The latest issue of the Journal for Eighteenth-Century Studies (December 2016), guest-edited by Christina Ionescu and Ann Lewis, explores the illustration of eighteenth-century bestsellers through time. Entitled Picturing the Eighteenth-Century Novel Through Time: Illustration, Intermediality, and Adaptation, it includes an introduction and nine articles.
Some relevant excerpts from the introduction co-written by the editors:
‘Have you noticed that no book ever gets well illustrated once it becomes a classic?’, asked Aubrey Beardsley in passing during a late creative period when he was facing the challenge of illustrating Les Liaisons dangereuses. The talented British artist was emphatic in his belief that ‘[c]ontemporary illustrations are the only ones of any value or interest’, in other words, those produced during the initial publication and reception of a text. Is this statement, however, unequivocally true? Beardsley’s premature death put an end to his ambitious endeavour to produce an elaborate visual supplement for the fin-de-siècle edition of Choderlos de Laclos’s epistolary novel commissioned by Leonard Smithers and, consequently, we will never know if he would indeed have succeeded in illustrating this eighteenth-century classic ‘well’ approximately 114 years after its first appearance in print. The question of whether images which were produced for editions other than those princeps deserve critical attention is certainly worth asking, and it has provided us with the premise for our special issue, the second to be entirely devoted to the subject of book illustration by the Journal for Eighteenth-Century Studies. The current issue takes the illustration and adaptation of eighteenth-century bestsellers beyond the restrictive confines of the historical period in which they were first published, in an attempt to shed new light on the reception of the Enlightenment novel, on the phenomena of ‘parallel illustration’, ‘afterlife’, and ‘remediation’, as well as on print, material, and visual cultures more generally.
The contributions to this special issue show that visually intriguing and conceptually intricate illustrations of eighteenth-century novels are abundantly present at key moments in the history of the book (Romanticism, the fin de siècle, the interwar period, amongst others). Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe, Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels, Voltaire’s Candide, Rousseau’s Julie, ou La Nouvelle Héloïse, Goethe’s Werther, and Bernardin’s Paul et Virginie are just some examples of canonical texts which have inspired artists not only through time but also across national boundaries and different media. Such texts have produced visual corpora that are as vast as they are diverse. The timeless fascination with Paul et Virginie, for example, has resulted not only in illustrative series that steadily accompanied the text in its various incarnations as a book, but also in drawings, prints, sculptures, caricatures, tapestries, ceramics, clocks, etc., which circulated and were displayed independently of the text. Similarly, visual responses to Gulliver’s Travels have created a rich ensemble of print and material objects, which in our time includes a graphic novel adaptation by Lewis Helfand and illustrated by Vinod Kumar, a Hollywood studio movie starring Jack Black, and a storybook puzzle by Milton Bradley. Artistic transpositions and intermedial engagements with eighteenth-century bestsellers range from the visually static, yet geographically mobile forms of expression like book illustrations and standalone prints, to dynamic, performative adaptations such as plays, ballets, operas, and films.
The present journal issue is organised into three main groupings, each of which identifies and interrogates iconographical material and approaches that have been less explored in traditional studies of illustration or text/image relations. The first three articles may be understood as contributions to the history of the illustrated book, in their shared concern with situating the production and consumption of images within different editorial and publishing contexts (illustrated books, chapbook abridgements, and collected reprint editions), and in the creation of different types of iconographical practices within these contexts. Each explores the notion of ‘recycled’ rather than ‘original’ illustrations and the important functions of such images within different strata of print culture (where aesthetic originality, artistic quality, and semiotic complexity might be less important than establishing a ‘brand’, reinforcing or simplifying a moral message, or cultivating a sense of literary heritage). Focusing on the 1690-1740 period, Helen Cole examines the phenomenon of the repeated use of the same frontispiece to illustrate texts through time, providing a bibliographical table to chart instances of such recycled images. She examines Giovanni Paolo Marana’s Letters Writ by a Turkish Spy and Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe, amongst other examples, to suggest various functions of such visual material when appearing in successive editions over a period of many years. Sandro Jung identifies a hitherto unstudied corpus of copperplate and woodcut engravings appearing in chapbook abridgements of Samuel Richardson’s Pamela in Britain and America from the late 1760s onward, which also frequently involved the recycling or reprinting of the same stock images. The affordability and availability of such illustrated chapbooks, which were sometimes marketed at children, shaped the text’s popular reception in ways that must be understood as significantly different to the deluxe Gravelot-Hayman illustrations that have been the focus of most critical studies of the novel’s illustration. Leigh Dillard draws our attention to the importance of illustrations within works of collected fiction, focusing on the 1820s reprint trade, and in particular, John Limbird’s British Novelist, which has received little critical attention before now. She situates this publisher’s use of images in the context of previous reprint collections (such as James Harrison’s Novelist’s Magazine in the 1780s or Charles Cooke’s Pocket Edition of Select Novels in the 1790s), and reflects on the use of new or recycled images in the illustration of the same eighteenth-century texts appearing in anthologies of collected fiction, while adopting Oliver Goldsmith’s The Vicar of Wakefield as a case study for evaluating the practice of illustration in Limbird’s collection in particular. In different ways, these three contributions bring out the social dimension of the reading experience, in their identification of visual material that appeared in affordable, even ‘cheap’ publications. As such, they suggest a range of reading/viewing practices that differ substantially from the aesthetic and semiotic approaches that characterise the critical readings of modern literary scholars.
