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The wood engravers’ self- portrait
Bethan Stevens

What happens when the image factory looks in the mirror? This chapter is framed around an illustration of a wood engraver, made for a children’s encyclopaedia, which can be read as a notional self-portrait. It investigates the concept of self-portraiture within a collective and commercial medium like wood engraving, and tells the story of the five Dalziel siblings involved in Dalziel Brothers: George, Edward, Margaret, John and Thomas. Reappropriating the archive’s wordless illustrations – particularly to Wordsworth’s poetry – and developing creative reading strategies, the chapter proposes ways of remembering Margaret and John Dalziel, skilled engravers whose roles were crucial (especially Margaret as a senior woman engraver) though evidence about them is limited. George and Edward’s work as founders and leaders of Dalziel are materially read in their albums, as are Thomas’s contributions as a draughtsman and in-house art educator. The chapter considers archival evidence of Thomas Dalziel’s illustrative method when approaching A Thousand and One Nights. The final family member considered in the chapter is an employee, Alice Gladden, who worked in the engraving factory as a 12-year-old nursemaid, and who here becomes a catalyst to re-read Dalziel’s wood engravings for Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. This chapter asks what it was like to live and work in the image business, uncovering family ties, friendships and professional networks. With reference to Michael Fried’s recent work on painted self-portraits (2010), it thinks through the practicalities of a collaborative self-portrait of a working wood engraver.

in The wood engravers’ self-portrait
Photography and wood engraving, from Eadweard Muybridge to Julia Margaret Cameron
Bethan Stevens

When drawings were made on woodblocks and destroyed in the engraving process, then there was no original artwork, only a draft for a finished print, a multiple. In the previous chapters we saw how challenging this could be for the artists whose drawings were executed. However, there was a substantial change once a drawing could be photographed onto the block. Once this happened, the still-extant drawing began to be perceived as an ‘original’, and wood engraving began to be understood as a replication technology (as opposed to being a distinct, collaborative form). This chapter explores distinct aspects of the increasing closeness between wood engraving and photography, and how the two emerging media affected each other stylistically and technically. Stevens outlines the unpredictable timeline of technical innovations compared to their actual use in practice – often staggered across decades – which is crucial to understanding the way photography influenced the broader chronology of visual culture. This is a history of the relationship between two media, which also changes our understanding of major moments in illustration history. For instance, it affected copyright agreements; the chapter shows how the introduction of photography into the process of wood-engraved illustration changed Pre-Raphaelite artist Ford Madox Brown’s understanding of his own intellectual property. The chapter explores photographer Eadweard Muybridge’s influence on engravers, and also how Lewis Carroll returned to the Dalziel firm two decades after their work together on Alice, commissioning trials to compare wood and photomechanical processes for his new manuscript facsimile, Alice’s Adventures Under Ground (1886).

in The wood engravers’ self-portrait
Signatures, authorship and relations between engravers and draughtspeople
Bethan Stevens

Anthony Trollope’s novel Orley Farm was illustrated by Dalziel and John Everett Millais in 1861–62. Through its magnificent heroine, Mary Mason, this novel links the amanuensis to the criminal forger of signatures. One of the novel’s minor characters is a disreputable engraver, Père Snow. This chapter’s reading of Orley Farm examines Trollope’s horror at the obscene crime of signing another’s name, and links this to the everyday work of engraving. Wood engravers constantly signed other people’s signatures. This was true of the engraver-employees that were paid to sign their own work as ‘Dalziel’; it was also true of the firm’s execution on the woodblock of draughtspeople’s signatures (like Millais’s monogram); and finally, there are the many celebrity signatures that Dalziel engraved, to embellish portraits and autograph books. The chapter considers the way ‘Dalziel’ was developed as a signature brand. It explores the horror expressed by Edward Burne-Jones and Dante Gabriel Rossetti at the name and signature of Dalziel, as the firm produced engravings that clashed with what they felt they owed to their own celebrity brands. Following this, four of the junior draughtspeople employed by Dalziel are considered – Henry French, Francis Arthur Fraser, Harry Tuck and Hal Ludlow – as is the different kind of voice they had in their designs because of their humbler status. This is put into the context of our ongoing cultural obsession with the signature in western models of authorship. The chapter ends with an analysis of a coded system of authorship in the Dalziel Archive that represented certain designers numerically, and it thinks through the significance of the proper name in art.

in The wood engravers’ self-portrait
The Dalziel Archive and Victorian illustration
Author: Bethan Stevens

The Wood Engravers’ Self-Portrait focuses on the Dalziel Brothers, the leading image-makers of Victorian Britain. It is the first major study of the Dalziels, combining expert archival research with a radical methodology: it incorporates detailed examination of printmaking techniques, a focus on word–image relations in illustration, and a creative-critical approach to theory. Between 1839 and 1893, Dalziel Brothers made around 54,000 illustrations. These range from works of global influence – such as the illustrations to Lewis Carroll’s Alice books, novels by Charles Dickens, and landmark Pre-Raphaelite prints – to intricate and fascinating unknown works, ranging from brilliant scientific illustrations to keep-fit diagrams and Cadbury’s advertisements. The Wood Engravers’ Self-Portrait tells the multifarious stories of the Dalziel artists and employees; these were discovered by Stevens during an AHRC-funded fellowship, in partnership with the British Museum, where she catalogued the Dalziels’ unique archive for the first time. This book is the culmination of knowledge gathered through this project. As well as exploring the Dalziel family and the works they made, this study addresses the challenges of uncovering and understanding creative work made by low-paid and supposedly mechanical artists (such as the precarious freelance engravers hired by Dalziel). It investigates the image firm’s role in shaping aspects of Victorian culture that continue to have a strong and ambivalent legacy, from the fast and wide circulation of wood engravings to the visualisation of gendered and imperialist texts. It proposes a widely applicable theoretical framework for the study of mass print culture and word-image relations.

