Extra, extra! See all about it: Extra-illustrated books at the Clark

Published: August 28, 2012

There are many elements that contribute to the value of a book as an object, encoding meaning outside of the text itself that can, nonetheless, be read. One artifactual element is illustration and, within the broad world of illustrated printed books, is a subset of copies that have had illustrations added to them after they have been printed and published. The term we use for these is “extra-illustrated books.” Often, the added illustrations are engraved plates, such as portraits or maps, and sometimes they are unique drawings in pen and ink, pencil, or watercolor. Naturally, the addition of these illustrations makes each extra-illustrated book distinctive from the other books in its print run.

The Clark holds a variety of extra-illustrated books that display the possibilities inherent in the extra-illustrated. We have multiple copies of Oscar Wilde’s Intentions (London, 1891), but two are notable for the drawings added to their blank spaces. One copy (copy 1) was caricaturist and writer Max Beerbohm’s own copy of the text. It contains 17 drawings, including this whimsical Wildeish fop on the page facing the beginning of “Pen Pencil and Poison.”

Another copy of that same edition in the Clark’s collection (copy 3) contains four pencil sketches, also apparently by Beerbohm, including this Wildeian gentleman, also drawn on the page facing the start to “Pen Pencil and Poison.”

How do the illustrations inform the text? How different would your experience reading Intentions be if you read Beerbohm’s own copy (copy 1), the other Beerbohm-illustrated copy (copy 3), or the same edition sans illustration?

Another example of an extra-illustrated book in the Clark’s collections is a 17th century English-language edition of Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra’s The History of the Valorous and Witty-Knight-Errant, Don-Quixote (London, 1652). One of the Clark’s two copies (copy 2) has nine engraved plates bound into the printed text, including this one of Don Quixote being knighted at the inn.

These plates were engraved for a later edition of the text by Flemish engraver Gerard Van der Gucht, whose illustration attempts to impart the contextual absurdity of Quixote’s knighthood. The Clark’s other copy of this edition (copy 1) does not contain these plates.

How does your experience of the texts change with the addition of these illustrations? Visit the Clark and take a look at the differences for yourself!

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