John McLenan's series of forty wood-engravings dropped into the text of Harper's Weekly: A Journal of Civilization — volume IV: 740 through volume V: 495 (for 24 November 1860 through 3 August 1861) — seems to have served as a model for the two house illustrators assigned the task of providing the visual complements for the eight-month, thirty-three part weekly serialisation of Wilkie Collins's The Moonstone: A Romance in volume XII. And, as was the case with both Dickens novels published in Harper's Weekly: A Journal of CivilizationA Tale of Two Cities (1859) and Great Expecations (1860-61), the abundant program of sixty-six illustrations was subsequently reproduced in the Harper and Brothers' edition that anticipated the conclusion of the serial run. in contrast, the London, Tinsley Brothers' July 1868 triple-decker contained no illustrations.

The Background to the Serialisation

Printed on Harper's 16.5 by 11.5 inch sheets, the serial featured sixty-six illustrations by at least two hands, or possibly more (many are unsigned). Collins did not communicate directly with — though he did offer some direction to — the illustrators of the American serial. His arrangements with Harper Brothers thus provide a fascinating glimpse of how authors and illustrators worked on the same serial while at great distance and time delay from one another. In a letter dated 20 July 1867, Collins promised Harper brothers that the first half of the manuscript would be sent to New York forty days in advance of the British serial's commencement and the second half would be sent forty days before the fourteenth or fifteenth weekly number was published in England. He also promised to send corrected British proof sheets and asked Harper's to print from these, so that the American edition would contain his final corrections. He made his arrangements with the illustrators' needs in mind: the manuscript would be used "for the purpose of illustrating the story," and he promised that his corrections at proof stage would not "affect the scene which your artist may choose for illustration."

Collins, however, did not meet this schedule. He fell behind because of his own and his mother's illness, leaving Harper's with only the first seven parts of the manuscript [concluding with the February 15 number, containing illustrations 19 and 20] when the illustrators started their work.​Having fallen behind, he promised to send a "list of subjects for the artist, referring to a part of the story which is already settled in detail, and in relation to which he may feel secure against any after-alterations when I am writing​for press." Collins did not see the illustrations until they were already in print: the first (Jan 4) and second (Jan 11) weekly parts reached him in England on 30 January 1868.

He wrote to Harper Brothers saying that he admired the "real intelligence" shown by the artist in conveying the "dramatic effect" of the story, and described the illustrations for Part 1 as "very picturesque." He did object that the American artists had depicted Gabriel Betteredge in livery, pointing out that a British butler would never be so attired. But in large part, he liked what he saw. — Leighton and Surridge, 209.

The American serial was divided into thirty-two weekly parts, each consisting of three folio pages of letterpress, with all illustrations on the first page. The illustrations could be taken in at a glance, before readers ever started looking at the letterpress. The pattern of multiple images on the first page of each serial part of the American Moonstone created complicated interpictorial effects through tensions, parallels, and ironies of their placement (often three at a time) in the same page layout. These effects, in turn, set readers' expectations of the serial part (or parts) to follow. — Leighton and Surridge, 211.

The Illustrations

Collins's letter to Harper and Brothers dated 12 November 1867 indicates that he is sending them by post "a first portion of the first half of the MS copy of the story," and that this constitutes "seven weekly parts." Thus, the illustrator(s) in New York would have been able to read the instalments for 4 January through 15 February, up to the close of Chapter 12, there being thirty-two weekly instalments in the Harper's serial paralleling precisely the weekly instalments published in All the Year Round. Each headnote reads:

The Moonstone. By WILKIE COLLINS. Author of "The Woman in White," "No Name," etc. Printed from the Author's Manuscript. Richly Illustrated.

