One of the book plates designed by John Vinycomb, 1906. John Vinycomb was born in Newcastle-on-Tyne. He studied art at the School of Design there, and in 1855 entered the art department of Marcus Ward & Co. as an engraver. He remained as head of the department until the break up of the firm in 1899, when he became an artist, designer and illuminator. He remained in Holywood, County Down until 1909. He was a member of the Royal Irish Academy; Vice-President of the Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland; Vice-President of the Ex-libra Society of London and founder and past President of the Belfast Art Society and the Ulster Arts Club. He also served as President of Belfast Naturalists' Field Club. He was a recognised authority on heraldry and illuminating, and he published books, notably on the illustration of bookplates. He died in London. The City Hall has an example of his scroll, and the Belfast Harbour Office and the Victoria and Albert Museum also have examples of his work.
Marcus Ward & Company Belfast (1802-99)
John Ward wanted to open up education and art to a wider public. He held public art exhibitions on the company premises. He employed the Newcastle-upon-Tyne born artist John Vinycomb (1833-1928) as the company’s artistic director. Vinycomb organised drawing classes at the art studios of Marcus Ward & Sons after normal working hours. These classes were held under the company’s auspices and were open to all for the price of a penny a session. Vinycomb was an internationally acknowledged expert in heraldry who was regularly consulted by the British and European Royalty and Aristocracy. He was also a lifelong friend of the antiquarian F.J. Bigger and collaborated with him in his researches into Irish heraldry. Through this he influenced the design of the original Feis na nGleann of 1904, particularly the Clan Banners carried in the opening parade of the Feis.
The Royal Ulster Academy of Arts owes its existence to the Ramblers’ Sketching Club formed 130 years ago by John Vinycomb, senior designer in the highly successful Belfast printing and publishing firm of Marcus Ward. Vinycomb founded the sketching club with sixteen members of his art department, who had been early students of the Belfast School of Art. At a meeting on 15th April 1885, in the Amalgamated Engineers Hall, College Street, Belfast, a decision was made to stage a much larger exhibition to further extend membership. Vinycomb proposed Anthony Carey Stannus as President and he was elected with Vinycomb elected as Vice-President.
Courtesy of Coleraine Museum.