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date: 20 January 2022

Illustrated Victorian Fictionfree

Illustrated Victorian Fictionfree

  • Mary Elizabeth LeightonMary Elizabeth LeightonUniversity of Victoria
  •  and Lisa SurridgeLisa SurridgeUniversity of Victoria


Victorians experienced a revolution in the novel’s form. In the early 1800s, books were largely unillustrated, perhaps containing a frontispiece (often a stock decorative illustration with little connection to content). Although Walter Scott and Jane Austen built their careers upon unillustrated fiction, by the 1830s and 1840s, technological innovations—wood engraving (developed in the 1790s) and steel engraving (popularized in the 1820s)—enabled the cheap, efficient integration of images and letterpress. Not all subsequent fiction was illustrated, but these innovations birthed the possibility of a new form that, upon a novel’s first publication, melded text and image as partners in meaning making: illustrated serial fiction (appearing either in periodicals or in individually wrapped numbers). Examples of the new form appear in Charles Dickens’s Pickwick Papers (1836–1837), published in numbers and illustrated largely by Hablôt K. Browne (Phiz); Dickens’s Oliver Twist (1837–1839), published in Bentley’s Miscellany and illustrated by George Cruikshank; William Harrison Ainsworth’s Jack Sheppard (1839–1840) and The Tower of London (1840), both published in numbers and illustrated by Cruikshank; and William Makepeace Thackeray’s self-illustrated Vanity Fair (1847–1848), also published in numbers. All used visual elements—wrappers, chapter initials and heads, full-page images, and tailpieces—to establish character and setting, create ironies, and predict plot, uniting pen and pencil in a single art form. While authors such as the Brontës and, later, George Eliot and Elizabeth Gaskell published all or most of their work unillustrated, the prevalence of literary illustrations rose dramatically. In 1842, the Illustrated London News announced the marriage of art and literature.

By the 1860s, often recognized as book illustration’s golden age, illustration flourished. Family periodicals such as the Cornhill Magazine, Once a Week, and Good Words highlighted the collaborative work of prominent novelists and artists (including many Royal Academicians) as essential to middle-class culture. Periodical publication in installments overtook individually wrapped numbers as the dominant form of illustrated serial fiction. Editors paired Eliot with Frederic Leighton (Romola 1862–1863) and Gaskell with George du Maurier (Wives and Daughters, 1864–1866), both in the Cornhill; Harriet Martineau with John Everett Millais (her “historiettes,” 1862–1863), in Once a Week; and George MacDonald with Arthur Hughes (At the Back of the North Wind, 1871), in Good Words for the Young. (Notably, this list includes authors such as Eliot and Gaskell, whose work had been unillustrated upon their first break into the market.) The traditionally high art of painting intermingled with the traditionally lower craft of illustration: Luke Fildes transformed his illustration “Houseless and Hungry” into the painting Applicants for Admission to a Casual Ward, displayed at the 1874 Royal Academy, and Millais sold watercolor paintings of his illustrations for Martineau.

From 1881, photographic reproduction revolutionized late-century book and periodical illustration. Images became even more economical to reproduce, enabling editor George Newnes to promise illustration on the Strand’s every page. The 1890s saw a bifurcation in illustrated texts: popular periodicals such as the Strand and Pearson’s Magazine exploited the text–image relationship with innovative layouts, wrapping images around letterpress (as in H. G. Wells’s 1897 The War of the Worlds, in Pearson’s, illustrated by Warwick Goble), whereas the experimental Yellow Book turned away from text–image complementarity in favor of stand-alone artwork by such artists as Aubrey Beardsley. The legacies of Victorian illustrated fiction appeared in the early 1900s, when cinematic adaptations of Victorian novels wowed audiences, the modernist revolution challenged conventional book design, and children’s literature flowered as Arthur Rackham’s and E. H. Shepard’s illustrations popularized Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens (1906), The Wind in the Willows (1908), and Winnie-the-Pooh (1926).


  • British and Irish Literatures
  • Fiction
  • 19th Century (1800-1900)

The words illustrate and illustration come from the Latin illustrare, meaning to light up. Before the 19th century, the primary meanings of illustrate were to light up spiritually or physically, to make noble, and to explain verbally. Only in 1813 did the current meaning—to represent a subject visually—emerge. This new meaning reflected the importance of visual images to 19th-century readers, who experienced a revolution in the book’s form. While images had formed part of literature from illuminated manuscripts to broadsides, book illustration exploded during the 19th century, an era judged to be “the most formative period in the history of book-illustration.”1 Technological developments underpinned this flowering: wood engraving flourished in the wake of Thomas Bewick’s 1790s’ innovations; steel engravings moved into book illustration from their original application in bank notes; photography enabled the transfer of images from paper to reproductive medium and, later, pictorial reproduction; color printing narrowed the gap between illustration and painting; and steam and rotary presses sped up and cheapened print production. The 19th century was, in short, “the first age of mass–produced images.”2 Meanwhile, starting in the late 18th century, a rise in literacy birthed what William St Clair has called “the reading nation.”3 For this new mass readership, the mass–produced image represented an accessible and relatively cheap art form, one that was consumed in a variety of print formats, from print-shop images to illustrated newspapers and magazines and, finally, illustrated poetry and fiction.

These new developments in illustrative techniques made it possible for Victorian publishers to reimagine fiction as a partnership between text and image, a blending of verbal and visual sign systems. Title pages, frontispieces, chapter initials, inset and tipped-in illustrations, head- and tailpieces—these visual forms offered rich and complex possibilities for combining images and letterpress. Sometimes decorative, often interpretive, illustrations could set themes, anticipate plot events, offer ironic commentary on or a counterpoint to the letterpress, influence readers’ perceptions of characterization or important plot developments, and even represent scenes not recounted in the narrative. Hugely popular, images shaped Victorian readers’ interpretations of novels and bridged between fiction and popular culture: well-known illustrations served as the basis for poster art, theatrical productions, and famous paintings. Capitalizing on this popularity, publishers integrated illustrations into serial first editions as well as into subsequent volume editions; throughout the century, they also re-issued literary classics in illustrated versions by prominent artist-illustrators. Not all Victorian novels were illustrated, but the illustrated novel became a quintessential Victorian form.

1770 to 1830: The Rise of English Book Illustration

In the mid-18th century, book illustrations were expensive and scarce. Novels might contain a decorative title-page vignette or frontispiece, but publishers often reused such images, signaling that they were perceived as ornamental rather than integral to the text. In his memoirs, Bewick, the son of a Northumbrian tenant farmer, recalled the paucity of illustrated books in his life: in his childhood during the 1760s, the only images he saw were on inn signs and at the local church, “but of patterns or drawings . . . I had none.”4 By contrast, Charles Lamb, a Londoner and son of a legal clerk, accessed illustrations in the emergent form of illustrated magazine such as The Novelist’s Magazine (1780–1788), which reprinted classic novels with illustrations by artists such as Thomas Stothard. Lamb paid tribute to such art in a poem dedicated “To T. Stothard Esq.” (Athenaeum, December 21, 1833) when he wrote, “How often have I with a child’s fond gaze / Pored on the pictured wonders thou hadst done: / Clarissa mournful, and prim Grandison! / All Fielding’s, Smollett’s heroes rose to view; / I saw and I believed the phantoms true.”5 Most novels were, however, issued unillustrated, in boards, ready to be bound by purchasers, who could match the binding to that of books in their own libraries. Even bindings and covers, therefore, signaled ownership rather than picturing literary content, as they would later come to do.