Both the serial and the July 1868 Harper's volume have sixty-six illustrations, so that the twenty-seven headnote vignettes across the thirty-two weekly instalments also appear in the volume that Harper & Bros. subsequently issued, which is not the case for the Harper's Weekly vignettes for either A Tale of Two Cities or Great Expectations when these appeared in volume form at the beginning of the 1860s. Very few illustrations are signed (with the initials "WJ," likely veteran illustrator and portrait-artist William Jewett, 1792-1874). The serial illustrations of various sizes tend to occur in three patterns: A. a headnote vignette and two square plates; B. a headnote vignette and one slightly larger, rectangular plate; and C. one large, square plate in the centre of the first page of the instalment. For example, the first six instalments exhibit pattern A, but Parts 8, 9, 12, 13, and 14 have just two illustrations (Pattern B), whereas Part 27 has just the single plate on p. 421 (Pattern C). Thus, although the average number of plates per instalment is two, the greatest concentration of illustration occurs in the first third of the novel: the initial eleven instalments contain thirty illustrations, whereas the remaining twenty-one instalments contain just thirty-six illustrations. The average instalment is approximately two full pages or eight full columns, which are nevertheless broken up by one, two, or three illustrations. Although they consistently appear in the upper-left quadrant of the first folio page, the headnote vignettes are not entirely uniform, despite their common, single-column width. For example, the last such vignette (in Part Thirty-one) is 8.9 by 5.9 cm, whereas the very first in the series (4 January 1868) is 11.3 by 5.5 cm; typically, however, these small-scale character studies such as that of Miss Clasck (Part Fourteen) are 8.6 cm by 5.5 cm. As is the case with the John McLenan illustrations for A Tale of Two Cities (1859) and Great Expecations (1860-61) in Harper's Weekly: A Journal of Civilization, these headnote vignettes are uncaptioned; in this set, the image tends to refer to characters and events at the beginning of the instalment. With respect to the weekly sets of two or three illustrations, the American reader was permitted to peruse all illustrations for a given instalment simultaneously since these consistently appear on the initial page of the weekly part. Consequently, the reader's initial response was likely proleptic; however, subsequently the reader must have studied the plates in conjunction with the text, in essence reading each plate twice. All the while, the reader was also trying to piece together the relationship between the two or three illustrations. Since Harper's had to provide three illustrations for each weekly instalament, it seems to have adopted the expedient of hiring two illustrators: many of the cuts are signed W.J. and some W. S. L. J. (as noted, probably William Jewett, 1792-1874); others C.G.B., C.B., or simply C.

Franklin Blake's Facial Hair and Collins's 30 January 1868 Letter to Harper's

The beardless Franklin Blake of the introductory illustrations in the 18 January 1868 (third) instalment of Harper's Weekly (notably "He gave me the extract from the Colonel's will" in Chapter 6) is interpreted very differently by F. A. Fraser and Alfred Pearse simply because, unlike William Jewett and the second American illustrator who contributed to Harper's Weekly, the later British illustrators had already read the subsequent description of Franklin Blake on Rachel's eighteenth birthday: while Godfrey Ablewhite and his sisters respond excitedly to the alluring yellow diamond, Blake is "stroking his beard" thoughtfully, wondering if Julia Verinder will consider the gift in the same light as he has construed it — not a gift, but a punishment for recent rejection of him by his sister, who is "Christian" enough to forgive Rosanna Spearman but not her erring brother. The reason behind this disjuncture between text and illustration lies in the fact that Collins was not able to comment upon the first six illustrations until almost the end of January, in a letter which probably did not arrive in New York until the end of the first week of February.

Although by the end of January only four instalments of the new novel had appeared in All the Year Round and simultaneously Harper's Weekly: A Journal of Civilization, from his mother's cottage on 30 January Collins was able to provide a "revise" (corrected proof-sheet) of the twelfth weekly part, thereby enabling his American publishers to have the parts illustrated well in advance. Nevertheless, his absence from London meant that his mail service was somewhat irregular, and this was apparently his first opportunity to comment upon the illustrations in just the first two Harper's instalments, in other words, just the six illustrations that accompanied the instalments for 4 and 11 January containing the images of the idol, Colonel Herncastle (as both a young soldier and an elderly gentleman), the past and present Brahmins, Betteredge, Rosanna Spearman, and Franklin Blake. Interestingly, although he provides his publishers with a list of possible subjects for illustration in each instalment, Collins seems unaware that there are, in fact, two illustrators to be accommodated:

I will arrange to send slips (for the convenience of your artist) by every mail so long as my mother's critical condition obliges me to remain here. And I will be careful — as I have hitherto been careful — to forward the duplicates regularly, in case of accidents by the post. After the next two or three weekly portions, I shall hope to be able to send you, beforehand, a list of subjects for the artist, referring to a part of the story which is already settled in detail and in relation to which he [probably William Jewett] may feel secure against any after-alterations when I am writing for press. The two numbers of the Weekly have reached me safely. the illustrations to the first number are very picturesque — the three Indians and the boy being especially good, I think. In the second number there is a mistake (as we should call it in England) of presenting 'Gabriel Betteredge' in livery. As head-servant, he would wear plain black clothes — and would look, with his white cravat and grey hair, like an old clergyman. I only mention this for future illustrations — and because I see the dramatic effect of the story (in the first number) conveyed with such real intelligence by the artist that I want to see him taking the right direction, even in the smallest technical details. — Robinson, 212-213.

