Extra-illustrating Shakespeare

Lori Anne Ferrell
Claremont Graduate University



Sometimes the pictures for the page atone,
And the text is saved by beauties not its own. (Tredwell 11)

  1. To extra-illustrate, or “grangerize,” is to add images to a book that, in its original state, lacks them. Or, better said, was to add: a genteel, eccentric, and very popular post-Enlightenment leisured pastime, grangerizing, and the persons who once were its avid practitioners, have been nearly forgotten. Perhaps this is because what they did now seems so very odd to twenty-first century tastes. These hobbyists (whose personal letters, published lectures, and articles in nineteenth-century bibliophilic periodicals chronicle their extraordinary passion for their avocation) cut printed books out of their original bindings, inserted between those loosened pages prints—and later, other artifacts—from their collections, and then rebound and renamed them. In this way extra-illustration could transform a mass-produced text into a one-of-a-kind, hand-crafted, luxury object. It was based upon the premise that published books—those broadly-dispersed delivery systems for an author’s words—could be refashioned into a connoisseur’s private cabinet.

  2. Driven by a passion for collecting and organizing rather than a desire to read and understand, extra-illustration offers an intriguing take on the industrious, acquisitive, and sometimes destructive obsessions of the Victorians.[1] To an extra-illustrator, words served as registers of items, not as signifiers of ideas. “Don’t allow yourself to read, or you will get interested and surely omit entries you should make,” warned the author of “How To Set About Extra-Illustrating a Book,” an essay in The Book Lover, an American monthly aimed at bibliophiles (9). The admonition reminds us that a love of books is not necessarily a love of reading.

  3. The idea that any page of Shakespeare would require “atonement” of the sort described above (and in such bad doggerel verse) might surprise and even dismay us. We would not be alone: extra-illustration has been mostly overlooked by literary scholars, and the relative few who have treated it tend to evaluate it using theories of collecting or art history rather than of books, reading, or reception. But like medieval manuscript illumination, extra-illustration could take on the qualities of an interpretive art, and many an extra-illustrator put the purely acquisitive and precisely technical aspects of the practice—the meticulous cutting and pasting; the relentless collecting—to the task of paratextual commentary.

  4. This achievement can be traced in the extra-illustrated Shakespeares of the period, which offer particularly fine examples of textual commentary alongside the usual beauties of pictorial enhancement. In this essay, I will give an overview of the history and practice of grangerizing, pointing out that its complex reading, binding, and visualization practices were interpretive strategies. I will go on to demonstrate this claim by considering the extra-illustration of two Shakespeare sets dating from the mid nineteenth and turn of the twentieth century—the period that witnessed, interestingly, the waning and end of the practice altogether. Singular they may be, but the Huntington Library’s 1850s “Adlard Shakespeare” and the Scripps College Denison Library’s 1901 “Henley Shakespeare” nonetheless shed light on Shakespeare reception and performance in post-revolutionary England and America.

    Extra-illustration: an overview[2]

  5. Extra-illustration allowed fashionable people to showcase their private collections of print portraiture. Starting with a book on a topic of interest, the hobbyist would haunt print stalls and consult art dealers, collecting as many prints, engravings, drawings, and paintings as might serve to illustrate it. In the late eighteenth century, extra-illustration was called “grangerizing,” in tribute to its first great public advocate, the Reverend James Granger, an otherwise undistinguished English cleric who avidly collected printed images—not of martyrs, theologians, or biblical patriarchs, but of monarchs and statesmen. Like others in his circle (most notably, Horace Walpole), Granger also liked to collect engravings of “characters,” those portraits, quite popular in the eighteenth century, of nameless “types”: A London Flower-Seller; A Poor Woman; An Aged Rabbi. Granger and his friends engaged in friendly, lively epistolary competition and exchange, trading engravings and putting them on private display.[3]

  6. Soon Granger decided to organize their efforts by means of an innovative device: an un-illustrated book, one that would be equipped with lists of prints and blank pages for notation. In 1769, Thomas Davies published Granger’s The Biographical History of England from Egbert the Great to the Revolution…Adapted to a Methodological Catalogue of Engraved British Heads. An exhaustive catalogue that ran to four volumes, the Biographical History was little more than a list of extant portrait engravings. Attached under each of these “heads” were succinct biographies made up of little more than anecdotes and character analyses: sketches of another sort. Early purchasers of Granger’s Biographical History were meant to use the catalogue as mere check-list, but more ambitious grangerizers soon began pasting portraits directly onto its blank pages and, after that, inserting them between its excised and rebound pages.

