Illuminated I

n anticipation of Dickens's long-awaited 1867-68 reading tour, which had been postponed by the American Civil War, the Boston publisher James T. Fields had commissioned from Sol Eytinge, Jr., ninety-six designs for wood-engravings to grace the pages of the exhaustive Diamond Edition of Dickens's works, each volume being of compact dimensions with very fine but sharp type. This volume, like others in the series, probably coincides with the start of that momentous visit to American shores as it contains the eight "travelling" essays which comprised Pictures from Italy in a single volume (May 1846) after publication individually in The Daily News, and American Notespublished by Chapman and Hall on 19 October 1842. As in the other Diamond Edition volumes, a lesser work or two appears with a major novel to make up a volume of approximately five hundred pages. Moreover, the narrative-pictorial is not so much a response to the original serial illustrations (in this case, the twenty-four steel-engravings of George Cruikshank, 1838-39) as an attempt to present the cast of characters in pairs, sometimes at crucial moments in the story. Of the forty-two named characters, both principal and supporting, Eytinge has managed to present seventeen in a mere ten wood engravings, the balance of the remaining half-dozen illustrations being divide equally between the two sets of travel essays.

The fourteen volumes of the Diamond Edition are as follows:

On the verso of the title-page of each volume in the series of fourteen is the statement that James T. Fields, the author's friend and confidant, so valued since it authorized his firm as Dickens's sole representatives in the United States:

Gad's Hill Place, Higham by Rochester, Kent,
Second April, 1867.
By a special arrangement made with me and my English Publishers (partners with me in the copyright of my works), MESSRS. TICKNOR AND FIELDS, of Boston, have become the only authorized representatives in America of the whole series of my books.
CHARLES DICKENS.

William Winter in his autobiography recalls that Sol Eytinge, Jr.'s illustrations for Dickens's works "gained the emphatic approval of the novelist" (318), although of course the pair did not actively collaborate on this series, as did Hablot Knight Browne and Dickens had done for so many of the full-scale novels in twenty monthly parts, concluding with the illustrations for the Chapman and Hall A Tale of Two Cities in 1859. As one regards this series of twelve individual and small group character studies for Oliver Twist and appreciates them as a synthesis of of the former "caricatural style" and the new realism of the the sixties' manner of book and magazine illustration, with the original Cruikshank images in mind one is tempted to take issue with Winter that

The most appropriate pictures that have been made for illustration of the novels of Dickens, — pictures that are truly representative and free from the element of caricature, — are those made by Eytinge. . . . [317-318]

References

Schlicke, Paul, ed. The Oxford Reader's Companion to Dickens. Oxford and New York: Oxford U. P., 1999.

Dickens, Charles. The Adventures of Oliver Twist, Pictures from Italy, and American Notes for General Circulation. Illustrated by Sol Eytinge, Jr., and engraved by A. V. S. Anthony. The Diamond Edition. Boston: Ticknor and Fields, 1867. Vol. 11.

Kitton, Frederic George. Dickens and His Illustrators: Cruikshank, Seymour, Buss, "Phiz," Cattermole, Leech, Doyle, Stanfield, Maclise, Tenniel, Frank Stone, Landseer, Palmer, Topham, Marcus Stone, and Luke Fildes. Amsterdam: S. Emmering, 1972. Re-print of the London 1899 edition.

Winter, William. "Charles Dickens" and "Sol Eytinge." Old Friends: Being Literary Recollections of Other Days. New York: Moffat, Yard, & Co., 1909. Pp. 181-202, 317-319.


Last modified 22 October 2014