Modern Book-Illustration in Great Britain and America

Modern Book-Illustration in Great Britain and America

Modern Book-Illustration in Great Britain and America

Modern Book-Illustration in Great Britain and America

Excerpt

Common Sense, the enemy of clear thinking, would probably assert that everyone knows an "illustrated book" at sight. It seems as easy to say "This is one" as it was for Adam to name certain animals in Eden. He is alleged to have cried "Pig" directly he saw the creature. But the Wise Men of Gotham, the Merry Tales about whom formed a popular illustrated book over two centuries ago, thought he must have had great trouble over the hedgehog, for they did not know its name, and concluded that Adam did not either. An illustrated book to-day is nearly as prickly a subject.

And formal definitions are not very helpful. They are apt to confound common sense. The Oxford Concise English Dictionary, for example, expounds the verb "to illustrate" thus:

make clear, explain; make clear by example; elucidate (description, etc.) by drawings; ornament (book, newspapers, etc.) with designs.

But the attempt to be concise has really obscured the question. The terms used would certainly cover a school treatise on statics, with pictures of pulleys and fulcrums to "explain" the dismal text: it would obviously be, it is, an "illustrated book." Alice in Wonderland, on the other hand, would only just come within the definition, if it were applied strictly. Tenniel's drawings "ornament" the text; but they are not mere ornaments. They also "elucidate" it, in a way: but it is lucid enough without them. Yet Lewis Carroll meant the story to be "illustrated," because he drew pictures for it himself, and they were the happiest guide and inspiration to Tenniel, who, it may be said, found some of his ideas also in a slightly earlier children's book or else in the theatre of the 'Sixties. Alice, indeed, . . .

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