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The illustrator as archivist
Bethan Stevens

During their lifetime, the Dalziel Brothers worked furiously to maintain their profile and legacy. They negotiated with both the British Museum and the Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A), not only offering their work for acquisition, but making special requests about how it be stored and exhibited, in order to emphasise the engravers’ authorship. This chapter looks at the history of the curatorship of Dalziel’s work, examining Trustees reports and correspondence from the British Museum and the V&A to show how wood engraving and illustration were perceived institutionally. Unusually, the Dalziels set out as self-archivists right at the start of their careers, keeping a phenomenal record of work that acts as a claim of authorship, as well as a scrapbook repository of professional memory. The chapter proposes ways of reading the archive as a graphic memoir, a narrative in its own right. It examines Dalziel engravings for Ally Sloper and Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, using these to think through the structures of archives, and the ways they engage with narrative temporality. In exploring the Dalziels’ archiving practice and the unique qualities of visual archives, the chapter draws on contemporary theories of user-generated archives (Giannachi 2016), as well as research on amateur and private album-making practices (di Bello 2007, Pettitt 2016). It shows how the Dalziels’ written memoir and their visual albums presented distinct and often contradictory accounts of their firm.

in The wood engravers’ self-portrait
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From Francis Bacon To Oz Magazine
David Hopkins

This article discusses how we might formulate an account of William Blake’s avant-garde reception. Having dealt with Peter Bürger’s theorisation of the notion of ‘avant-garde’, it concentrates on a series of portraits, made from Blake’s life mask, by Francis Bacon in 1955. This ‘high art’ response to the Romantic poet is then contrasted with a series of ‘subcultural’ responses made from within the British counterculture of the 1960s. Case studies are presented from the alternative magazine production of the period (notably an illustration from Oz magazine in which Blake’s imagery is conflated with that of Max Ernst). An article by David Widgery in Oz on Adrian Mitchell’s play Tyger (1971) is also discussed to show how the scholarly literature on Blake of the period (mainly David Erdman) was called on by the counterculture to comment on political issues (e.g. Enoch Powell’s 1968 ‘Rivers of Blood’ speech). The final section of the article shows how the ‘avant-gardism’ of Oz’s utilisation of Blake might be counterposed to the more activist left-wing approach to the poet in small magazines such as King Mob with their links to French situationism. In terms of the classic avant-garde call for a reintegration of art and life-praxis, such gestures testify to a moment in the 1960s when Blake may be considered fully ‘avant-garde’.

Bulletin of the John Rylands Library
Michael Horovitz

This article, originally published in 1958, was written to commemorate William Blake’s bicentenary. In it, the author observes that Blake has been claimed or dismissed by successive generations since his death in 1827: for the Romantics, he was a ‘weird crank’, while the Victorians enveloped him in ‘their own damp sentimentalism’. The author argues that Blake ‘evades appraisal because he was always working for a synthesis of creation far beyond outward forms and genres’, which meant ‘he had to invent his own methods to express himself adequately’. He notes that the recent bicentenary was marked by ‘floods of exhibitions, magazine supplements, radio features, new books from all sides devoted to him’. This clearly anticipates the Blakean explosion of the 1960s, in which the author himself would play a major role. This article can therefore be seen as marking the beginning of Sixties Blake in Britain.

Bulletin of the John Rylands Library
Countercultural Blake in the Therapoetic Practice of maelstrÖm reEvolution
Franca Bellarsi

This article explores the reception and transformation of William Blake’s countercultural legacy by focusing on the neo-Romantic resurgences within maelstrÖm reEvolution, an experimental performance and arts collective based in Brussels but with heavy transnational affiliations. In relation to the company’s neo-shamanic and therapeutic conception of poiesis, Blake is an inspirational figure amongst a broader family of mentors ranging from Beat Generation writers to Arthur Rimbaud and Alexandro Jodorowsky. The Blake–maelstrÖm connection is here examined for the first time. Blending classical reception studies with a broader interest in the intersections between poiesis and the ‘sacred’, this article approaches countercultural Blake as the archetypal embodiment of the shamanic poet. More specifically, it reflects on how, as the poet of ‘double-edged madness’ and ‘Spiritual Strife’, Blake’s subversion of alienation into ecstasy feeds maelstrÖm’s own ‘therapoetic’ experimentalism and psycho-aesthetic endeavours to restore the lines of communication between the ‘visible’ and the ‘invisible’.

Bulletin of the John Rylands Library
James Riley

This article considers the use made of William Blake by a range of writers associated with the ‘countercultural’ milieu of the 1960s, particularly those linked to its London-based literary context. Iain Sinclair is offered as a writer who, in his appreciation of Blake, stands apart from the poets linked to the anthology, Children of Albion (1969). The article unpacks this distinction, analysing Sinclair’s ‘topographic’ take in comparison to the ‘visionary’ mode of his contemporaries. Having established this dualism, the argument then questions the nature of the visionary poetics assumed to apply to the likes of key poets from the era. The work of Michael Horovitz is brought into view, as is that of Harry Fainlight. In essence, these multiple discourses point to the plurality of Blake as a figure of influence and the variation underpinning his literary utility in post-1960s poetry.

Bulletin of the John Rylands Library
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Douglas Field and Luke Walker
Bulletin of the John Rylands Library