Some Holiday Books
THERE is perhaps no class of books which feels the whiffs of fashion so quickly as illustrated books. Almost every year sees a new movement in style ; and if a happy success finds imitators the next year, something of the value seems lost with the novelty. Yet, in spite of the apparent rule of caprice, one who has observed books of this sort for several successive years may discover one or two consistent principles in practice, and it is a pleasure to point out the steady advance toward what may be called happy marriages between art and literature.
These marriages have not always been fortunate. Sometimes the one, sometimes the other, of the high contracting parties has insisted upon being the better half; the blending of two lives into one has been a rare event ; the golden wedding of such a pair is a literary jubilee. Such a celebration has recently been had over Pickwick. It is not very far away from the time when another golden wedding was observed, where, however, the external bond was more conspicuous than the spiritual alliance, for Turner’s illustrations to Rogers’s Italy will be studied and enjoyed long after Rogers ceases to be read.
We suspect that the success in such matings is every year coming to be due more to the matchmakers than formerly ; that with the development of the book manufacturing and publishing from a commercial into an industrial state, from a trade almost into a profession and an art, the chances are greater for an intelligent ordering of all parts of a book into a harmonious whole. The greater variety of means also helps in the same direction. The application of photography and chemical processes in manifold combinations is giving the artist greater freedom in reproduction; and though the adjustment of the several materials employed in reaching the result is far from perfect, the paper especially being offensively obtrusive in its share of the business, the complexity of the entire process is calling for a degree of thought and patient skill which can accomplish excellent things under the guidance of a cultivated taste. It is clear that a haphazard conjunction of favoring constituents cannot be counted on.
One or two general observations may be made on the group of books which contains the most conspicuous examples of American book-making this season. They are for the most part books to hold with ease. In one or two instances the original publication in magazine form has determined the size and shape, but there is an evident disposition on the part of publishers to consult the interests of the library rather than of the drawing - room. Instead of ungainly quartos and folios we have dignified octavos and crown octavos and more companionable sixteenmos, to use a hybrid but convenient term. Again, there is a marked tendency toward the illustration of books, both in prose and verse, which are established favorites. Thus, the wealth of Mr. Crane’s fancy has been called in to decorate the already classic fancy of Hawthorne’s Wonder-Book.1 That mellow autumnal dream of Curtis’s youth, a book which may have lapsed a little out of common notice, but has the affection of the middle-aged who read it when they were dreamers, and comes unexpectedly to remind one of the Curtis who lived before Civil Service Reform laid its commands on him, Prue and I,2 is handed over to an artist who has felicitously made himself a contemporary of the youth of the writer in his conceptions, while retaining the touch of the latest penciler. Dr. Holmes, who has made his verse vivid with his own picturesque phrase, and has awakened images in his readers’ minds which must have a common likeness, since he has stamped them effectively with his genius, finds not so much an interpreter as a companion artist in Mr. Howard Pyle, who has set three of the poet’s most popular poems in frames of filigree with a whole commentary of pictures.3 Hawthorne and Holmes belong in the classic period of our literature. Curtis connects the older and younger men, and the succession is happily represented in two books by Mr. Warner and Mr. James. The former, whose reputation even through his fiction is likely to be that of a saunterer, a looker-on, a delicate appraiser of human worth, is seen in his book of Eastern travel,4 which follows in the wake of Hawthorne’s The Marble Faun and Our Old Home ; the fair page and general decorous form being accompanied by well-chosen photogravures of scenes noted in the traveler’s sketch. Mr. James, who may be said to have been the first really to lay an Atlantic cable in literature, very properly enjoys his honors in an illustrated edition of Daisy Miller.5 Thus, five of the most notable holiday books of the season are, with a single exception, works of American authors illustrated by American artists or by mechanical processes developed here; and it may be taken as something of a favorable omen that the English artist who treated the Wonder-Book so handsomely was our guest when he did so, and that the very important element of success in his work, the reproduction of his designs in color, was American.