  7. Like all hobbies, collecting walks a thin line between gentle pastime and fierce obsession. The quest could become all-consuming all too quickly, and all too often. It soon captivated the leisured classes of America. In a talk given to the Rembrandt Club of Brooklyn, a late nineteenth century enthusiast named Daniel Tredwell (whose bad verse opened this essay) vividly described a typical grangerizer’s progress:
    Suppose we are in possession of…a sketch of the life of Edward Everett. Before sending it to the binder it occurs to us that it would be interesting and enhance its value to have a faithful portrait of Edward Everett as a frontispiece – a testimonial of our regard for this accomplished gentleman and scholar…We are by this time becoming interested in the pursuit, and beginning to feel we are no longer amateurs…so we go on getting prints…developing unconsciously an enthusiasm for our work, until we have twenty-seven engraved portraits of Edward Everett, illustrating his life from the age of sixteen to sixty…we want them, and we buy them. (Tredwell 34-36) [4]
    (Fame being both particular and fleeting, here we may pause to recall, possibly with some effort, that Mr. Everett was a senator from Massachusetts and President of Harvard University in the mid-nineteenth century.) Tredwell went on to explain that this personal run on Everett portraits would invariably inspire the illustrator to broaden his ambitions: he would go on to locate and purchase, not only pictures of the gentleman himself at every age, but also pictures of the gentleman’s birthplace, his family, his extended family, his library, and his circle of friends.

  8. Having proved himself in this part of the venture a bona-fide expert in Everettiana, Tredwell’s imaginary grangerizer would then turn to handicrafts, using a specially designed knife to trim the illustrations and rice flour paste to affix the prints to single sheets of one, uniform size. He would excise the pages of the original Life of Everett from their original binding and paste them onto sheets in the same size. (Depending on the overall size, engravings could also be inserted, with or without folding, directly into this newly created book.) Finally, he was ready to insert the prints at the appropriate places: where the original biographer had mentioned Edward Everett, his home, his library, his friends or anything, really, in passing (39).

  9. This extraneous aspect of extra-illustration—the willingness of the grangerizer to expand on even the most insignificant detail of a written text with visual images—was the practice’s most characteristic (and infamous) feature. For this expansion was, most spectacularly and substantially, physical: the worthy Everett grew in height and girth, his one-book life now requiring multiple volumes of visual depiction. And so, an unremarkable quarto was transmogrified into something extraordinary, unique and very, very large. Such transformations merited new designations in addition to shelf space; check the spines and you find the extra-illustrator’s name has often taken pride of place over that of the original’s author.

  10. The system Granger originally described as “reduction” (for its capacity to sum up a life at a single glance) soon inspired—as the popularity of the extra-illustration grew, and as we see in Tredwell’s invocation of the amplified Everett above—a number of extravagant expansions: of successive editions of the Biographical History; of the market for engraved “heads” and “types”; and, eventually and inevitably, of the market price of such engravings. Would-be grangerizers consequently began to look to other venues for print acquisition, purchasing already-illustrated books for the sole purpose of raiding them and excising their pictures, and adding these pictures to their collections. The price of those books then also rose accordingly. The literary genres deemed suited to extra-illustration also expanded, and soon encompassed travel narratives and geographical studies of foreign and domestic lands; religious works and sacred texts (especially the Bible); natural sciences and natural histories; memoirs of the theatre (a brisk trade in portraits that named not only the player but identified him or her with a stage character was soon established in the London print stalls); and literary works, including, of course, Shakespeare’s.

  11. Based as the practice of “extra illustration” was in the idea that a book could be made over into a capacious and almost-infinitely expandable vehicle for the acquisition, preservation, and storage of a large, ever-increasing collection, it is perhaps unsurprising that the range of what could be considered “extra-illustrated” also expanded. Given the roomy definition—adding pictures to books—texts un-excised but illustrated in the margins with watercolor or oils also began to manifest in library lists as “extra-illustrated” volumes. By the middle of the nineteenth century, in fact, it had become commonplace to extra-illustrate not only by such direct illumination, or with engravings purchased from the print stall and pictures excised from other, less fortunate tomes, but also with a variety of pasted-, tipped-, or bound-in artifacts: ticket stubs, newspaper clippings, formal invitations, manuscript letters, booksellers’ bills of sale, and photographs. And so, in becoming spectacular receptacles for all manner of visual inventory, these “illuminated palaces” (to quote the besotted Tredwell) (34) would seem to have long lost their identity as books meant simply to be read. Captivated by their unique beauties, and the wonders of late nineteenth century print advertising, other collectors purchased already extra-illustrated volumes from rare book sellers and private owners; twentieth century booksellers’ catalogs testify to the brisk but fleeting nature of the trade.