The late 18th and early 19th centuries saw rapid innovations in the technology of illustration. Whereas copper engraving had dominated book illustration for three centuries from Albrecht Dürer to William Hogarth and William Blake, in the 1790s, Bewick shifted the field of illustration by advancing the art of the woodcut to that of the wood engraving.6 Instead of cutting with a knife on the flank of the wood, he engraved his designs with a burin on the end of a hard boxwood block, exploiting the durable end surface (which could withstand mass printings) and creating a refined white line (for examples, see McGill Library’s Woodblock Collection). Bewick’s exquisite illustrations of nature scenes, including those of British birds and fauna, inspired artists to emulate his techniques and captured readers’ imaginations—a popularity to which Charlotte Brontë later paid tribute when she depicted the lonely Jane Eyre perusing Bewick’s A History of British Birds (1797; 1804) in her Gateshead window seat. In addition, from the 1770s, aquatints—images produced when the artist uses acid to etch copper plates to various depths—gained popularity due to their capacity “to imitate the effect of a watercolour wash”; these could be hand colored to produce a full watercolor effect.7 Finally, by the early 1820s, steel engraving, hitherto the province of technical applications such as bank notes, had spread from the United States to Britain, where it was preferred to copper because of its durable printing surface and luminous appearance.8 By the 1830s, steel had largely replaced copper engraving in book production.

Each of these technologies offered possibilities but also imposed limitations on publishers: steel and copper engravings or etchings could not be printed on the same paper or with the same presses as type, meaning that many book illustrations were tipped in (that is, printed on different paper and inserted separately rather than being printed with the letterpress). In practice, such insertions often appeared at the beginning of books as frontispieces or, in the case of serial novels (that is, novels published in parts over weeks and months), as advance images of plot events to come. Readers became used to seeing images before reading letterpress. Wood engraving liberated printers from this dual process: the use of type-high woodblocks allowed printers to place both type and wood engraving in the same printing forme (the flat wood container in which type was laid out for printing), thus integrating text and high-quality image on the same printed page for the first time.

Capitalizing on these new technologies, in 1798, Rudolph Ackermann opened his fashionable Repository of the Arts in the Strand, shown in the British Library’s Online Gallery. There, he sold prints, paper, and art supplies and specialized in books illustrated with aquatint and “exquisitely coloured by hand.”9 He also published so-called topographical books, including aquatint views of public schools, Westminster Abbey, Oxford, and Cambridge as well as, in 1809, Lawrence Sterne’s Sentimental Journey with two colored plates.10 In this era, fiction did not dominate the market in color illustration, but rather, color featured prominently in books on military campaigns, royal residences, travel, landscape, flowers, fauna, and national events (such as the celebration of the victory at Waterloo featured in the British Library’s 22 June 2015 Untold Lives blog). However, with his Forget Me Not (1822–1847), Ackermann helped to introduce a major phenomenon of the illustrated-book market in this period: the literary annual. Expensively produced, richly illustrated with steel engravings, geared toward the Christmas market and a feminine readership, the fashionable annuals (seen here in BRANCH: Britain, Representation, and Nineteenth-Century History) featured essays, fiction, and poetry by high-profile writers such as William Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Letitia Elizabeth Landon (known as L. E. L.), Mary Shelley, Felicia Hemans, Catherine Gore, and Walter Scott as well as celebrity editors such as Caroline Norton and Lady Blessington, who both edited the Keepsake (1827–1857) in the 1830s and 1840s.

In this first blush of 19th-century readers’ love affair with illustration, the novels of Scott and Jane Austen—originally published without images—were re-released in illustrated editions. The first illustrated edition of Scott’s Novels and Tales of the Author of Waverley was issued by Constable in 1819; the series’ title pages featured identical vignettes of Edinburgh Castle drawn and engraved by W. H. Lizars.11

Figure 1. W. H. Lizars, title page, Walter Scott, The Heart of Mid-Lothian, vol. 1: Novels and Tales of the Author of Waverley (Edinburgh: Archibald Constable, 1819). University of Victoria Libraries.

In 1820, Scott’s fans enjoyed William Allan’s Illustrations of the Novels and Tales of the Author of Waverley, a collection of bound illustrations that did not include the letterpress of the novels.12 Publishing a separate collection of book illustrations may seem incongruous to modern readers, but, as Richard Maxwell notes, “the British had been very hard to convince that pictures related to books should actually be in those books.”13 By 1821, a sixteen-volume set of Novels and Tales featured a different title-page illustration for each volume, each image clearly linked to the text in question and drawn by a single artist, Alexander Nasmyth.14

Figure 2. Alexander Nasymth, title page, Walter Scott, Waverley, vol. 1: Novels and Tales of the Author of Waverley (Edinburgh: Archibald Constable, 1821). University of Victoria Libraries.

In 1829–1833, the forty-eight-volume Magnum Opus edition published by Robert Cadell included ninety-six illustrations by thirty-five artists and thirty-five engravers.15 It was a runaway success, prompting numerous imitations.16 Acting as a consultant for these images, Scott had initially wanted to reuse plates in order to maximize profit (reflecting an earlier perception that images are not intrinsically tied to a particular book); Cadell, however, convinced him that illustrations drawn specifically for this edition would be a critical selling feature.17 Austen’s novels similarly were subject to re-issue in illustrated editions: Pride and Prejudice (1813) was originally unillustrated and published in cardboard covers, but by 1833, publisher Richard Bentley (who had purchased the copyright of Austen’s novels for a collected edition) released it with a title-page vignette of Lady Catherine de Bourgh and Elizabeth Bennet as well as a steel-engraved frontispiece of Elizabeth and her father, both by William Greatbatch.18 These new editions of Scott and Austen exploited the new readership for illustrated texts, one to which Scott, with his “shrewd understanding and exploitation of the literary market,” willingly catered.19

Original works of the period also exploited illustration’s appeal to the market: a smash hit of the early century was The Tour of Doctor Syntax in Search of the Picturesque, a narrative poem that first appeared in Ackermann’s Poetical Magazine (1809), accompanied by colored aquatints (see the images in the British Library’s Collection Items). The “good-natured moralising” protagonist undertakes a tour in search of aesthetic landscapes but ends up in a series of misadventures, including falling into a lake and being chased by a bull.20 Another bestseller was Pierce Egan’s fictional Life in London (1820–1821), a rollicking account of the adventures of Tom and Jerry, two “well-heeled young men about town,” rendered in lively contemporary slang with words such as cove (chap), blunt (cash), and flash (showy) (see the many illustrations in the British Library’s Collection Items).21 The series was issued in monthly numbers and illustrated by George and Robert Cruikshank with thirty-six hand-colored aquatints and many wood engravings. Sales for the monthly numbers were so high that colorists could not keep up with the printers’ demand.22 Indeed, so popular were the illustrations for Life in London that people emulated their scenes in real life, overturning the shelters for night watchmen in homage to the image of “Tom Getting the Best of a Charley.”23

1830s to 1850s: Pickwick and the Success of the Illustrated Serial

Into this market burst Charles Dickens’s The Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick Club, serialized in monthly numbers in 1836–1837 with two steel etchings per number.

Figure 3. Robert Seymour, wrapper for Charles Dickens, The Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick Club (London: Chapman and Hall, 1836). University of Victoria.

