Joseph Swain was a wood-engraver. He married Martha Cooper in 1843; their son Joseph Blomeley Swain would later carry on the business.
Swain began his career as a printer's apprentice with the wood-engraver Nathaniel Whittock in 1834. He rose to become manager of the engraving department of Punch in 1843. The following year he set up his own business which remained responsible for all Punch engraving until 1900.
He is remembered as perhaps the best known wood-engraver of the 1860s, engraving after works by artists such as Frederick Walker, John Everett Millais and Frederick Sandys. He became particularly known for his wood-engravings of Punch cartoons by John Tenniel. He also worked such illustrated journals as Once a Week, the Cornhill, Good Words and the Argosy. In 1888-89 he wrote a series of articles on Walker, C. H. Bennett, George John Pinwell, and F. Eltze for Good Words. This was later republished H. C. Ewart's Toilers in Art (1891).
Kelly's Post Office London Directory 1861 and 1872, London; Bénézit, E., Dictionnaire des Peintres, Sculpteurs, Dessinateurs et Graveurs, 8 vols, Paris, 1956-61; Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford, 2004, on-line edition (accessed 12 August 2004).