There can be no doubt that we owe much of the substantial progress which we have made in book illustration to the opportunity afforded by our best illustrated magazines. The life of any one number is brief ; the magazine itself offers happy dispatch by constantly nominating a successor. Yet continuity and accumulation of interest are studied, and the serial feature of magazine publication is quite as conspicuous as the occasional or monthly. The distribution of expense is an important consideration, and it is quite certain that but for this form of original publication the bookbuying public would be deprived of many valuable illustrated works. It is not always easy to say whether the book was projected and then split up into magazine fragments, or the magazine papers were planned and then combined into a book. Some such factitious unity as the latter appears to mark The Great Streets of the World.6 Broadway, Piccadilly, 6 The Great Streets of the World. By RICHARD HARDING DAVIS, ANDREW LANG, FRANBoulevards of Paris, the Corso of Rome, the Grand Canal, Unter den Linden, the Névsky Prospékt, — these are all great arteries of city life, and the writers who struggle more or less successfully with the problem of a literary representation of humanity of the run are trained men who execute commissions entrusted to them. It is noticeable that the artists make more of the people in the streets than of the distinctive street architecture, and thus the general effect of the book is more harmonious. Yet the pictures have a curious air as if they all had a common denominator with a view to greater uniformity and less fractional appearance. We must think that this book with its miscellaneousness is rather a temporary affair, that its parts were at their best in the magazine with its more agreeable page, and that it does not contribute greatly to the establishment of settled principles in American line book-making. CISQUE SARCEY, ISABEL F. HAPGOOD, W. W. STORY, HENRY JAMES, PAUL LINDAU. Illustrated by A. B. FROST, W. DOUGLAS ALMOND, JEANNIOT, ETTORE TITO, ALEXANDERZEZzos, F. STAHL, ILYA EFIMOITCH RÉPIN. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons. 1893.
Whatever may have been the original purpose in the case of Mr. Cole’s reproductions of Italian art: whether the series was projected as a whole and then given piecemeal in The Century Magazine, or whether, having set Mr. Cole agoing in the important task of applying the most admirable practice of woodengraving as exercised in America to the interpretation of the greatest works of pictorial art, the conductors then collected the successive parts into a whole, the result is equally effective. The reader of the magazine had from time to time the pleasure of a very close acquaintance with single masterpieces, and the buyer of the book 7 in which they are collected may study them in association. It is quite certain that but for the opportunity afforded by magazine publication this masterly series would not have been executed, and it is not the least service rendered by The Century Magazine to general culture in America that such a series should have been for several years familiarizing people with great works of art, and helping to erect those standards which make the appreciation of modern works more sure and more intelligent. This stately volume marks the high water of American engraving skill, and gives an imperishable dignity to engraving on wood. The flexibility of the material has long been recognized, but when Bewick was showing what could be done on another scale, such work as Mr. Cole ’s was in the hands of the engravers on steel.
It is much to have at this season two such books as this and Mr. Crane ’s Wonder-Book, not only to register the successes of American book-making, but to point the way to further advance. They are positive contributions to the stock of the world’s beautiful things ; they are beyond the caprice of fashion, for though Mr. Crane’s inventions have a touch of archaism, and archaism may be a fashion as well as contemporaneity, they have beauty and delight in loveliness at their centre. Taste grows by what it feeds on, and a public whose eye has been trained by such examples will fortify publishers in their resolution to put still more thought into the construction of their illustrated books.
- Wonder-Book for Girls and Boys. By NATHANIEL HAWTHORNE. With sixty designs by WALTER CRANE. Boston and New York: Houghton, Mifflin & Co. 1893.↩
- Prue and I. By GEORGE WILLIAM CURTIS. Illustrated from drawings by ALBERT EDWARD STERNER. New York: Harper & Brothers. 1893.↩
- Dorothy Q., together with A Ballad of the Boston Tea-Party and Grandmother’s Story of Bunker Hill Battle. By OLIVER WENDELL HOLMES. With illustrations by HOWARD PYLE. Boston and New York : Houghton, Mifflin & Co. 1893.↩
- In the Levant. By CHARLES DUDLEY WARNER. Illustrated with photogravures. In two volumes. Boston and New York : Houghton, Mifflin & Co. 1893.↩
- Daisy Miller and An International Episode. By HENRY JAMES, JR. Illustrated from drawings by HARRY W. MCVICKAR. New York: Harper & Brothers. 1892.↩
- Old Italian Masters. Engraved by TIMOTHY COLE. With Historical Notes by W. J. STILLMAN, and Brief Comments by the Engraver. New York : The Century Company. 1892.↩