Termed by John Sutherland the “most important novel of the Victorian era,” Pickwick nodded to Life in London by featuring the comic misadventures of its hero as well as the Cockney slang of Sam Weller and his father.24 The book’s early history signals the crucial role of illustration in the period: a young Dickens, then working as a journalist and the new author of a series of London sketches, was approached to “write up” the comic and picaresque adventures of a sporting club loosely based on the steel etchings of Robert Seymour. Only after Seymour’s suicide and the brief, unsuccessful trial of a second illustrator, Robert Buss, did the partnership of Dickens (Boz) with Hablôt K. Browne (Phiz) establish the clear precedence of Dickens as initiator of the Pickwick phenomenon.

Meanwhile, the period from 1830 to the middle of the century witnessed yet another wave of technological advancements in illustration. Color printing advanced from hand coloring (still used in this transitional period in Dickens’s Christmas Carol [1843], which featured four hand-colored steel engravings by John Leech) to mechanical processes. The first color printing of a newspaper was achieved by chromoxylography (from chromo, color; and xylo, wood)—that is, the successive printing of wood engravings in different colors. From the 1840s, chromolithography (from litho, stone) was developed, in which printers used a combination of grease and ink to print from a stone surface.25 Chromolithographs offered flexibility of size that chromoxylographs did not: stones come in large sizes whereas woodblocks (from small hardwoods such as box) do not. By the 1840s, chromolithography had superseded aquatint as the leading method of color printing;26 however, chromolithographs were very expensive, often featuring in gift books at a price too costly for all but the rich.27

The early Victorian period also witnessed advances in reproductive technology, with stereotype plates offering a way to cast a whole forme of type in order to be able to keep and reprint from it. By the early 1830s, stereotypes could be used for wood engravings as well as for type, meaning that printers could preserve and reprint an entire illustrated page.28 The late 1830s’ discovery of electrotyping—that is, the coating of a surface with metal by means of an electric current—offered printers a “practicable method of manufacturing facsimiles” of wood illustrations; the first electrotype illustration was published in the London Journal of Arts and Sciences in 1840.29 Finally, the invention of photography in the late 1830s offered an efficient means of transferring drawings to the woodblock. Hitherto, artists or copyists had drawn directly onto the block, but photography simplified the process both of transfer and (very importantly) of scale: images no longer had to be drawn to final size but could be shrunk or enlarged to the required size.

By the 1840s, “what had formerly been a craft became an industry” as engravers set up shop in large companies like those of the Dalziel brothers and Joseph Swain.30 Magazine and book illustrations regularly featured two signatures, one of the artist and one of the engraver, an acknowledgment of the importance of the engraver’s skill. In 1841, the first issue of Punch launched not only the first comic newspaper fully integrating text and image but also a fertile training ground for many of the greatest book illustrators of mid- to late century, including John Leech, John Tenniel (later of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland fame), and George du Maurier (who later illustrated the works of Elizabeth Gaskell and Mary Elizabeth Braddon as well as his own late-century novels). The 1842 establishment of the Illustrated London News, the world’s first illustrated newspaper, heralded the integration of text and image in news reporting while, in 1843, the Illuminated Magazine proclaimed its goal to supply to the reading public “those graces of art and literature which have too long been held the exclusive right of those of happier fortunes.”31 The mid-century’s enthusiasm for technological development was highlighted at the Great Exhibition of 1851, where exhibits featured lithography, wood engraving, and color printing and where prize medals were awarded “for excellence in production or workmanship.”32 On a pragmatic front, the advent of the railway opened possibilities for both distribution and sales to commuting travelers. In 1848, W. H. Smith opened his first railway bookstall in London’s Euston Station;33 by the end of the 1860s, he operated five hundred such stalls nationwide. The cheap “railway edition,” with its often-lurid paper cover, was born.34

At the opening of this period of innovation and technological advancement, the serial release of Pickwick signaled the grand success of the illustrated serial novel, which in turn became a quintessential Victorian form. Illustrated serial fiction took two forms: individually packaged numbers with their own wrappers and serials in periodicals. Whereas the former dominated the early century, the latter came to constitute the primary form of illustrated serial fiction by the 1860s. Both forms were present, however, in early century, with individual numbers finding expression in works such as Dickens’s Nicholas Nickleby (1838–1839), Martin Chuzzlewit (1843–1844), Dombey and Son (1846–1848), and David Copperfield (1849–1850), all illustrated by Phiz; William Harrison Ainsworth’s Jack Sheppard (1839–1840) and The Tower of London (1840), both illustrated by Cruikshank in a collaborative and creative partnership with the author;

Figure 4. George Cruikshank, wrapper for William Harrison Ainsworth, The Tower of London (London: Richard Bentley, January 1840). University of Victoria.

and William Makepeace Thackeray’s Vanity Fair (1847–1848) and Pendennis (1848–1850), both illustrated by Thackeray himself. Notably, Dickens also published his illustrated serials in periodicals, with Oliver Twist appearing in Bentley’s Miscellany (1837–1839), illustrated by Cruikshank, and The Old Curiosity Shop (1840–1841), illustrated by George Cattermole and Phiz, appearing in Master Humphrey’s Clock, a short-lived periodical edited by Dickens himself. Richly illustrated with visual elements such as chapter initials and heads, full-page images, and tailpieces, these serial novels used text and image together to create character and setting, to anticipate or remind readers of key plot events, and even (in Thackeray’s case) to depict their own readers and narrators.

For individually packaged serials, the identical paper wrappers of each number provided readers with visual hints of the narrative to come, depicting key characters and scenes without giving away too much of the plot: David Copperfield’s, for example, depicts a baby sitting on top of a globe, surrounded by images of a life from cradle to grave,

Figure 5. H. K. Browne, wrapper for Charles Dickens, David Copperfield (London: Bradbury and Evans, May 1849). University of Victoria.

while Vanity Fair’s features a fool speechifying on top of a tub in a setting that is clearly contemporary London.

Figure 6. William Makepeace Thackeray, wrapper for William Makepeace Thackeray, Vanity Fair (London: Bradbury and Evans, 1847–1848). University of New Brunswick.

With each monthly issue of the serial, readers could re-interpret the cover’s visual iconography, refining their understanding of the cover image in relation to unfolding plot events. These wrappers also became an important form of visual branding, with Dickens’s green covers competing in the market with Thackeray’s yellow ones, as well as an important source of revenue, as the inside covers could be used for advertising and the number would typically include a gathering of advertisements before the main letterpress. (Modern readers may find it challenging to find examples of wrappers in libraries because readers who chose to bind their individually purchased serial numbers or their monthly or weekly periodical installments usually discarded the wrapper and the advertisements.) Following a successful serialization, publishers issued volume editions of the novel in question, often in several forms, including a “triple decker” (three-volume) edition and a cheaper one-volume edition.

