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Illustrations from later editions of Dickens

Emily - Peggotty by Copping
Mr Peggotty and Emily
David Copperfield
Harold Copping (1863-1932)

Swiveller Marchioness by Barnard
Dick Swiveller and the Marchioness
The Old Curiosity Shop
Frederick Barnard (1846-1896)

Dolly Varden by Frith
Dolly Varden
Barnaby Rudge
William P. Frith (1819-1909)

Seth Pecksniff by Kyd
Seth Pecksniff
Martin Chuzzlewit
Joseph Clayton Clark (Kyd) (1856-1937)

Cricket on the Hearth - Darley
Cricket on the Hearth
F.O.C. Darley (1821-1888)
"Dickens American Illustrator"

Hard Times Fred Walker
Hard Times
Fred Walker (1840-1875)
A discussion and reproductions of Fred Walker's four plates for the Library Edition of Hard Times (1868)

Hard Times-Harry French
Hard Times - Harry French
A description and reproductions of Harry French's Plates for the Household Edition of Hard Times (1870)

Great Expectations - FW Pailthorpe Trabb's Boy
Great Expectations
F. W. Pailthorpe

Woodcut Woes

It is easy to imagine the difficulty of reproducing an illustration made in pencil, with all of its subtle shades of light and dark lines, and engraving it onto a block of wood for the printing process. No matter the skill of the engraver, the artist was often dissatisfied with the result.

Such is the case for the frontispiece of The Chimes by Daniel Maclise. He voices his displeasure with the woodcut in this letter to John Forster:

"My dear F.,-I can never hope to get you to understand how I am mortified and humiliated by the effect of these damnable cuts. It really is too much to be called upon to submit to, to be shown up in these little dirty scratches and to have one's name blazoned as if one was proud of them. I wish to Heaven you would have my name cut out from the corners, that at least I might have the benefit of the doubt as to which of the blots is mine. I would give anything that I had kept to my original notion and had nothing to do with the thing. . . . I wish you had left me that last one; I would have tried to beguile myself with a belief that it might be improved. My curses light upon the miserable dog that produced it - I don't mean myself.

Ever yours,

D. Maclise"

See Maclise's frontispiece for The Chimes

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Captain Cuttle's Hook

Sometimes the practice of reversing (or not reversing) the drawing to the printing plate for etching caused confusion as in these illustrations by Phiz for Dombey and Son where Captain Cuttle's hook changes from his left arm to his right.

Illustrations in Dickens - Reproduction Methods

The publication of illustrations in the nineteenth century was a laborious and time-consuming process. The two primary methods of graphic reproduction used in the publication of illustrations for Dickens' works were etching and wood engraving.

Wood Engraving

Wood engraving was a mechanical process in which the drawing was transferred to a wood block using transfer paper. The engraver would then cut away the wood in areas where there were no lines, leaving the drawing in high relief. Since the lines to be printed were raised, like the type, the illustration could be inserted into the page along with the text. Wood engraving was usually done by a craftsman other than the original illustrator, faithful reproduction of the illustration depended largely on the skill of the engraver. Wood engravers who supplied cuts for the illustrations in Dickens included Ebenezer Landells, Charles Grey, Samuel Williams, and the Brothers Dalziel. The signature or initials of the engraver often accompanied the signature of the artist on the finished block.


Etching was a mechanical / chemical process in which a steel or copper plate is coated with a wax "ground" to which the illustration was transferred. The illustrator would then use special needles to cut through the ground, following the transferred image, and exposing the bare metal below. The next step involved washing the plate in an acid bath, the ground protected the metal from the acid except in areas where the illustration had been cut through the ground. The result was that lines from the illustration were bitten into the metal by the acid.

Because this process produced a printing plate with the image recessed into the metal, a special printing method called intaglio was used to print the illustration. Intaglio printing involved inking the plate, wiping the ink from the plate surface, and applying specially treated paper at high pressure to press the paper into the inked lines. Illustrations produced by this method were printed separately from the type and inserted into the publication apart from the text. Dickens' illustrators like George Cruikshank and Hablot Browne were also skilled in etching the printing plates and followed their illustrations through the entire process.

