BOURNE, ADOLPHUS, engraver, lithographer, publisher of Canadian views, and merchant; b. April 1795 in Staffordshire, England; married and had ten children; d. 14 July 1886 in Montreal, Que.
Adolphus Bourne was born into a family which had connections with the pottery trade. Trained in England as an engraver, he first appears in Montreal directories in 1820, the year in which he started business modestly by engraving the lettering for the title-page of a book of verse. Three years later he engraved a map of the city but little else is known of his work during the 1820s. In 1830 Bourne printed and published six Montreal scenes, engraved by William Satchwell Leney after water-colours by Robert Auchmuty Sproule*, which comprised the first set of single-sheet engravings of a Canadian city to be printed in Canada. He travelled to London, England, two years later to have four views of Quebec City and portraits of Denis-Benjamin Viger* and Louis-Joseph Papineau* lithographed by the famous firm of Charles Joseph Hullmandel. Returning a few months later with a lithographic press, Bourne advertised as “A. Bourne’s London Branch Lithographic Establishment,” at the same time noting that he would also continue with copperplate engraving and printing. Over the next 18 years he printed more than 20 Canadian views, a significant proportion of the pictorial material printed in Canada before 1850. From about 1845 to 1865 Bourne also carried on a modest china, glass, and earthenware importing business, wholesale and retail, until it was declared insolvent in 1865; a fire on his property was one of the causes of his losses. Credit reports of this business describe him as of good character, but “rather crotchety in bus[iness] Matters,” his wife being the better business “man” of the two. Although no longer listing himself as a printer in his later years, he reissued the early Montreal and Quebec sets of views as chromolithographs in 1871 and 1874, and in 1878 published a view of Montreal by James D. Duncan.
The quality of Bourne’s prints varies, from accomplished professional works to expressive but naïve productions, corresponding to the ability of the artists, engravers, and lithographers with whom he collaborated. His own work, especially as a lithographer, does not achieve the highest standard within the whole range of his publications, but he is important for his effort to establish a pictorial printing trade in Montreal.
Two of Adolphus Bourne’s engravings appear as the title-pages of Hours of childhood, and other poems (Montreal, 1820) and A plan of the city of Montreal (Montreal, 1823).
Baker Library, R. G. Dun & Co. credit ledger, Canada, 5: 96. PAC, MG 24, B2: 1431–32. Canadian Courant (Montreal), 13 June 1832. Gazette (Montreal), 16 July 1886. Harper, Early painters and engravers. Montreal directory, 1842–86. Printmaking in Canada: the earliest views and portraits, comp. Mary Allodi et al. (Toronto, 1980). F. St. G. Spendlove, The face of early Canada: pictures of Canada which have helped to make history (Toronto, 1958).