Barbauld as Editor: Illustration and Aesthetic Choice in the British Novelists Project

By Leigh G. Dillard.

Published by The International Journal of the Book

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

This study addresses the appearance of literary illustration in reprintings of eighteenth-century fiction, paying particular attention to The British Novelists, an unillustrated collection edited by Anna Letitia Barbauld. Previous analysis of The British Novelists has failed to grant due attention to the aesthetic choices of this publication project. In order to fill that gap, several questions drive my inquiry: Why is Barbauld’s reproduction of these novels so minimally decorated? What aesthetic decisions did Barbauld and her publishers at the Rivington House make in reproducing these novelists’ works? Is it possible to discern what prompted these decisions or to relate them to a certain trajectory, one that marks Barbauld’s place in the editorial tradition? Through the course of this analysis, I will propose a series of scenarios to address the rationale behind this unillustrated collection of novels.

These hypotheses investigate Barbauld’s novelistic preferences and editorial capabilities, providing a greater insight into the framing of The British Novelists project. To this point, relatively little work has addressed Barbauld’s editorial role, with this or any collection. The scenarios presented in this study will attempt to rectify this void, drawing attention to this minimally graphic endeavor. An understanding of these editorial decisions will inform our discussion of literary illustration and enhance our understanding of the collaborative efforts necessary in book publication.

Keywords: Literary Illustration, Eighteenth-Century Collected Fiction, Publication History, Collaboration

The International Journal of the Book, Volume 4, Issue 4, pp.133-150. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 4.120MB).

Leigh G. Dillard

PhD Student, Department of English, University of Missouri-Columbia, Columbia, Missouri, USA

Ms. Dillard's current project explores the relationship between authors and artists in the collaborative formation of the illustrated eighteenth-century British novel. She is particularly interested in the correspondence between these parties as evidence of an interactive publishing endeavor. In addition to her research in the long eighteenth-century, she is also pursuing projects in visual culture and early Victorian fiction. She earned a BBA in Marketing and MA in English from the University of Georgia and is completing her doctoral studies in English at the University of Missouri-Columbia.

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