All this is utterly in keeping with the developed concept of Wessex that pervades the freshly revised texts, Hardy announcing with clarity through the frontispieces that there was a spot in the real world from which the fictional landscape or building could be drawn. — Simon Gatrell, p. 138]
The drawings are impressions rather than photographic or images of some of the key places in the stories, distilled realities, so to speak, rather than the real thing, subjective rather than objective pictures in which the readers step as they enter the letterpress of Thomas Hardy's Wessex. He seems to say in these engravings, "There is such a place, and it is where such a story could have occurred, so suspend your disbelief. As for the characters, I leave them to you." Whereas the American edition of Jude the Obscure of mid-November 1895 reproduced the twelve Hatherell lithographs that Hardy so admired, the 1 November 1895 Osgood, McIlvaine volume edition of the story contained a single, airy, refined perspective entitled The Christminster of the Story. As late as 1912, Hardy was still somewhat ambivalent about the nature and function of illustration, even going so far as to employ actual photographs rather than engravings to accompany a later short story, "A Tryst at an Ancient Earthwork" (1885, 1893) in the 1912 volume that completes the edition.
The first complete uniform set of the Wessex Novels together
with the Wessex Tales and short stories appeared in 18 volumes
between 1894 and 1897 (17 volumes were published by Osgood, and then the edition later
included another volume of short stories featuring "A Changed Man," added by MacMillan),
and included three first volume editions: The Well-Beloved,
Jude the Obscure, and "A Changed Man" and
Other Stories. This first Osgood uniform set is now very hard to find and much
less common than the set carrying the Harper's imprint or the later Macmillan uniform
set. Each volume has a new preface by the author introducing the contents, and for
Osgood-McIlvaine Hardy made some significant revisions. Finally, each of the original
sixteen volumes is prefaced by an etched frontispiece specifically designed for the
author by the young Scottish portrait artist Henry Macbeth-Raeburn (1860-1947). Hardy
re-read the text of every novel thoroughly and made careful revisions, correcting and
adjusting where necessary the topography (both place-names and distances between
locations), frequently re-entitling chapters, and doing much rewriting generally. In
addition, "Hardy prepared a special preface for each volume" (Purdy, 281); sometimes the
Preface is particularly important for its indication of sources. Each of the original
seventeen volumes has an etched frontispiece depicting a scene from the novel "drawn on
the spot" such as The Budmouth Harbour of the Story for
The Trumpet-Major (the ninth volume) and a map of Wessex drawn
by Hardy himself. In terms of book production, these volumes are often regarded by Hardy
collectors as the finest trade editions of Hardy's works. The eighth volume in the
Gatrell, Simon. Hardy the Creator: A Textual Biography. Oxford: Clarendon, 1988.
Jackson, Arlene M. Illustration and the Novels of Thomas Hardy. Totowa, New Jersey: Rowman and Littlefield, 1981.
Millgate, Michael. Thomas Hardy: A Biography Revisited. Oxford: Oxford U. P., 2004.
Pinion, F. B. A Hardy Companion. Trowbridge, Wiltshire: Macmillan, 1968.
Purdy, Richard L. Thomas Hardy: A Bibliographical Study. Oxford: Clarendon, 1954, rpt. 1978.
Ray, Martin. Thomas Hardy: A Textual Study of the Short Stories. London: Ashgate, 1988.
Seymour-Smith, Martin. Hardy. London: Bloomsbury, 1994.
Turner, Paul. The Life of Thomas Hardy. A Critical Biography. Oxford: Blackwell, 1998.
Vann, J. Don. Victorian Novels in Serial. New York: Modern Language Association, 1985.
Wright, Sarah Bird. Thomas Hardy A to Z: The Essential Reference to His Life and Work. New York: Facts on File, 2002.
Last modified 14 January 2017