Etching Process

Due to Dickens' immense popularity, large press runs were needed to meet the demand for the monthly, or weekly, parts. Steel plates used to print the illustrations, because of the repeated wiping of the plate's surface and the high pressure used in the printing process, wore out and needed to be re-etched halfway through each press run, causing slight differences in the illustration. Illustrations printed via wood block held up longer and could withstand around 100,000 impressions.

Buy Dickens at Huckleberry and Hodge

Buy Dickens at Huckleberry and Hodge

Phiz - The Man Who Drew Dickens
Phiz - The Man Who Drew Dickens

Written by Phiz's great-great-grandaughter Valerie Browne Lester (2004)

Steig - Dickens and Phiz
Dickens and Phiz

Michael Steig (1978)

Kitton - Dickens and His Illustrators
Dickens and His Illustrators

Frederic G. Kitton (1899)

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Original Dickens Illustrators: Seymour | Buss | Phiz | Cruikshank | Cattermole | Williams
Maclise | Leech | Stone | Fildes | Other Original Illustrators

Complete Original Illustrations: Sketches by Boz | Pickwick Papers | Oliver Twist | Nicholas Nickleby
The Old Curiosity Shop | Barnaby Rudge | Martin Chuzzlewit | Dombey and Son | David Copperfield
Bleak House | Hard Times | Little Dorrit | A Tale of Two Cities | Great Expectations | Our Mutual Friend
Edwin Drood | The Uncommercial Traveller | A Christmas Carol | The Chimes | The Cricket on the Hearth
The Battle of Life | The Haunted Man

From the original pairing of Dickens with George Cruikshank on Sketches by Boz to his final collaboration with Luke Fildes on The Mystery of Edwin Drood, illustration was an important part of the Dickens experience. Dickens and CruikshankIn fact only two of Dickens' major works, Hard Times and Great Expectations, were issued originally without illustration. Dickens' works were all issued serially, in monthly or weekly parts. Monthly parts were issued with two illustrations, these were usually sketches etched onto steel plates, printed on special paper and bound into the book after an advertisement section and just before the text. In some cases, as in The Old Curiosity Shop and Barnaby Rudge, published in Dickens' weekly magazine Master Humphreys Clock, the illustrations were cut into wood blocks and dropped into the text so that the illustration appeared in the part of the story being illustrated.

Dickens worked in close collaboration with his illustrators, supplying them with an overall summary of the work at the outset for the cover illustration which was printed on heavy colored stock, usually green, which served as a wrapper for each of the monthly parts. Dickens briefed the illustrator on plans for each month's installment so that work on the two illustrations could begin before he wrote them.

This close working relationship with his illustrators is important to readers of Dickens today. The illustrations give us a glimpse of the characters as Dickens described them to the illustrator and approved when the drawing was finished. Film makers still use the illustrations as a basis for characterization, costume, and set design in the dramatization of Dickens' works. Indeed, the scenes selected by Dickens to be illustrated provide the reader with what he considered key scenes needing emphasis.

Original illustrators with whom Dickens personally collaborated:

Robert Seymour (1800-1836)

Robert Seymour In 1836 publishers Chapman and Hall approached Dickens with the proposal that he write a series of short stories to accompany illustrations by popular artist Robert Seymour. Dickens argued successfully that the stories be the main focus and the illustrations should complement the text. The result of this collaboration was The Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick Club. Seymour, who had had a nervous breakdown in 1830, illustrated the first two monthly installments with some difficulty satisfying Dickens and his publishers. On the completion of the second installment Seymour committed suicide.