Book illustration became progressively recognized across Europe as integral to contemporary culture, with a “remarkable flowering of French books with [English] wood engravings,” including Gil Blas, Don Quixote, Manon Lescaut, and Paul et Virginie, a number of which were swiftly republished in London with translated letterpress.35 Moreover, Scott’s novels were re-issued once again, the 1842–1847 Abbotsford edition being thickly illustrated with four or five steel engravings per novel and with about seventy wood engravings that were integrated into the text, featuring “evocative, vignette-like images” of historical interest.36 Even Austen’s novels were re-issued by Routledge in its Railway Library Series, Pride and Prejudice (1849) being adorned with a “garish” cover “showing characters in Victorian dress.”37

1860s to 1870s: The Golden Age of Book Illustration

By the 1860s, the style of book illustration shifted with the influence of the Pre-Raphaelites, who brought to illustration “a recognition that [an illustration] had the status of a work of art”: they revived the craft of wood engraving as opposed to the more mechanical process and less warm tones of steel.38 Many artists of the Sixties School brought a higher level of realism and accuracy to the portrayal of the body than had their predecessors, having been trained to draw from the nude, whether through Royal Academy training or in Paris studios. They researched historical detail, made studies, and insisted on high-quality engraving. The size, style, and tone of illustrations also changed, with vignettes giving way to full-page plates, often bordered, “increasingly black and strongly defined.”39 Frederick Sandys exemplified the Sixties School’s attention to detail in his study of the natural object: as du Maurier noted, “If he has a path of grass to do in a cut, an inch square, he makes a large and highly finished study from nature for it first.”40 The clash of the earlier school with that of the sixties is exemplified in George Cruikshank’s exasperated exclamation to Once a Week’s editor that du Maurier was a “damned pre-Raphaelite”—not that du Maurier in fact identified with the movement but that he admired and emulated the brotherhood’s meticulous attention to detail, as seen in the attention to the flowers and ivy in his early illustration “Non Satis,” which appeared in Once A Week (1860).41

The artistic style of the Sixties School flourished in a burgeoning print market: cheaper paper, the mechanization of printing presses, and the lowering of taxes on paper, journals, and newspapers combined to make book and magazine publishing newly lucrative in this period. At this moment of opportunity, publishers founded the great illustrated family periodicals that were to become the hallmark of the age and that included serial novels, poetry, and essays. Once a Week, founded in 1859 by Dickens’s former publishers, Bradbury and Evans (also the publishers of Punch), published the fiction of Braddon, Shirley Brooks, Harriet Martineau, George Meredith, and Charles Reade, illustrated by prominent artist-illustrators such as du Maurier, John Everett Millais, Leech, and Tenniel. The monthly Cornhill Magazine, founded by George Smith in 1860 and edited initially by Thackeray, presented the novels of Wilkie Collins, George Eliot, Gaskell, Thomas Hardy, and Anthony Trollope, all richly illustrated by first-rate artist-illustrators such as du Maurier, Millais, Frederic Leighton, and Helen Allingham. The Christian journal Good Words provided Sabbath reading for the middle class, including illustrated poetry and fiction as well as sermons and theological essays by its prominent editor, the Reverend Norman Macleod, “a hero of the Established Church of Scotland.”42 Novelists published in Good Words included Hardy, Charles Kingsley, George MacDonald, Dinah Mulock Craik, Trollope, and Ellen Wood; artist-illustrators included Arthur Hughes, Millais, and Sandys. Journals of the sixties fostered productive couplings between novelist and illustrator: in the Cornhill, Smith paired Trollope with Millais for the meticulously realist Framley Parsonage (1860–1861) and The Small House at Allington (1864)

Figure 7. John Everett Millais, “It’s all the fault of the naughty Birds,” illustration for Anthony Trollope, The Small House at Allington, Cornhill Magazine (November 1862), 663 and facing. University of Victoria.

as well as Leighton with Eliot for Romola (1862–1863); in Once a Week, Samuel Lucas hired du Maurier for Isa Blagden’s dark Santa; or A Woman’s Tragedy (1862)

Figure 8. George du Maurier, illustration for Isa Blagden, Santa; or a Woman’s Tragedy, Once a Week (August 23, 1862), 225. University of Victoria.

and Braddon’s sensational Eleanor’s Victory (1863); in Good Words, Macleod matched realists Millais and Craik for Mistress and Maid (1862); and in Good Words for the Young, he triumphantly paired MacDonald with Hughes for At the Back of the North Wind (1871) and The Princess and the Goblin (1872).

For novelists, the quality family journals of the 1860s provided access to a middle-class reading audience, the prestige of association with a leading editor and illustrator, and lucrative journal contracts that could be followed by a separate contract for a volume edition. The Cornhill paid hitherto unheard-of sums for fiction: Eliot received £7000 for Romola, Collins £5000 for Armadale, and Gaskell £2000 for Wives and Daughters.43 Many novelists contracted with illustrated journals on both sides of the Atlantic, with Dickens, Collins, and Craik enjoying profitable arrangements with Harper Brothers, who published their works in Harper’s magazines with different illustrations for an American readership. A Tale of Two Cities (1859), published unillustrated in All the Year Round and in illustrated monthly parts in Britain, was richly illustrated by John McLenan in Harper’s Weekly (see the images on the Victorian Web), as was Great Expectations (1860–1861), published unillustrated in Britain in All the Year Round. Most illustrated serial novels also appeared in volume editions just at the end of their serialization; however, volume editions almost always eliminated chapter initials and did not always reproduce all illustrations. Those images that were included were usually situated as close as possible to the letterpress event to which they corresponded, meaning that the form of the illustrated novel shifted significantly between serial and volume editions. For example, the volume edition of Eliot’s Romola did not include any of Leighton’s chapter initials, many of which comprised meticulous vignettes of the novel’s Florentine setting. Moreover, illustrated novels were in many cases later re-issued in collected editions with different, updated illustrations: for example, the Household Edition of Dickens’s works (1870–1879), with lead illustrators Frederick Barnard and Charles Green, replaced Phiz’s “sketchy caricatural style” with “new illustrations in a more realistic manner.”44

For artists, the journals of the 1860s provided a fertile training ground in which they could experiment and develop technical skills. Small illustrations such as head- and tailpieces and especially unsigned initials provided opportunities for those trying to break into the profession: du Maurier, Luke Fildes, William Small, Tenniel, and Frederick Walker all cut their professional teeth in this manner.45 The engraving establishments provided the “grammar schools,” the magazines “the universities on the way to High Art.”46 Whereas earlier illustrators such as Leech, the Cruikshanks, and Phiz had never attained membership in the Royal Academy, many of the high-profile illustrators of the 1860s did; these included Fildes, Hubert von Herkomer, Frank Holl, Leighton, Millais, Small, and Walker, with Leighton and Millais eventually ascending to the presidency.

In the 1860s, book illustration laid claim to the status of high art. This movement began in 1857 with Edward Moxon’s illustrated edition of Tennyson’s poems (illustrated by Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Millais, and William Holman Hunt, and four others) and engraved by the Dalziel brothers (see the images in the British Library’s Collection Items). The trend continued with standout works such as Millais’s beautifully illustrated 1863 Parables of Our Lord (first published in Good Words and the Cornhill; see his image of the prodigal son in the British Library’s Collection Items) and London: A Pilgrimage (1872), a collaboration between French artist Gustave Doré and English journalist Blanchard Jerrold. London, which included 180 illustrations, was over four years in the making; it has become a landmark of mid-Victorian illustration (see Doré’s London illustrations in the British Library’s Collection Items). Illustrations drawn from fiction formed part of this claim to high-art status: in 1864, Smith, Elder released The Cornhill Gallery, a compilation of one hundred illustrations drawn from its illustrated fiction and poetry from 1860 to June 1864. The collection included illustrations for Romola (illustrated by Leighton), The Small House at Allington, and Framley Parsonage (both illustrated by Millais), as well as Thackeray’s The Adventures of Philip (illustrated by Walker) and Lovel the Widower (illustrated by Thackeray himself). Each illustration was reproduced on high-quality paper from the original woodblocks engraved by the brothers Dalziel, W. J. Linton, and Joseph Swain, the leading engravers of the period. (In the Cornhill itself, the images had been printed from electrotype casts of the woodblocks.) Cornhill Gallery editors preserved groupings by narrative but very significantly did not include the novels’ letterpress. What the Cornhill Gallery offered, then, was literary illustrations as stand-alone high art, severed from the text–image relationship. These books, quintessential products of the 1860s, attempted to claim for illustration a status apart from the mass market: transcendent and timeless, on par with painting. Meanwhile, artists such as Millais sold versions of their original fiction illustrations in the form of watercolors and sketches.