  12. Now virtually unknown and un-consulted, extra-illustrated books take up impressive amounts of space on the shelves of most research and many private libraries, dusty testaments to the odd allure of a passing book-fancy. They first catch our eye by the scale of their ambition. Turning the outsized pages of a Biographical History, a Life of Everett, or The Works of Shakespeare, we grasp at the outsized desires of the past: to acquire a complete collection of engraved portraiture; to excise, mount, and place engravings into pages with precision and artfulness; to gild the printed page and rebind its exteriors and, in so doing, make any book over into something personal, remarkable, and entirely, audaciously unique. In this alone, grangerized works have much to teach us about the era in which they thrived: an age wherein books, finally made cheap and readily available by the wonders of mass production, were reconceived and repurposed as the singularly luxurious tributes to wealthy owners they had once been in the past.

  13. But extra-illustrated books also have much to teach us about past practices of reading, interpretation, and reception and this is where we owe a debt of gratitude to the grangerized works of William Shakespeare that flourished in the nineteenth century. These works represent characteristic, if individual, approaches to textual interpretation. Grangerizing was, after all, an expansive and thus inherently exegetical act: one that located meaning in the relation between words; the mental images those words inspired, the created pictures that made those words manifest; and, in the case of the plays, the physical artifacts that accompanied these texts’ life on stage.

    Extra-illustrated Shakespeare

  14. By the end of the nineteenth century we can discern two dominant styles of extra-illustrating Shakespeare: the manner advocated by Granger and its offshoots, and a more eclectic, “scrapbook” style that fully emerged in the nineteenth century and seems to have enjoyed more popularity in America than in Britain. This latter, artifactual style is occasional in nature, linking the plays to the material modes of specific contemporary productions, adding ticket stubs, programmes, posters, and other memorabilia to reprints of the plays or to the memoirs of actors like Phelps or Garrick or Siddons. As records of the material conditions of Shakespeare playing in England and America they are an invaluable, and remarkably underutilized, archive.

  15. In the former style of grangerized Shakespeare, the “heads” that grace the pages of the plays are rarely those of the playwright. However, his characters, and the actors portraying these characters, reign supreme: Phelps as Lear; Garrick as Hamlet; Mrs. Siddons as Lady Macbeth.


    Figure 1: Samuel Phelps, famously, as Macbeth on the Sadler's Well stage of 1850. From the Denison Library of Scripps College's extra-illustrated Henley Shakespeare owned by Ellen Browning Scripps (1836-1932). By permission of the Ella Strong Denison Library, Scripps College.

  16.  Here we find all that is irrevocable and enduring in the literary version of the plays linked both to the occasion of an actor’s undertaking of the role and to more general styles of theatrical representation. Real people become “types” when rendered into engravings of actors, monarchs, and statesman; their postures and facial expressions not only show us how any character was likely to have looked on stage at the time; they also suggest that these depictions, which endured reproduction and which were readily available, might have lastingly influenced later portrayals.

  17. There are hundreds of extra-illustrated Shakespeares extant, most of these dating from the nineteenth century and all of them worthy of new study. But the extra-illustrated editions of Shakespeare housed in the libraries established by two wealthy collectors who were both schooled in the late Victorian age—Henry E. Huntington (who died in 1927 after founding the Huntington Library in San Marino, California) and Ellen Browning Scripps (who died in 1932 after establishing a college for women in Claremont, California)—provide particularly lovely examples of this characterized style of extra-illustration. The Ellen Browning Scripps Collection at the Denison Library at Scripps College counts amongst its holdings a unique reworking of the “Henley Shakespeare” of 1901-5. The original, a folio edition edited by W. E. Henley, was published in Edinburgh and issued in one thousand copies. The edition owned by Mrs. Scripps was already a special one, limited to twenty-six lettered copies in what was called a “Connoisseurs’ Edition.” The Scripps set builds on this with exuberant and professionally-crafted grangerizing. The volumes feature a large number of fine inserted engravings, some of them hand colored, as well as direct on-page extra-illustration, art nouveau in style, in watercolor. Their bindings, red goatskin with green watered-silk end-papers and leaves, have front and back covers inlaid with delicately tinted portraits of Shakespeare’s heroines in gilded roundels.[5]