Whereas the first three articles of this special issue focus on the English context, the next three contributions turn to French bestsellers of the eighteenth century, each providing an overview of numerous illustrated editions in order to draw out different interpretative strategies and patterns of representation that are brought to bear on each text in different periods. Christina Ionescu surveys the vast iconographical corpus surrounding Abbé Prévost’s Manon Lescaut, which has never been studied before as a visual ensemble. She identifies five highly original series published between the late eighteenth and the twentieth century, and in two different geographic locations (France and America), in order to analyse a range of approaches to illustrating this text. Catriona Seth examines four series of illustrations for Choderlos de Laclos’s Les Liaisons dangereuses that appeared in the eighteenth century, none of which were commissioned by Laclos himself, in order to consider what the varying emphasis of each series suggests about the reception of the novel in this period, and particularly, the way in which contemporaries may have reacted to the different characters in the story. An interesting aspect of the series of illustrations examined in this context is the existence of prints which were intended for display independently of the text (such as Romain Girard’s pairs of images, designed to be hung on walls), and also the inclusion of images by three different artists within the well-known 1796 series of fifteen illustrations (which provide different slants on the story from within the same iconographic sequence). Síofra Pierse provides a wide-ranging survey of illustrated editions of Denis Diderot’s La Religieuse from the eighteenth century to the present time, uncovering several sets of illustrations that have never previously been identified, and suggesting a new chronology for the novel’s first illustrations. In addition to these bibliographical discoveries, Pierse analyses the corpus in terms of a set of recurring representational dilemmas which result from problematic ambiguities in the text—picturing La Religieuse involves making decisions on what to ‘show’, where the first-person narration leaves much unsaid and/or uncertain. Each of these three articles considers the shifting interpretations suggested by the selection of different scenes for illustration in various series, and concomitantly the establishment of iconographic traditions, where the same scenes are illustrated time and again and become part of the visual repertoire associated with each novel.
The final three articles of this collection are more exploratory in their approach, aiming to open up new perspectives on the notion of ‘picturing the novel through time’ by testing out various theoretical frameworks on different types of visual corpus. Ann Lewis uses the contested but productive notion of ‘figurative intermediality’ as a way of analysing Pierre Carlet de Chamblain de Marivaux’s La Vie de Marianne in relation to specific illustrations of the novel produced in different periods and to a sequence within Benoît Jacquot’s film adaptation Marianne, focusing on a set of episodes centred on Marianne and her benefactor. This approach allows us to see various forms of ‘visualisation’ less in terms of a linear progression between ‘adapted text’ and ‘adaptation’, than in terms of each artefact’s anticipation of and engagement with other media (theatre, painting, illustration, and cinema), a self-reflexive dimension which generates meanings of its own. Brigitte Friant-Kessler also explores the idea of ‘intermedial migration’, and relates it to the concept of the ‘graphic afterlife’, to examine how several late twentieth-century illustrations and contemporary visual adaptations convey a sense of ‘mobility’ in Laurence Sterne’s fiction. Her focus on materials such as Martin Rowson’s 1996 comic book adaptation of Tristram Shandy, Paul Brandford’s 2004-2005 charcoal drawing Pause on the Landing, a 2015 myriorama game designed by Tom Gauld, and a 2014 book sculpture by Brian Dettmer is set in the context of previous trends in illustration and visualisation surrounding Sterne’s œuvre, and develops the category of ‘chrono-visual conflation’ as a means of analysing the complex ways in which such artefacts combine different narrative threads and time frames. A concern with narratological perspectives and categories is carried through in Jonathan Hensher’s study of illustrations for Jacques Cazotte’s Le Diable amoureux, a novella which has been considered a prototype of the fantastic genre. Using narratological models developed from Gérard Genette and subsequent theorists, Hensher identifies various types of ‘spectator’ embedded in a corpus of eighteenth-, nineteenth-, and twentieth-century illustrations, and considers how these ‘spectators’ (categorised as ‘homopractic’, ‘isopractic’, and ‘metapractic’) are used to generate ambiguity and uncertainty on the part of the reader, when viewed alongside the text. The focus on the use of perspective and focalisation in the context of illustrations of first-person narratives, and the question of whose field of vision the reader’s corresponds to, is one which is implicitly addressed in many of the earlier articles of this collection.
