Biographical Information

Illustrations for Barnaby Rudge (1841)

Dickens made the expensive decision to have the illustrations dropped into the text, rather than printed on separate pages, so that they would retain the closest possible relationship to his story. This meant that the illustrators had to create their designs for wood instead of steel because wood engravings can be inked and printed simultaneously with the raised typeface, whereas etching plates, with their ink in grooves rather than on the surface, must be sent through a rolling press and printed on individual dampened pages. [Browne Lester, 77-78]

Comparing the plates that appeared in the 1849 edition of Barnaby Rudge to those in a good modern edition, such as the volume in the New Oxford Illustrated Dickens, gives us an idea of how the Victorian reader might have experienced the plates by Phiz — that is, simultaneously with the letterpress illustrated rather than facing such text. In the first place, whereas the illustrations in the New Oxford edition appear on a page 18.3 x 11.5 centimetres, those that Bradbury and Evans published in 1849 appear on a larger page (25 by 16.5 centimetres). The paper on which the original wood-cuts were printed provides a more important difference than their slightly larger page: in the 1849 edition, the plates appear on the same paper as does the text of the novel, and this arrangement permits printing text on the reverse of each illustration. In the New Oxford, the illustrations are free-standing rather than dropped into the text, usually facing the passages realised. In contrast, the original bound volume of 1849 has the plates on much heavier stock; in the 1849 edition the text bleeds through slightly, but in the New Oxford it does not, thus making the plates look somewhat better but also more important. Moreover, the ornamental capital letter vignettes designed by Phiz are not reproduced in modern editions, and pictures that served as head- and tailpieces merely appear on separate pages in the New Oxford. On the whole, the seventy-seven New Oxford Illustrated Dickens plates for Barnaby Rudge are quite clear, but those in the original often seem darker, sharper, and more dramatic, even though the plates are not printed on separate sheets but are integrated into the text, often with the print from the verso showing through.

Originally, when he proposed the novel to publisher Richard Bentley, Dickens had had veteran illustrator George Cruikshank in mind as his sole illustrator for the historical novel. However, when his editorial squabbles with Bentley came to a head, Dickens ceased work on the project, and Cruikshank took the commissions of a number of other authors, so that in January 1841 Dickens, taking up the novel again in earnest, suddenly found himself without Cruikshank. Thus, Dickens chose to revert to Phiz, his partner in The Pickwick Papers, who produced (according to Browne Lester) for the roaring tale fifty-nine illustrations, "mainly of characters, Cattermole producing about nineteen, usually of settings" (85). Browne Lester describes Phiz's specialty at this point as the "low" characters such as Hugh and Sim Tappertit, "active moments, and comic rascality, while Cattermole would embark upon loftier, antiquarian, angelic, and architectural subjects" (78).

The Woodcuts Dropped into the Text

[The following table parallels the titles of the illustrations given by J. A. Hammerton in The Dickens Picture-Book (1910) for the original Phiz illustrations in the Bradbury & Evans 1849 one-volume edition of the novel, which originally appeared in forty-two weekly parts in Master Humphrey's Clock, 13 February through 27 November 1841.]

Eleven Initial-letter Vignettes designed by Phiz


Davis, Paul. Charles Dickens A to Z: The Essential Reference to His Life and Work. New York: Checkmark and Facts On File, 1999.

Dickens, Charles. Barnaby Rudge. Illustrated by Hablot K. Browne ('Phiz') and George Cattermole.London: Bradbury & Evans, 1849.

Dickens, Charles. Barnaby Rudge. Ed. Kathleen Tillotson. Illustrated by Hablot K. Browne ('Phiz') and George Cattermole. The New Oxford Illustrated Dickens. London: Oxford University Press. 1954, rpt. 1987.

Hammerton, J. A. The Dickens Picture-Book. The Charles Dickens Library Edition, il. Harry Furniss. London: Educational Book Co., 1910.

Lester, Valerie Browne. Phiz: The Man Who Drew Dickens. London: Chatto and Windus, 2004.

Steig, Michael. Dickens and Phiz. Bloomington & London: Indiana U.P., 1978.

Vann, J. Don. Victorian Novels in Serial. New York:: Modern Language Association, 1985.

Last modified 2 August 2015