He became a partner in the business and eventually took it over.

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John rented a small colliery at Mickley Bank, which employed perhaps six men. At the age of 14 he was apprenticed to Ralph Beilby, an engraver in Newcastle, where he learnt how to engrave on wood and metal, for example marking jewellery and cutlery with family names and coats of arms.

He seems thereafter to have devoted himself entirely to engraving on wood, and in 1775 he received a prize from the Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce for a wood engraving of the "Huntsman and the Old Hound" from Select Fables by the late Mr Gay, which he was illustrating.

In September 1776 he went to London for eight months, finding the city rude, deceitful and cruel, and much disliking the unfairness of extreme wealth and poverty side by side.

11 August 1753 – 8 November 1828) was an English engraver and natural history author.

Early in his career he took on all kinds of work such as engraving cutlery, making the wood blocks for advertisements, and illustrating children's books.

Gradually he turned to illustrating, writing and publishing his own books, gaining an adult audience for the fine illustrations in A History of Quadrupeds.

His career began when he was apprenticed to engraver Ralph Beilby in Newcastle upon Tyne.

He is credited with popularising a technical innovation in the printing of illustrations using wood.

He adopted metal-engraving tools to cut hard boxwood across the grain, producing printing blocks that could be integrated with metal type, but were much more durable than traditional woodcuts.

The result was high quality illustration at a low price.

his father John had been married before his union with Jane, and was in his forties when Thomas, the eldest of eight, was born.