    Figure 2: The inside covers of Ellen Browning Scripps's "Henley Shakespeare" featured girlish depictions of Shakespearean women, not all of them heroines: this portrait depicts a young and beautiful Lady Macbeth. By permission of the Ella Strong Denison Library, Scripps College.
  18. What is particularly striking about this edition is in part due to the late date of its extra-illustration: its added images represent the latest versions of two centuries’ worth of reproduced characterizations and stagings. The effect is one of uncanny familiarity: we recognize the faces and postures and, if we are in a dreamy mood, marvel a bit whether Mr. Kean made himself look so very much like Macbeth, or if instead Macbeth finally came to resemble the long-dead Kean. The portraits thus implicitly make the argument for Shakespeare as a playwright for the ages: they blur the lines between a character’s representation on the written page and the conventions of that character’s portrayal in the history of the stage, and animate those conventions in a once-famous actor’s face and posture. Revisiting these portraits, even as they appear in new, hand-tinted clothes, one feels as if, say, the stage for the Macbeths’ crimes is always being reset: for tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow.

  19. The Huntington Library’s sixteen-volume “Adlard Shakespeare” (London: 1853-63) has a title so characteristic of the tireless and encyclopedic interests of the Victorians that it is worth printing in its entirety: The Works of William Shakespeare, the text formed from a collation of the early editions: to which are added all the original novels and tales on which the plays are founded; copious archeological annotations on each play; an essay on the formation of the text; and a life of the poet by James O. Halliwell. The illustrations and wood-engravings by Frederick William Fairchild. The set is evidence of three characteristic passions of the age: for archiving, for organizing and for copious supplementation. We might say that this set, even in its original pristinity, owes its expansive nature and claims to the influence of a century of extra-illustration.

  20. But the hand-painted marginal illustrations are what make the Huntington “Adlard Shakespeare” eligible to be catalogued as “extra-illustrated”—and delightfully, thought-provokingly unique. For example, a page from A Midsummer’s Night’s Dream sports a hand-painted Puck that conforms to Victorian norms of childish charm: a chubby, naked cherub tumbling toward earth in a red-peaked jester’s cap that makes him appear less powerful than simply cute and charming (vol. 5, part 1: 61). But on the following page, next to Puck’s boast that he will “put a girdle round the earth,” we find Oberon’s tiny minion making a call on a new-fangled instrument known as the telephone.

    Figure 3: Puck girdles the earth in modern style in the Huntington Library's extra-illustrated Adlard Shakespeare. By permission of the Huntington Library.
  21. This is also charming in its seeming celebration of the technological achievements of the nineteenth century; however and more problematic, it yokes the image to Oberon’s magic. Placed against the text, commenting on it, this image of Puck on the phone registers not simply a kind of innocent wonder but also, perhaps, the anxiety that such power, in the end, might have to be tamed and relinquished.


  22. By the late nineteenth century, the art of “illustrating a book with engravings torn out of other books” – was a pastime both in, and nearly past, its prime (“Methods of Illustration” 133). We see this beautifully demonstrated in two priceless library acquisitions of the early twentieth century: the Huntington’s “Adlard Shakespeare,” extra-illustrated sometime after 1860 and purchased by the Library in the 1920s, and Ellen Browning Scripps’s “Henley Shakespeare,” left to the Denison Library as a founder’s gift at her death in 1932. These are not simply collections of art and artifact related to Shakespeare, however. In them we discern nineteenth-century readings of Shakespeare that highlight and celebrate a sense of the author’s timelessness, his encyclopedic range, his prescience, his capacity to animate an otherwise generic humanity with singular character. In these sets, in other words, we find the Shakespeare of the Victorians. And with that, we might also concede, we have also found the source of the attitudes towards Shakespeare we still hear advocated today.



[1] “I have felt rather ashamed than exalted,” confided Mr. Tredwell to an audience assembled to hear of his feats of extra-illustration, “by my weakness” (7).

[2] In this section I have borrowed passages from my previous work on extra-illustrated Bibles, The Bible and the People. I gratefully acknowledge the Yale University Press for granting me permission to reprint sections of this material in altered form.

[3] The best description of their correspondence and acquisitive practices is Lucy Peltz’s.

[4] Here “sketch,” as we will see below, means “brief written biography” (Tredwell 17-18). It appears that until the latter years of this craze, a private extra-illustrator was, almost always, male.

[5] This physical description comes from the director of the Denison Library and curator of its extraordinary rare book collection, Judy Sahak.


Works Cited




Responses to this piece intended for the Readers' Forum may be sent to the Editors at M.Steggle@shu.ac.uk.

© 2013-, Annaliese Connolly and Matthew Steggle (Editors, EMLS).