This special issue as a whole brings together perspectives arising from different disciplines: literary scholarship and critical theory, the history of the book and of material culture, text-and-image and illustration studies, as well as art history and visual culture. It also provides a cross-cultural perspective, in the examination of the iconographical corpuses surrounding bestselling eighteenth-century novels from both France and England (Cazotte’s Le Diable amoureux, Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe, Diderot’s La Religieuse, Goldsmith’s The Vicar of Wakefield, Laclos’s Les Liaisons dangereuses, Delarivier Manley’s The New Atalantis, Marana’s Letters Writ by a Turkish Spy, Marivaux’s La Vie de Marianne, Prévost’s Manon Lescaut, Richardson’s Pamela, and Sterne’s Tristram Shandy), works which still tend to be studied separately rather than in juxtaposition. With a few exceptions, scholarly work on illustration and visual culture most usually remains within national boundaries, and tendencies within French and English critical writing are often quite distinct (whether in the greater focus on the history of print culture as the context for the examination of illustrations in the British tradition, or the treatment of iconographical themes in illustrations separately from their texts of origin following the model of the ‘intervisual paradigm’, in the French field). On both sides of the Channel, the comparative analysis of different types of visualisation of novels through time is less explored than other avenues of research, and it is still relatively rare to bring together book illustration with other forms of graphic afterlife or adaptation. However, as we hope that the contributions to follow will show, fruitfully combining these different texts and approaches allows us to see important connections at a theoretical, methodological, and thematic level: whether in the key notions of ‘recycling’ of images and ‘graphic afterlives’, the importance of perspective and of the notion of the ‘spectator’, and in the changing visual representation of femininity and of the erotic encounter, whose meaning might shift depending on different contexts of reception. It is at these levels, and in these different ways, that we aim to contribute to an exciting and expanding field of study.
Table of Contents
Christina Ionescu and Ann Lewis, ‘Introduction’, 479-87
Helen Cole, ‘From the Familiar to the New: Frontispiece Engravings to Fiction in England from 1690 to 1740’, 489-511
Sandro Jung, ‘The Other Pamela: Readership and the Illustrated Chapbook Abridgement’, 513-31
Leigh Grey Dillard, ‘The Cheapest Work Ever Printed’: Illustrating the Classics in Limbird’s British Novelist’, 533-557
Christina Ionescu, ‘The Visual Journey of Manon Lescaut: Emblematic Tendencies and Artistic Innovation’, 559-77
Catriona Seth, ‘Picturing Les Liaisons Dangereuses: Eighteenth-Century Illustrations of Laclos’s Novel’, 579-97
Síofra Pierse, ‘The Spectatorial Gaze: Viewer-Voyeur Dynamics in Book Illustrations of Diderot’s La Religieuse’, 599-620
Ann Lewis, ‘Intermedial Approaches to Marivaux’s La Vie de Marianne: Text, Illustration, Film’, 621-42
Brigitte Friant-Kessler, ‘Visual Sterneana: Graphic Afterlives and a Sense of Infinite Mobility’, 643-62
Jonathan Hensher, ‘Glimpsing the Devil’s Tale? Towards a Visual Narratology of the Fantastic in Illustrated Editions of Cazotte’s Le Diable amoureux’, 663-81
For more information, see http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/jecs.v39.4/issuetoc.