'Spoils of the lumber-room': Early collectors of wood-engraved illustrations from 1860s periodicals

Robert Meyrick

Allbwn ymchwil: Pennod mewn Llyfr/Adroddiad/Trafodion CynhadleddPennod

1 Dyfyniad (Scopus)


Rummaging the ‘queer’ smelling attic of his parental home, a space filled with ‘big trunks, broken furniture, old books, old clothes, and odds and ends of all sorts,’ fifteen-year-old Forrest Reid hit upon a treasure that would furnish his listless life with a ‘fresh stimulus’: stacks of ivory yellowed periodicals dating from the 1860s, the decade prior to his birth. As he leafed through back numbers of Good Words, Cornhill, Quiver, Argosy and Once a Week, young Reid realised that here was the ‘nucleus of a real collection’ – not of stories, essays or poems, but of the images that went with them. He was conscious that the removal of the illustrations from the magazines might be frowned upon as an act of vandalism; so, he secretly busied himself in the ‘sunless pallor of the skylight’ or even by candlelight to extract wood engravings that, as he recalled in his 1926 autobiography Apostate, ‘possessed an increasing fascination’ for him: ‘They accepted life as it was and turned it into beauty; they invested the most homely material with a delicate and poetic charm.’ Reid had never been to a picture gallery – and here was a chance to assemble one from the ‘spoils of the lumber-room’.

From the start, Reid’s collecting was studious and methodical: ‘I cut out and mounted my pictures, carefully dating each drawing, and writing its title at the foot of the board, and the title of the magazine in which found it’ (177). The use of possessive is telling here. By appropriating the images, by releasing them from the fictions they were designed to accompany and separating them from the publications they were intended to promote, the collector changed their value along with their meaning.

Reid was not alone in this endeavour. Aficionados like Gleeson White and Harold Thomas Hartley concurred that magazine illustrations were well worth collecting, an engagement that elevated the ephemeral to the status of art or at least recognised its potentialities as art. This chapter examines the motives, methods, achievements and influences of those pioneer collectors – their approaches and attitudes toward their pursuit as well as their own role and responsibilities – and considers them in relation to the collector’s market from the 1860s to the present day.
Iaith wreiddiolSaesneg
TeitlReading Victorian Illustration, 1855-1875
Is-deitlSpoils of the Lumber Room
GolygyddionPaul Goldman, Simon Cooke
Man cyhoeddiFarnham
CyhoeddwrTaylor & Francis
Nifer y tudalennau21
ISBN (Electronig)9781409411666
ISBN (Argraffiad)9781409411659
StatwsCyhoeddwyd - 01 Awst 2012

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