Indeed, to some critics’ dismay, the traditionally “high” art of grand narrative painting began to draw on book and periodical illustration: Fildes’s Applicants for Admission to a Casual Ward (displayed at the 1874 Royal Academy; see the painting in the Tate Collection) was based on his illustration “Houseless and Hungry” (published in the Graphic illustrated newspaper in 1869; see the newspaper illustration on the Victorian Web). Moreover, the fiction of Scott and Dickens provided fertile ground for artists from the 1830s onward: over a thousand paintings and sculptures based on the works of Scott were displayed between 1805 and 1870, with novels progressively displacing poetry as the artists’ subject matter of choice (see, for example, William Powell Frith’s The Bride of Lammermoor [c. 1852] in the Victoria and Albert Museum, based on Scott’s historical novel).47 At least 170 works inspired by Dickens’s novels were displayed in the 19th century,48 with artists focusing especially on The Old Curiosity Shop (1840–1841) and Barnaby Rudge (1841), followed by Dombey and Son (1846–1848). Popular subjects were Little Nell (by artists such as Hunt, Robert Braithewaite Martineau, James Collinson, John Ritchie, and John Watkins Chapman) as well as Dolly Varden, Little Em’ly, Florence Dombey, and Kate Nickleby (for example, see Hunt’s Little Nell and Her Grandfather [1845], on UK Art).

1880s to 1890s: Mechanical Advancement and Artistic Experimentation

The late Victorian period witnessed another revolution in illustration, with photographic reproduction of images available from 1881. Whereas wood engraving had dominated the 1860s and 1870s, by the 1880s and 1890s it was starting to wane in favor of photographic line-block and halftone illustration, both of which eliminated manual engraving. The line block allowed photographed line drawings to be projected onto a plate covered with photosensitive material, reproducing the drawn line without the manual labor of engraving or etching.49 The halftone process used a screen that projected dots of light onto a paper surface. Halftone images, viewed through a magnifying glass, were made up of tiny dots, just as today’s digital images are made up of pixels.50 Fully mechanical reproduction was finally possible, revolutionizing illustration. A measure of this revolution comes from a count of illustrations in the ILN: in 1888, an issue of the ILN included twenty-six images: seventeen of these were wood engravings, seven were line process blocks, and two halftone process blocks. In 1906, a single issue included over fifty process blocks and no wood engravings.51 Color printing also underwent a seismic shift with the introduction of the three-color halftone process in the 1890s. Printers discovered that by overprinting three separate halftone blocks in red, blue, and yellow, they could produce a “bright and convincing” color image.52

In the illustration of fiction, these developments bifurcated the field, with popular fiction benefitting from the “cheap and quick” halftone process and experimental works (both avant garde and artisanal) turning to the line block and even, in the case of William Morris, reviving the pre-industrial craft of wood engraving.53 The Strand Magazine, the top-paying and widely circulating fiction magazine of late century, adopted the halftone process from the start. The magazine’s popular fiction by Arthur Conan Doyle (illustrated by Sidney Paget), Edith Nesbit (illustrated by H. R. Millar), and Grant Allen (illustrated by Alfred Pearse and Paget) was heavily illustrated, with the letterpress typically wrapped around multiple images.

Meanwhile, the avant-garde Yellow Book turned away from the very concept of traditional illustration, promising that its pictures would “in no case serve as illustrations to the letter-press”;54 instead, the periodical featured stand-alone artwork by such artists as Aubrey Beardsley, Laurence Housman, and Walter Sickert. As it proclaimed in its prospectus, the magazine promised the “finest possible results” in “the matter of reproduction” of images,55 employing the Swan Electric Engraving Company for its halftone illustrations and “one of three Carl Hentschel Company factories for its line [block]-engraving of pen-and ink drawings.”56 In his book-illustration work, Beardsley exploited the freedom offered by the line-block process, producing iconic illustrations for Oscar Wilde’s Salome (1894) as well as for re-issues of Alexander Pope’s The Rape of the Lock (1896) and, in fiction, Théodore Gautier’s Mademoiselle de Maupin (1898).57 Eschewing the new mechanical processes, Morris embraced the craftsmanship of wood engraving with his Kelmscott Press books, whose pages emulate illuminated medieval works with their vellum covers, beautifully designed borders, ornate capital letters, and wood-engraved illustrations by top-quality artists. His Kelmscott Press edition of News from Nowhere (1893) exemplified in its hand-crafted production the author’s vision of a post-industrial future (see the title page and several page layouts in the British Library’s Collection Items). As Gordon N. Ray summarizes, the “exuberant scene” of late century thus saw “the subtle and daring conceptions of sophisticated artist-craftsmen coexisting with a broader appeal to the general imagination.”58

Re-issues of existing books took advantage of late-century technological developments. The halftone process offered a “new and satisfactory method of reproducing a drawing,”59 enabling Hugh Thomson’s charming pen-and-ink illustrations for Gaskell’s Cranford (1891), a book so popular that it was reprinted numerous times in the 1890s and re-issued in color in 1898.60 Thomson’s Cranford formed part of Macmillan’s twenty-four-volume collection known as the “Cranford Series,” which started with Oliver Goldsmith’s The Vicar of Wakefield and included Washington Irving’s Rip Van Winkle and The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, as well as Eliot’s Silas Marner and her Scenes of Clerical Life.61 As Percy Muir observes, “after Cranford appeared in 1891, a ‘Thomson book’ became a feature of the Christmas market.”62 Thomson went on to illustrate George Allen’s Pride and Prejudice (1894), with its bold Art Nouveau peacock cover,63

Figure 9. Hugh Thomson, cover design, Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice (London: George Allen, 1894). University of Victoria.

as well as the “Peacock Series” for Macmillan (see the cover designs courtesy of ILAB’s “The Art of American Book Covers”). In 1895, C. E. Brock was selected by Macmillan to illustrate Pride and Prejudice with forty pen-and-ink drawings; three years later, he and his brother Henry provided pen-and-ink illustrations tinted with watercolor for Dent’s ten-volume collection of Austen’s novels; these were reproduced using color lithography.64 Apart from exploiting new technology, these illustrations share the artists’ determination to reflect in historically accurate detail the settings (including architecture, dress, and furniture) created by Austen and others;65 the Brock brothers accumulated a costume collection and recruited their friends and family as models in order to attain a high degree of historical fidelity to the novel’s setting.66 Despite their realist accuracy of historical setting, however, these luxury editions placed Austen, Gaskell, and others firmly in a visual tradition of nostalgic old-world charm—a practice that continues to this day in television and film costume-drama adaptations.

