Tennyson in Art
Engraved by W J Linton. 1857. This is the classic use of ‘vignette’ as illustration: a softly rounded frame, leading gently into the opening of the poem below. The illustration is closely allied to the content of the poem. Horsley designed the three illustrations to the May Queen, attentive to details, sensitive to mood. His role was as presenter of the poem, rather than elaborator. He was ‘servant’ to the poet and a partner to the engraver. The designs by the Pre-Raphaelites Hunt, Millais and Rossetti all break the ‘vignette’ tradition by either defining the frame most clearly or leaving it out entirely, producing a different relationship with the text.
A first edition of The Moxon Illustrated Edition of Tennyson’s Poems, is now one of the most collectible, valued books in the history of printed book illustration. It includes images designed by some of the most well-known artists of the Victorian age
Intended as a Christmas gift book in 1856, Edward Moxon commissioned the artists to design the illustrations, which were then cut into wood blocks by various engravers. 24 of the designs were produced by established members of the Royal Academy, such as Daniel Maclise, John Horsley and William Mulready. However 30 were commissioned from the startling Pre-Raphaelites, Rossetti, Hunt and Millais. Millais had a foot in both camps being an ‘associate’ of the Royal Academy.
The only known complete set of publisher’s proofs of the engravings are in the Tennyson Research Centre.
Rossetti was late with his designs. The book missed the Christmas market when its high cost would have been more acceptable, and therefore sold very slowly from February 1857. The financial consequences are said to have led to Moxon’s early death.
Searching the Lincs to the Past database will provide you with all the works held by these artists and engravers in the Lincolnshire Collections. The exhibition gives a taste of the variety of approaches and styles employed by artists and engravers. Within one cover are examples of the illustration practices of early, mid and late 19th century.
The Moxon Illustrated Edition of Tennyson’s Poems. 1857. TRC4203. Poems. London: Moxon, 1857. 22.1cm. Illus., por.