Harry Furniss's eighteen-volume edition of The Charles Dickens Library (London: Educational Book Company, 1910) contains some 500 special plates (part of the total of 1200 illustrations) and two volumes of commentary. Volume 17, by J. A. Hammerton, is entitled The Dickens Picture Book: A Record of the Dickens Illustrators. The eighth volume is entitled Christmas Books, but in fact also contains a collection of his journalistic essays from All the Year Round in the 1860s, The Uncommercial Traveller, and The Lazy Tour of Two Idle Apprentices from Household Words, published in four parts in October of 1857. The final volume of the 1910 Charles Dickens Library Edition is The Dickens Companion: A Book of Anecdote and Reference. Whereas the muti-volumed Household Edition, issued in tandem by Chapman and Hall and Harper and Brothers throughout the 1870s involved some sixteen American and British illustrators working in the new mode of the Sixties and providing more than a thousand wood-engravings for the thirty-eight volumes, Harry Furniss singlehandedly produced five hundred full-page lithographs and wood-engravings — a prolific output and singular achievement for but one artist.

For all thirty of the illustrations for the Christmas Books illustrations in volume 8, the series editor, J. A. Hammerton, has included both succinct captions (given in full below) and extended quotations to demonstrate the textual moment realised in each; moreover, each quotation refers to a specific page number, thereby enabling the reader to find the passage illustrated. Although each page is 12.2 by 18.4 cm (4.75 by 7.25 inches) and the caption below each in upper-case, and below that occurs a multi-line quotation in upper and lower case, each plate is effectively 14.3 cm by 9.2 cm (5.5 inches by 3.25 inches), the vertically-mounted illustrations usually being framed, and the horizontally-mounted illustrations being both framed (if lithographs) and vignetted (if wood-engravings). Aside from the title-page vignettes, of the thirty full-page illustrations, eight are devoted to A Christmas Carol, five to The Chimes, six to The Cricket on the Hearth, five to The Battle of Life, and six to The Haunted Man. Of the eight Carol plates, only two are highly derivative: "Marley's Ghost" and "The last of the Spirits" are clearly based on the Leech originals of 1843. Furniss's contribution to the iconographic traditions of the Carol is the multiple-thumbnail lithographs "Scrooge Objects to Christmas," "Scrooge's Solitary Dinner," and "Phantoms in the Street." Indeed, only in Furniss's illustrations for the next Christmas Book, The Chimes, do we find conventional line drawings involving just a few characters. The proportion of illustrations per novella, then, is approximately that of Fred Barnard's illustrations for the British Household Edition, which distributes its twenty-nine illustrations as follows: six to A Christmas Carol, five to The Chimes, six (including the title-page vignette) to The Cricket on the Hearth, five to The Battle of Life, and seven to The Haunted Man and The Ghost's Bargain. — Philip V. Allingham.

A Christmas Carol

The Chimes

The Cricket on the Hearth

The Battle of Life

The Haunted Man

The Uncommercial Traveller

The Lazy Tour of Two Idle Apprentices

Related Materials


Dickens, Charles. Christmas Books. Volume 8 of the Charles Dickens Library Edition. London: Educational Book Co., 1910.

Victorian Web Overview Visual arts Victorian Book Illustration Harry Furniss

Last modified 10 August 2013