By the time that the American illustrators executed the later scenes, they must have known that Collins had described Franklin Blake as bearded, the style for upper-class young men after the Crimean War; however, it was too late to adjust the image and provide him with a beard, and so for purposes of visual continuity Franklin Blake had to stay beardless for the remainder of the serial. They should have realized from the painting scene in the fourth instalment (Chapter 8) onward that they had erred in giving Blake only a moustache, an impossibility if he is "tugging at his beard, and looking anxiously towards the window" at Lady Julia Verinder (Chapter 9, p. 54). Incidental as the matter of Blake's facial hair may seem, it underscores the problems in interpreting these transatlantic illustrations since they do not represent a true collaboration of author and illustrator. Collins's approval after the fact is hardly evidence that they represent authorial intention, even though the sixty-six illustrations are generally successful as visual complements to the letterpress. Betteredge's being depicted in livery is another obvious case in point. Once in print, for the sake of continuity the artists were unable to correct such errors, resulting in rifts between text and illustration.

Unfortunately, despite his manifest experience with magazine publication and a prior relationship with the house of Harper in the publication of both Armadale (December 1864 through July 1866 in Harper's New Monthly Magazine) and The Woman in White (26 November 1859 through 4 August 1860 in Harper's Weekly), Collins fails to realize that for the sake of continuity once such an error in costuming has been made it cannot be easily undone in subsequent illustrations. Like it or not, the illustrator in this instance continued to depict Betteredge when performing his household duties in livery throughout the remainder of the illustrations, although he must have received Collins's critical point via Harper's by mid-February. Although not evidence of close collaboration such as was the nature of the relationship between Dickens and Marcus Stone on the recent publication of Our Mutual Friend (May 1864 through November 1865), the 30 January letter indicates with modest reservations an authorial sanctioning of the process of illustration, and some participation in the selection of topics.

Editions After Serialisation

In London, reaching a separate agreement with Wilkie Collins for The Moonstone at Dickens's suggestion, William Tinsley published the novel as an unillustrated triple decker in July 1868 (in other words, some weeks ahead of the completion of the serial run in All the Year Round). Harper's in New York published a single volume of the novel at the same time. A second Harper's edition, dated 1874, has only two of the original headnote vignettes (the idol and the Moonstone) and seventeen of the full-size illustrations on separate pages inserted into the text. Furthermore, although the 1868 volume is double-columned, with the illustrations dropped into the text, the 1874 volume is single-columned (in other words, the product of a wholly fresh type-setting) and has seventeen illustrations on facing pages. Although the illustrations are accurately placed, nevertheless the 1874 book does not reproduce the effect of reading the text alongside the illustrations; furthermore, the loss of fourteen of the sixteen headnote vignettes and thirty-three of the full-sized wood-engravings makes reading the volume a very different experience from reading the novel divided into thirty-two weekly instalments.

The 1890 Chatto and Windus (London) edition, illustrated by veteran illustrator of the Illustrated Library and Household Edition of the works of Charles Dickens, F. A. Fraser, appears to be the next significant edition; its illustrations bear no relationship to those in Harper's Weekly or the Harper's volume. However, the two-volume Peter Fenelon Collier (New York) set in the 1910 Works of Wilkie Collins, volumes six and seven, contains a number of the original serial illustrations redrafted: fifteen in Part One, and four in Part Two, including a 12.3 cm by 7.6 cm redrafting of the initial headnote vignette which serves as the frontispiece and a full-page rendition of the vignette depicting the Moonstone — precisely the same two vignettes reprinted in the 1868 and 1874 Harper's volume. Since the size of the other Collier illustrations is identical to that of the seventeen redrafted wood-engravings in the early Harper's volumes, it would appear that Collier's acquired the stock of nineteen woodblocks from Harper's for the 1910 edition.

Several other early twntieth century editions are worthy of note, although they do not seem to have been influenced by the original serial illustrations: The 1910 Collins' Clear-Type Press edition, paralleling precisely the New University Society (Edinburgh) edition, with seven illustrations ("half-tone lithographs") by Alfred Pearse (published in London and Glasgow), and the 1908 Charles Scribners' Sons (New York) volume with four, somewhat impressionistic lithographs by American illustrator John Sloan. The most common illustrated text of the novel on the used-book market is the 1951, 417-page volume published by the Folio Society (London), with nine full-page coloured lithographs by Edwin La Dell, whose highly impressionistic style and use of the water-colour medium are a total departure from the illustrations of previous editions. Also common enough is The Moonstone with an introduction by Vincent Starrett and illustrated by André Dignimont ('Dig' — 1891-1965) for the Limited Editions Club (New York) in 1959.

