Penn Library

The Illustrated Book, 1780-1830: selected from the collection of Harris N. Hollin


Two great developments, one artistic and one political, produced a profound impact on illustrated books in the late 18th and early 19th centuries.

Aquatint, a process first developed in France in 1769, became the favored process of color illustration in books, because it imitated the brushwork obtainable with watercolor, thus allowing the artist, engraver, and publisher to capture the richness of watercolor for a wider audience. The great political development was the period of warfare that convulsed Europe in the Revolutionary and Napoleonic eras. For more than a decade this warfare hemmed in British artists, throwing the image of the outside world into sharper relief and giving these artists a more concentrated vision. Most of those who were able to travel before Napoleon's political demise and the many more who did thereafter made sketches themselves or retained artists to depict what they saw. Later, engravers turned these sketches into plates for illustrated books of travel.

These illustrated travel books are artifacts of the transition of travel from the cultural rite of passage of the English aristocracy into its consumption, in the form of livres deluxes, by an expanding and increasingly affluent bourgeoisie. The market for illustrated travel books--and almost all travel books of the era were illustrated--allowed for the production of sumptuous books in which little expense was spared in the collaborative effort of publisher, artist, and engraver.

The publisher Rudolph Ackerman set the standard in this regard. The work of his London publishing house is represented here by Pavel Svin'in's Sketches of Russia (1814). The English public s interest in India during this period grew in proportion to England s involvement in India. Captain Robert Melville Grindley's Scenery, Costumes and Architecture (1826-30) is one of the most attractive color plate books on India produced, surpassed only by Daniell's A Picturesque Voyage to India (1810), on display in "Architecture." Luigi Mayer's Views of Palestine (1804) presented an English public keenly interested in the Orient with views from another exotic locale. The French too had a taste for exotic scenery, for which Napoleon's campaigns in Egypt and elsewhere provided the fare. Comte Rechberg's Les Peuples de la Russie (1812) provided the French with views of the Russian people that coincided with the Grande Armee's Russian expedition.


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