The engraving back in 1900 cost virtually nothing. A few quotes from Bushveld, engraver in situ expert here, and the Reilly line:
Let me repost this from the Reilly line: Interesting thoughts: (Bushvelt, are you Highvelt?)
this is an interesting comment from the site "Engravers Cafe" on engravers from the 19th century by a poster "Highveldt," which is relevant to the above discussion on Reilly finishing his own guns. It was a comment on Terry Weiland's article on engraving in which Terry sort of said engraving was really used as a type of "stove paint." https://books.google.td/books?id=de9XBAA...int&f=false
The chat was funny but very informative:http://www.engraverscafe.com/archive/index.php/t-10485.html?s=cfbe6b81099c03ea2457b7cbdbf3f47e
Engraving is like....stove paint? I don't think that is what he said. Who knows what a so called gun writer ever means, but here is what he said: "The truth is, a bulino-engraved gun will never look as good as the day it comes out of its protective box. Every scratch and bump will deface the engraving until it looks like a flyspecked lithograph in a cheap saloon. At which point a coat of stove paint might not be a bad idea."
I do not care much for Mr. Weiland's writings, even though I have some of his books. Weiland quotes some of Mr. Greener's opinions about the gun trade in this article--a person I do not think I would have liked in his day. Although Mr. Greener was not found guilty of stealing the Anson & Deeley action design in court, many tradesmen of his day as well as I in this day think that he did steal it.
Weiland raises a point about the changes in valuation of engraving on a gun in UK. I am a English gun restorer and only a learner engraver (in order to repair some engraving on guns I restore). Engraving and engravers were just another craft/trade in the time of the E.M. Riley shotgun Weiland references. For example: E.J. Churchill sends a note and a set of barrels over to the excellent engraver Mr. Sumner on the morning of March 18, 1904 with the note reading: "Barrels of 1398 (gun number) To name (engrave the Churchill name and address), rough rib & engrave it these must be here tonight as they have to be blacked & go away tomorrow morning certain. Please Oblige; signed E.J. Churchill" From this note we can assume the Barrel blacker worked all night to get the barrels blacked for the customer gun to be shipped, as it usually takes 5 or 6 blacking cycles for a barrel to be completed--the blacker probably did not finish until late the next day.
In most shops, including the London best shops of Purdey, Holland, Boss, Stephen Grant and so forth engravers earned about the same as a head barrel maker, stocker and actioner. In 1875 Freedrick Beesley (later inventor of the Beesley spring opener action and which has been used by Purdey ever since they purchased the rights from Beesley in 1880) made 4 pounds six pence for the month, while J. Mace Sr., Engraver made about the same. During the same month J. Lucas, Purdey's famous engraver who developed the Purdey house style of engraving made the astounding amount of 8 pounds---This was twice the amount of wages to paid to any other Purdey craftsman.
In March 1936 at Purdey's J. Lovett, Engraver was paid 3 pounds, 8 shilling and 4 pence, while the famous Purdey actioner Ernest D. Lawrence was paid 3 pounds, 5 shillings.
However at the end of November 1952 Ernest D. Lawrence was earning 12 pounds, 9 shillings as an actioner and the young apprentice Ken Hunt, Engraver earned 3 pounds 5 shillings.
We all should rejoice that the demand in best quality English, Italian, German, Belguim and other shotguns (primarily demand driven by American buyers) has changed the fate and earnings of not only engravers, but the skilled gunmaker trades.
These are just some rambling thoughts of an old man who loves fine guns, mostly fine English guns.