Art Auctions more than any other market, where the Powell prints list with presale estimates in the $400-$600 range. More recent 20th-century examples of this print can sell for less than $50.

Mike Wilcox, of Wilcox & Hall Appraisers, is a Worthologist who specializes in Art Nouveau and the Arts and Craft movement.


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