Identifying the schoolmaster and artist who created the Thomas Earl copybooks has proved challenging. Gravestones and newspapers have provided little help. The search has been further compounded by the dearth of early records for the colony of New Jersey.
Thomas Earl’s two handwritten manuscripts are replete with lessons in arithmetic, geometry, trigonometry, navigation, and astronomy, which he enriched with calligraphic flourishes and stunning watercolor. The books not only served as essential teaching tools, but the second book in particular is tangible proof of his qualifications to teach.
In the early nineteenth century, a master practitioner of the art of paper cutting in the city of Philadelphia made a technically unparalleled series of cutworks. In each example, the paper was cut such that its overall effect is comparable to the finest lace work. As Pennsylvania scholar Lisa Minardi has keenly observed: “this [intricacy] involves not just cutting out of designs but also slitting of the paper and/or pinpricking to create texture and add to the overall incredibly delicate effect.”