Tuesday 8 November 2016 – Will Finley – The Pictorial Publisher: Agents, Technologies and the Illustrated Book in Britain 1830-1850

Venue: John S Cohen Room, 203

Senate House
Malet Street
London WC1E 7HU

Download a map of the central precinct with directions for getting to the University of London Senate House.


In this talk, I will be examining the power relations involved in the production of the illustrated book within the context of nineteenth-century technological development. Changes in manufacture and the commercial market after 1830 marked the beginning of what David McKitterick has described as a ‘revolution’ in printing. By the second half of the nineteenth century, illustrations had become a ubiquitous feature within the pages of newspapers, periodicals, serials and books. The period between 1830 and 1850 in particular gave rise to the sophistication of wood engraving that laid the foundations for its ‘heyday’- to borrow a term from Paul Goldman- between 1855 and 1870. Scholars have widely recognised that publishers of these illustrated books enjoyed a great deal of autonomy within their production and commercialization. Yet these power structures were not always translated onto the printed pages. This paper seeks to examine the varying levels of autonomy the publisher had over the visual within illustrated publications. The use of computational techniques allows us to evaluate the degree in which the power of the publisher was reflected within the illustrated book and prompts us to consider how the tensions between those invested in the book’s production manifested itself on the printed pages.

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