By contrast, novels serialized in the Graphic (founded 1869 and continuing through the early 20th century) reflected the illustrated newspaper’s commitment to visual realism as a means to promote social change. William Luson Thomas, a friend of Dickens, founded the paper in the belief that high-quality illustrations could capture the imagination of the nation to combat poverty and crime. His stable of top well-paid illustrators included many of the most proficient of the mid- to late century: Fildes, Frank Holl, Arthur Pinwell, Herkomer, and Walker. Hardy’s Tess of the d’Urbervilles ran in the Graphic in weekly installments from July 4, 1891 to December 26, 1891, with twenty-five illustrations by Herkomer and pupils Borough Johnson, Daniel Wehrschmidt, and J. Syddall.

Figure 10. Daniel Wehrschmidt, “Something seemed to move on the verge of the dip eastward—a mere dot.” Illustration for Thomas Hardy, Tess of the d’Urbervilles, The Graphic (December 26, 1891), 759. University of Victoria.

The novel’s attention to gender inequality, working conditions, and rural life harmonized with the Graphic’s tradition of social realism. Illustrations, including two in double-page folio format, highlighted themes of domestic constraint, rural labor, pain, inequality, and power, with strong contrasts of light and darkness creating a nightmarish quality in some images. Notably, Vincent van Gogh took inspiration from issues of the Graphic, pasting illustrations on the walls of his studio and treasuring “the best and most characteristic sheets,” by “Small or Herkomer, or Green or Frank Hol [sic],” which in turn inspired his own work.67 Just as Fildes broke down the distinction between low and high art by transforming his work from the pages of Graphic to the walls of the Royal Academy in the 1860s and early 1870s, so too did van Gogh perceive illustration as an art worthy to be studied and emulated as the best that the late 19th century could offer.

The Victorian period witnessed a revolution in book and journal illustration of fiction, with technological innovations driving changes in format, style, and technique. From aquatints to the three-color halftone process, from the Cruikshanks’ etchings to photomechanical processes that eliminated the hand of the etcher or engraver, reproductive technologies fed a reading audience that hungered for illustrated books and magazines and that read much of its fiction in illustrated form. Authors debated the effectiveness of illustration, with Eliot lamenting that the artist could not hope to meet the “impossible expectations” of the author68 and Trollope complimenting Millais on his fidelity to “the views of the writer whose work he had undertaken to illustrate,”69 but publishers never doubted that the illustrated book represented a “felt want,” as du Maurier expressed it.70 Perhaps the highest tribute to Victorian book illustration, however, came from author and cleric Kingsley, who used the metaphor of the illustrated book to explain to children the value of studying nature as “the most beautiful and most wonderful of all picture-books,” a virtual primer of Christian faith:

If your parents tried to teach you your lessons in the most agreeable way, by beautiful picture-books, would it not be ungracious, ungrateful, and altogether naughty and wrong, to shut your eyes to those pictures, and refuse to learn? And is it not altogether naughty and wrong to refuse to learn from your Father in Heaven, the Great God who made all things, when he offers to teach you all day long by the most beautiful and most wonderful of all picture-books, which is simply all things which you can see, hear, and touch, from the sun and stars above your head to the mosses and insects at your feet?71

For Kingsley, the Victorian illustrated book does not represent technology, the market, or readers’ demands but a new and immediate way of representing truth, one that communicates to the eye and the spirit with unprecedented directness. The passage speaks to his faith in the illustrated book as much as it does to his faith in God.

The legacies of Victorian book illustration were apparent in the early 20th century, as Arthur Rackham used the three-color process to illustrate high-quality and very successful re-issues of Washington Irving’s Rip Van Winkle (1905), J. M. Barrie’s Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens,

Figure 11. Arthur Rackham, “He passed under the bridge and came within full sight of the delectable Gardens.” Illustration for J. M. Barrie, Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1910). University of Victoria.

and Rudyard Kipling’s Puck of Pook’s Hill (both 1906), Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels (1909), and A Christmas Carol (1915). The successes of Kenneth Grahame’s The Wind in the Willows (1908) and A. A. Milne’s Winnie-the-Pooh (1926) were at least in part assured by the illustrations of E. H. Shepard. As these titles suggest, book illustration after the turn of the century increasingly migrated to children’s literature, even as cinematic adaptations of Victorian novels wowed mass audiences and modernist luminaries overturned conventional book design. Nevertheless, Victorian illustrated books continue to enjoy a rich afterlife in the 20th and early 21st centuries. Thomson’s illustrations for Pride and Prejudice have found their way onto t-shirts and book bags, while Émile Bayard’s illustration of Cosette from the original 1862 edition of Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables (seen here courtesy of L’Histoire par l’image) found a vibrant second life on posters for the 1985 musical production. Perhaps the most unexpected afterlife of Victorian fictional illustration, however, may be Sherlock Holmes’s iconic deerstalker hat,

Figure 12. Sidney Paget, “We had the carriage to ourselves.” Illustration for A. Conan Doyle, “The Boscombe Valley Mystery,” Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, The Strand Magazine 2 (July–December 1891), 401. University of Victoria.

which has come in the popular imagination to stand as a metonym for the great fictional detective. The deerstalker originated not in Doyle’s letterpress but in Paget’s illustrations—a fact that suggests the way in which images did not merely complement but, to a large extent, collaborated in the meaning making of the Victorian illustrated novel.

Discussion of the Literature

For the modern scholar, perhaps the greatest challenge of studying Victorian illustration is to know what, exactly, was the technology that produced the illustration in question. Is the illustration a wood engraving? A steel etching? A steel engraving? A lithograph? A photographic reproduction? Invaluable assistance in this “detective process” is provided by Bamber Gascoigne’s How to Identify Prints (1986; 2004), which, as its subtitle promises, offers “A Complete Guide to Manual and Mechanical Processes from Woodcut to Inkjet.” 72 Jargon free and helpful to all levels of reader, from engaged beginner to expert, Gascoigne’s meticulous and comprehensive guidebook provides helpful methods for differentiating among 19th-century illustration techniques and close-up images that exemplify the telltale visual signs of each process.

For historical surveys of the shifts in illustration technology witnessed by the 19th century, Philip James’s English Book Illustration 1800–1900 (1947) remains a pithy, useful overview, including a “technical note” on “autographic” and “photographic processes.”73 Geoffrey Wakeman’s Victorian Book Illustration: The Technical Revolution (1973) provides sections on engraving and etching, lithography, chromolithography, wood engraving, and photomechanical processes. Gordon N. Ray’s The Illustrator and the Book in England from 1790 to 1914 (1976)—a book that began as a catalogue for an exhibition at the Pierpont Morgan Library—usefully provides an annotated bibliography of illustrated books organized by illustration techniques and illustrators. Finally, for a beautifully designed and illustrated study of Victorian wood engraving, we recommend Eric de Maré’s The Victorian Woodblock Illustrators (1980) for its sensitive appreciation of the artistry, labor, and detail of the boxwood block, an innovation that de Maré compares to the steam engine for its impact on the Victorian period. For masterly scholarly overviews of key shifts in the form and appearance of the Victorian book, volume six of The Cambridge History of the Book in Britain (1830–1914) (2009) offers important and reliable essays on “Changes in the Look of the Book,” “The Illustration Revolution,” and “The Serial Revolution.”

The complex processes required to produce color images, which shifted in the 19th century from hand-colored aquatints to tricolor photomechanical reproduction, find helpful explication in two volumes. In a work that has retained its value, Martin Hardie’s English Coloured Books (1906) provides an in-depth overview of the development of color printing, surveying coloring techniques from 1500 through the Victorian period. In addition, Ruari McLean’s Victorian Book Design and Colour Printing (1963) offers a useful compendium of technological developments exemplified by particular illustrators and presses (see, for example, his chapter on “Early Lithography and Owen Jones”).