Sample Robert Seymour Illustration

Pickwick Papers

Robert Seymour links:

Robert W. Buss (1804-1875)

Buss was hired by Dickens' publishers, Chapman and Hall, when Robert Seymour committed suicide after the 2nd monthly part of Pickwick Papers. Buss did two illustrations for the 3rd monthly part of Pickwick which disappointed the publishers and Buss was dismissed from the project. Though disappointed, Buss remained a lifelong Dickens admirer. After Dickens' death Buss produced the famous painting Dickens' Dream of the author surrounded by his characters.

Sample Robert W. Buss Illustration

Pickwick Papers

Robert W. Buss links:

Hablot Knight Browne - Phiz (1815-1882)

Phiz When Robert Seymour committed suicide after the second installment of Pickwick the author and his publishers needed a new illustrator. Artists such as John Leech, William Makepeace Thackeray, and Robert W. Buss were considered but the man selected was Hablot Knight Browne who had done some work for Chapman and Hall earlier and had worked with Dickens on a recent pamphlet. Browne and Dickens developed an excellent working relationship and Browne took the nickname Phiz to complement Dickens' Boz. Browne would go on to illustrate Dickens' work for 23 years, ten of Dicken's novels were illustrated by Phiz. Browne's comic/satiric style of illustration did not fit well with Dickens' later, more serious, novels and after the somewhat disappointing illustrations for A Tale of Two Cities, he never worked for Dickens again.

Browne's disappointing illustration for Dombey and Son
Dickens expressed disappointment with an illustration in a letter to his friend John Forster.

Phiz and Emblematic Detail
In the background of many of the Phiz illustrations of Dickens' novels the illustrator introduces details that help to interpret what is happening in the story. Some of these emblematic details are rather obvious and some are more subtle. Michael Steig, in his book Dickens and Phiz, argues effectively that, although Dickens gave detailed instructions as to the content of the illustrations, many of the emblematic details in the illustrations were added by Phiz on his own.

Example of emblematic detail in a Phiz illustration

As you read Dickens' novels illustrated by Phiz look for these clues to the story in the incidental items that may seem like background decorations.

Sample Hablot Knight Browne Illustrations

Pickwick Papers - Phiz Dombey and Son David Copperfield Little Dorrit A Tale of Two Cities

Hablot Knight Browne links:

George Cruikshank (1792-1878)

George Cruikshank One of the greatest illustrators of his time, Cruikshank came from a family of artists. Dickens met Cruikshank through John Macrone, publisher for successful writer William Harrison Ainsworth, Macrone suggested that Dickens' sketches should be put together in a book, illustrated by Cruikshank. The result was Sketches by Boz published in 1836. Cruikshank would later illustrate Dickens' Oliver Twist and was an actor in some of the plays done by Dickens' amateur company. Cruikshank, formerly a prodigious imbiber, would later become a staunch supporter of the temperance movement. After Dickens' death Cruikshank claimed that the plot and many of the characters from Oliver Twist had been his idea, which Dickens' friend and biographer vehemently denied.

Sample George Cruikshank Illustrations

Sketches by Boz - The Pawnbrokers Oliver Twist Oliver Twist

Cruikshank links:

George Cattermole (1800-1868)

George Cattermole Dickens friend and illustrator, collaborating with Browne (Phiz), of Master Humphrey's Clock and the novels The Old Curiosity Shop and Barnaby Rudge. Cattermole's specialty was interior and exterior architectural illustration rather than character drawings.

Sample George Cattermole Illustrations

The Old Curiosity Shop The Old Curiosity Shop Barnaby Rudge

George Cattermole links:

Samuel Williams (1788-1853)

Williams was a skilled wood engraver who had cut several blocks for Master Humphrey's Clock. When Hablot Browne and George Cattermole were both unavailable to draw a needed illustration for The Old Curiosity Shop, Dickens asked Williams to draw it. Dickens was reportedly pleased with the result but Williams never did another illustration for Dickens.