A final, commonly found illustrated edition (now seventy years old) is that by mid-twentieth-century artist and illustrator William Sharp. Plentifully illustrated, the New York Literary Guild volume (Doubleday, 1946) seems to have been aimed at adolescent readers as the so-called Young Adult Novel was shortly to appear with Catcher in the Rye (1951) and Lord of the Flies (1954). Sharp's emphasis in the forty-nine illustrations is on a handful of principals: the handsome Franklin Blake (11 appearances), the beautiful Rachel Verinder (4 appearances), stoic Sergeant Cuff (9 appearances), devious Godfrey Ablewhite (9 appearances), and of course the faithful Betteredge (5 appearances). The embossed book-cover anticipates five scenes — Cuff and Lady Julia Verinder, with Betteredge (top); Betteredge and his dog; Rosanna Spearman; Cuff and Betteredge following Rosanna's tracks; and Bruff, Jennings, and Betteredge with Rachel, preparing the laudanum draft (bottom) — in which Gabriel Betteredge is the continuing figure. At 444 pages, the book is nearly as highly illustrated as the original serial in that it averages one picture for every ten pages of text, there being sixteen full-page colour lithographs. Significantly, since no picture bears a caption, the reader must judge the subject from the page against which the illustration is juxtaposed, whereas in the original Harper's Weekly series, only the twenty-four headnote vignettes do not bear identifying captions, and therefore require that level of decoding by the reader.

Related Materials

Illustrations courtesy of the E. J. Pratt Fine Arts Library, University of Toronto, and the Irving K. Barber Learning Centre, University of British Columbia.


Collins, Wilkie. The Moonstone: A Romance. with sixty-six illustrations. Harper's Weekly: A Journal of Civilization. Vol. 12 (1868), 4 January through 8 August, pp. 5-503.

Collins, Wilkie. The Moonstone: A Romance. All the Year Round. 1 January-8 August 1868.

_________. The Moonstone: A Novel. With 19 illustrations. Second edition. New York: Harper and Brothers, 1874.

_________. The Moonstone: A Romance. Illustrated by George Du Maurier and F. A. Fraser. London: Chatto and Windus, 1890.

_________. The Moonstone. With 19 illustrations. The Works of Wilkie Collins. New York: Peter Fenelon Collier, 1900. Volumes 6 and 7.

_________. The Moonstone: A Romance. With four illustrations by John Sloan. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1908.

_________. The Moonstone: A Romance. Illustrated by A. S. Pearse. London & Glasgow: Collins, 1910, rpt. 1930.

_________. The Moonstone. With forty-nine illustrations by William Sharp. New York: Doubleday, 1946.

_________. The Moonstone: A Romance. With nine illustrations by Edwin La Dell. London: Folio Society, 1951.

Farmer, Steve. "Introduction" to Wilkie Collins's The Moonstone. Peterborough, ON: Broadview, 1999. Pp. 8-34.

Karl, Frederick R. "Introduction." Wilkie Collins's The Moonstone. Scarborough, Ontario: Signet, 1984. Pp. 1-21.

Leighton, Mary Elizabeth, and Lisa Surridge. "The Transatlantic Moonstone: A Study of the Illustrated Serial in Harper's Weekly." Victorian Periodicals Review Volume 42, Number 3 (Fall 2009): pp. 207-243. Accessed 1 July 2016.

Lonoff, Sue. Chapter 7: "The Moonstone and Its Audience." Wilkie Collins and His Readers: A Study in the Rhetoric of Authorship. New York: AMS Studies in the Nineteenth Century, 1982. Pp. 170-227.

Nayder, Lillian. Unequal Partners: Charles Dickens, Wilkie Collins, & Victorian Authorship. London and Ithaca, NY: Cornll U. P., 2001.

Peters, Catherine. The King of the Inventors: A Life of Wilkie Collins. London: Minerva, 1991.

Reed, John R. "English Imperialism and the Unacknowledged crime of The Moonstone. Clio 2, 3 (June, 1973): 281-290.

Robinson, Kenneth. "Chapter 12: 'The Moonstone'." Wilkie Collins: A Biography London: The Bodley Head, 1951. Pp. 200-224.

Stewart, J. I. M. "Introduction" to Wilkie Collins's The Moonstone." Hardmondsworth: Penguin, 1966. Pp. 7-24.

Stewart, J. I. M. "A Note on Sources." Wilkie Collins's The Moonstone. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1966, rpt. 1973. Pp. 527-8.

Vann, J. Don. "The Moonstone in All the Year Round, 4 January-8 1868." Victorian Novels in Serial. New York: Modern Language Association, 1985. Pp. 48-50.

Winter, William. "Wilkie Collins." Old Friends: Being Literary Recollections of Other Days. New York: Moffat, Yard, & Co., 1909. Pp. 203-219.

Last updated 25 August 2016