A further challenge of studying any given Victorian illustration is determining its artist and engraver. According to Victorian convention, drawings were often initialed by both, one on each side of the drawing (though, unhelpfully, with artist and engraver not always signing consistently in the same position from one illustration to the next). Artists usually signed drawings with initials, often in the form of a monogram. To identify artists’ monograms, modern scholars can turn to Simon Houfe’s incomparable Dictionary of British Book Illustrators and Caricaturists 1800–1914 (1978), which includes a page of monograms of the century’s most prominent artists together with a comprehensive alphabetical entry for well over a thousand artists (with sources for each entry directing readers to further information). Scholars still struggling to identify a signature can turn to John Castagno’s invaluable series of volumes on monograms and signatures of artists from Europe and beyond, including his three-volume Artists’ Monograms and Indiscernible Signatures (1991–2009). For information on engravers, consult Rodney K. Engen’s remarkably detailed Dictionary of Victorian Wood Engravers (1985), which includes a valuable bibliography of works on illustration and engraving.

Among studies of the so-called golden age of the 1860s, the leading scholars are indubitably Simon Cooke and Paul Goldman. Cooke’s Illustrated Periodicals of the 1860s (2010) focuses on the complex interpersonal relationships underpinning this visual-verbal form: those between artist and publisher, artist and editor, and artist and engraver, for example. Cooke’s contributions also extend to his work as assistant editor for the very reliable entries on Victorian illustration and book design on The Victorian Web. Goldman, former curator of prints and drawings at the British Museum, is author of Victorian Illustrated Books 1850–1870: The Heyday of Wood-Engraving (1994). Based on the collection of Robin de Beaumont, this erudite study sets 366 books and 200 individual illustrations in the context of Victorian print technologies and print culture. Goldman’s equally valuable Victorian Illustration: The Pre-Raphaelites, the Idyllic School and the High Victorians (1996) focuses on thirty-five artists (including Millais, Hunt, Hughes, Leighton, and du Maurier) whose work flourished in the period from 1855 to 1880. Cooke and Goldman’s jointly edited Reading Victorian Illustration, 1855–1875: Spoils of the Lumber Room (2012) assembles essays from leading contemporary scholars of Victorian illustration, including Julia Thomas, director of the Database of Mid-Victorian Illustration and the Illustration Archive; Lorraine Janzen Kooistra, co-editor of The Yellow Nineties Online; and Philip Allingham, who served as the first contributing editor of The Victorian Web. These important studies build on invaluable earlier work by Gleeson White (English Illustration: The Sixties; 1897) and Forrest Reid (The Illustrators of the Sixties; 1928).

Studies of Victorian illustrated fiction can be divided into two main groups: broad surveys and author-based studies. In the first group, which tends to produce nuanced comparative analyses of text–image relations, J. R. Harvey’s still-classic Victorian Novelists and Their Illustrators (1971) largely focuses on satire (from Gillray to George Cruikshank) together with Dickens and Thackeray. Another work that has stood the test of time is Stuart Sillars’s Visualisation in Popular Fiction, 1860–1960: Graphic Narratives, Fictional Images (1995). The first half covers illustration in the Victorian period, reaching back to its roots in the works of William Hogarth, Gillray, and Robert Cruikshank and containing thematic sections on the nature and function of visualization as well as Victorian graphic narratives, children’s fiction, and illustrated magazines. More recently, and influentially for the “visual turn” in Victorian scholarship, Kate Flint’s The Victorians and the Visual Imagination (2000) offers a superb interdisciplinary study of Victorians and visual culture; similarly, Thomas’s wide-ranging and fascinating Pictorial Victorians: The Inscription of Values in Word and Image (2004) comprises analyses of poetry, narrative paintings, popular periodicals, and fiction, casting illustration and narrative painting as hybrid genres, both central to Victorian culture. A third scholar whose work leads this newly enriched field is Kooistra, already mentioned as an acknowledged expert of Victorian illustration. Kooistra has produced highly sophisticated work on Victorian poetry and illustration as well as on 19th-century illustrated literary annuals; for illustrated fiction, her most relevant text is The Artist as Critic: Bitextuality in Fin-de-Siècle Illustrated Books (1995), a definitive work on fin-de-siècle illustration that includes studies of fiction by Doyle, H. Rider Haggard, and Morris. For a historian’s perspective on the act of visual representation, Rosemary Mitchell’s Picturing the Past: English History in Text and Image 1830–1870 (2000) provides sophisticated analysis of how the past is represented, whether in history books or in illustrated historical fiction, including that of Ainsworth and Thackeray. Writing in French, the erudite Philippe Kaenel enlightens with a vast overview of the illustrator’s métier in 19th-century France (Le Métier d’illustrateur 1830–1880; 1996, 2005); he offers a rich section on Gustave Doré, one of the most famous illustrators of English texts, including the Bible, the works of Milton, and Blanchard Jerrold’s London: A Pilgrimage (1872). Published in English, Kaenel’s edited collection Doré: Master of Imagination (2014), produced to accompany the Musée d’Orsay and the National Gallery of Canada’s exhibit of the same name, is a masterly and lavishly illustrated work. Linda M. Shires’s Perspectives: Modes of Viewing and Knowing in Nineteenth-Century England (2009) provides another sophisticated and challenging study, in which she historicizes the very category of perspective itself, arguing that writers and artists experimented with perspective “across visual and verbal media,” casting into question “the relationship of subject to object.”74 Finally, in the excellent edited collections of Catherine J. Golden and Richard Maxwell (Book Illustrated: Text, Image, and Culture, 1770–1930, 2000; The Victorian Illustrated Book, 2002), readers will find a series of essays by top scholars in the field, including (in Golden) Robert L. Patten on humor in George Cruikshank’s graphic satire and, by Golden herself, an essay on “Cruikshank’s Illustrative Wrinkle in Oliver Twist’s Misrepresentation of Class” and (in Maxwell), Patten on David Copperfield, Herbert F. Tucker on “Literal Illustration in Victorian Print,” and Maxwell himself on Scott’s illustrated historical fiction.

Influential studies of single authors and their illustrators include the lastingly valuable work of Joan Stevens, whose articles on Thackeray’s illustrations and wrapper for Vanity Fair (both 1974) combine sharp analytical focus with a meticulous attention to detail. Michael Steig’s and Jane Cohen’s classic and detailed studies (Dickens and Phiz, 1978; Charles Dickens and His Original Illustrators, 1980) remain essential reading, while Arlene Jackson (1981) and Pamela Dalziel (1996; 2013) have spearheaded scholarship on Hardy’s illustrated fiction. In the field of author-based studies of texts for which illustration followed first-edition publication, Richard Hill’s recent study, Picturing Scotland Through the Waverley Novels (2010), provides a rich and sensitive analysis of how illustration sustained the market for Scott after his initial popularity, and Susannah Fullerton’s Celebrating Pride and Prejudice: 200 Years of Jane Austen’s Masterpiece (2013) enlightens readers with examples of illustrated Austen from railway editions to lavish 1890s book editions.

While all of these books are extremely valuable, there is no substitute for Victorian books and periodicals themselves: venturing into the archive of Victorian illustration equipped with a cheap magnifying glass as a tool and a copy of Gascoigne as a guide, readers will discover the remarkable skill and superb artistry of too-often-forgotten artists and engravers.