Sample Samuel Williams Illustration

The Old Curiosity Shop

Daniel Maclise (1807-1870)

Daniel Maclise Artist and close friend of Dickens early in his career. He painted several portraits of the Dickens family including the famous Nickleby Portrait, painted in 1839, and used as the frontispiece for Nicholas Nickleby. Maclise provided illustrations for The Old Curiosity Shop and several of the Christmas books: The Chimes, Cricket on the Hearth, and The Battle of Life.

Sample Daniel Maclise Illustrations

Nicholas Nickleby The Old Curiosity Shop

Daniel Maclise links:

John Leech (1817-1864)

John Leech Cartoonist and illustrator famous for his work for Punch. Leech was one of the artists considered to replace Robert Seymour for Pickwick and although not selected Leech and Dickens became lifelong friends. Leech contributed many illustrations for Dickens' Christmas books and was sole illustrator for A Christmas Carol. He was, along with Cruikshank, one of the actors in the amateur plays put on by Dickens' circle of friends.

Sample John Leech Illustrations

A Christmas Carol The Chimes

John Leech links:

Frank (1800-1859) and Marcus Stone (1840-1921)

Marcus Stone Dickens' close friend Frank Stone, artist and actor in Dickens' amateur theatricals, provided illustrations for The Haunted Man, Nicholas Nickleby, and Martin Chuzzlewit. When Frank died in 1859 Dickens recommended his son Marcus to his publishers. Marcus illustrated Great Expectations and Our Mutual Friend. Stone's figures are more realistic and less caricature than his predecessors. Marcus later gave up book illustration and became an accomplished painter.

Sample Marcus Stone Illustrations

Our Mutual Friend Our Mutual Friend

Frank and Marcus Stone Links:

Frank Marcus

Luke Fildes (1844-1927)

Luke Fildes With Marcus Stone's decision to quit illustration in favor of painting and Dickens' dissatisfaction with the recent work of Hablot Browne, a new illustrator was needed for The Mystery of Edwin Drood. Originally Charles Collins, brother of Dickens' friend Wilkie Collins and husband to Dickens' daughter Kate, was hired. After designing the cover he gave up the project citing ill health. Dickens interviewed and hired Luke Fildes, a young artist who had studied at the Royal Academy. Using the existing cover design and close collaboration with Dickens, Fildes had completed six illustrations when Dickens died halfway through the monthly parts. Fildes later completed six more illustrations to accompany the release of the remaining three monthly parts published posthumously. Fildes remained close to the Dickens family and was pursued to the end of his life for clues as to the ending of Dickens' unfinished novel.

Sample Luke Fildes Illustrations

The Mystery of Edwin Drood The Mystery of Edwin Drood

Luke Fildes links:

Other Original Illustrators of Dickens

Richard Doyle (1824-1883) Doyle did illustrations for the Christmas books The Battle of Life, Cricket on the Hearth, and The Chimes. There is no evidence that Doyle and Dickens ever met, the instructions for the illustrations coming from the publishers.

Clarkson Stanfield (1793-1867) The famous land/seascape painter did illustrations for the Christmas books The Battle of Life, The Chimes and The Haunted Man. Stanfield agreed to do illustrations for Pictures from Italy but later withdrew claiming the book contained an anti-Catholic bias.

Samuel Palmer (1805-1881) British landscape painter, etcher and printmaker. Palmer did four illustrations for Pictures from Italy after Clarkson Stanfield backed out.

Edwin Landseer (1802-1873) Painter and sculptor famous for paintings of animals and for the lions on Nelson's monument in Trafalgar Square. Landseer did an illustration for the Christmas book Cricket on the Hearth.

John Tenniel (1820-1914) Punch illustrator who also did the illustrations for Lewis Carroll's Alice books. Tenniel did illustrations for the Christmas book The Haunted Man.

Illustration Links:

19th Century Illustration
A good source of information on illustration printing techniques in the 19th century is available from The Victorian Web

Victorian Publishing
The British Museum's online exhibition: Aspects of the Victorian Book includes information on book illustration in the 19th century.

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