Further Reading

  • “Book Illustration in Victorian England.” The Victorian Web.
  • Castagno, John. Artists’ Monograms and Indiscernible Signatures. 3 vols. Lanham: Scarecrow, 1991–2009.
  • Chick, Arthur. Towards Today’s Book: Progress in 19the Century Britain. London: Farrand, 1997.
  • Christ, Carol, and John O’Jordan. Victorian Literature and the Victorian Visual Imagination. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1995.
  • Cohen, Jane R. Charles Dickens and His Original Illustrators. Columbus: Ohio State University Press, 1980.
  • Cooke, Simon. Illustrated Periodicals of the 1860s. Middlesex: Private Libraries Association, 2010.
  • Cooke, Simon, and Paul Goldman, eds. Reading Victorian Illustration, 1855–1875: Spoils of the Lumber Room. Farnham: Ashgate, 2012.
  • Dalziel, Pamela. “Anxieties of Representation: The Serial Illustrations to Hardy’s The Return of the Native.” Nineteenth-Century Literature. 51.1 (1996): 84–110.
  • Dalziel, Pamela. “Illustration.” In Thomas Hardy in Context, edited by Phillip Mallett, 54–70. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 2013.
  • Database of Mid-Victorian Wood-Engraved Illustration. Edited by Julia Thomas. Cardiff University, 2007.
  • de Maré, Eric. The Victorian Woodblock Illustrators. New York: Sandstone, 1980.
  • Engen, Rodney K. Dictionary of Victorian Wood Engravers. Cambridge, U.K.: Chadwyck-Healey, 1985.
  • Flint, Kate. Victorians and the Visual Imagination. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 2000.
  • Fullerton, Susannah. Celebrating Pride and Prejudice: 200 Years of Jane Austen’s Masterpiece. Minneapolis: Voyageur, 2013.
  • Gascoigne, Bamber. How to Identify Prints. 2d ed. New York: Thames & Hudson, 2004.
  • Godbey, Margaret J. “Illustrated Novel.” In The Encyclopedia of the Novel, vol. 1. Edited by Peter Melville Logan, 418–424. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley-Blackwell, 2011.
  • Golden, Catherine J., ed. Book Illustrated: Text, Image, and Culture 1770–1930. New Castle, DE: Oak Knoll, 2000.
  • Goldman, Paul. Victorian Illustrated Books 1850–1870: The Heyday of Wood-Engraving. Boston: David R. Godine, 1994.
  • Goldman, Paul. Victorian Illustration: The Pre-Raphaelites, the Idyllic School and the High Victorians. Aldershot: Scolar, 1996.
  • Hardie, Martin. English Coloured Books. London: Fitzhouse, 1990.
  • Harvey, J. R. Victorian Novelists and Their Illustrators. New York: New York University Press, 1971.
  • Hill, Richard. Picturing Scotland Through the Waverley Novels: Walter Scott and the Origins of the Victorian Illustrated Novel. Farnham: Ashgate, 2010.
  • Houfe, Simon. The Dictionary of British Book Illustrators and Caricaturists 1800–1914. Suffolk: Baron, 1981.
  • Jackson, Arlene M. Illustration and the Novels of Thomas Hardy. Toptawa, NJ: Rowan and Littlefield, 1981.
  • James, Philip. English Book Illustration 1800–1900. London: King Penguin, 1947.
  • Kaenel, Philippe. Le Métier d’illustrateur 1830–1880. Geneva, Switzerland: Librairie Droz S.A., 2005.
  • Kaenel, Philippe. Doré: Master of Imagination. Paris: Musée d’Orsay, 2014.
  • Kooistra, Lorraine Janzen. The Artist as Critic: Bitextuality in Fin-de-Siècle Illustrated Books. Aldershot: Scolar, 1995.
  • Maxwell, Richard, ed. The Victorian Illustrated Book. Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 2002.
  • McKitterick, David, ed. The Cambridge History of the Book in Britain, vol. 6. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 2009.
  • McLean, Ruari. Victorian Book Design and Colour Printing. New York: Oxford University Press, 1963.
  • Mitchell, Rosemary. Picturing the Past: English History in Text and Image 1830–1870. Oxford: Clarendon, 2000.
  • Muir, Percy H. Victorian Illustrated Books. London: B. T. Batsford, 1971.
  • Ray, Gordon N. The Illustrator and the Book in England from 1790 to 1914. Mineola, NY: Dover, 1991.
  • Reid, Forrest. Illustrators of the Eighteen Sixties: An Illustrated Survey of the Work of Fifty-Eight British Artists. London: Faber and Faber, 1975.
  • Shires, Linda. Perspectives: Modes of Viewing and Knowing in Nineteenth-Century England. Columbus: Ohio State University Press, 2009.
  • Sillars, Stuart. Visualisation in Popular Fiction, 1860–1960: Graphic Narratives, Fictional Images. London: Routledge, 1995.
  • Skilton, David. “The Relation between Illustration and Text in the Victorian Novel: A New Perspective.” In Word and Visual Imagination: Studies in the Interaction of English Literature and the Visual Arts. Edited by Karl Josef, Höltgen, Peter M. Daly, and Wolfgang Lottes, 303–325. Erlangen: Universitatsbibliothek, 1988.
  • Steig, Michael. Dickens and Phiz. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1978.
  • Stevens, Joan. “Thackeray’s Pictorial Capitals.” Costerus 2 (1974): 113–140.
  • Stevens, Joan. “Vanity Fair and the London Skyline.” Costerus 2 (1974): 13–20.
  • Thomas, Julia. Pictorial Victorians: The Inscription of Values in Word and Image. Athens: Ohio University Press, 2004.
  • Thorpe, James. English Illustration: The Nineties. New York: Hacker Art Books, 1975.
  • Wakeman, Geoffrey. Victorian Book Illustration: The Technical Revolution. Detroit, MI: Gale Research, 1973.
  • White, Gleeson. English Illustration: “The Sixties”: 1855–70. Westminster: Archibald Constable, 1897.
  • White, Gleeson. English Illustration: The Sixties. Westminster: A. Constable, 1897.
  • The Yellow Nineties Online. Edited by Dennis Denisoff and Lorraine Janzen Kooistra.


  • 1. Philip James, English Book Illustration 1800–1900 (London: King Penguin, 1947), 14.

  • 2. David Skilton, “The Centrality of Literary Illustration in Victorian Visual Culture: The Example of Millais and Trollope from 1860 to 1864,” Journal of Illustration Studies (December 2007).

  • 3. William St. Clair, The Reading Nation in the Romantic Period (Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 2004).

  • 4. Michael Twyman, “The Illustration Revolution,” in The Cambridge History of the Book in Britain, vol. 6, ed. David McKitterick (Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 2009), 118.

  • 5. James, English Book Illustration 1800–1900, 16.

  • 6. Gordon N. Ray, The Illustrator and the Book in England from 1790 to 1914 (Mineola, NY: Dover, 1991), 19.

  • 7. Bamber Gascoigne, How to Identify Prints, 2d ed. (New York: Thames & Hudson, 2004), 17.

  • 8. Twyman, “The Illustration Revolution,” 120; and James, English Book Illustration 1800–1900, 26.

  • 9. James, English Book Illustration 1800–1900, 17.

  • 10. John Ford, “Ackermann, Rudolph (1764–1834),” in Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (January 2006).

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