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Unique database illustrates Victorian past

25 Ebrill 2007

Experts in the School of English, Communication and Philosophy have created a unique online database of mid-Victorian illustrations.

The Database of Mid-Victorian Wood-Engraved Illustration contains records and images of 868 literary illustrations that were published in or around 1862, providing bibliographical and iconographical details, as well as the ability for users to view images at exceptionally high quality.

The year 1862 was chosen because it saw the emergence and growth of major illustrated periodicals, including the Cornhill Magazine and Good Words, and allowed for the inclusion of familiar illustrated works like Christina Rossetti's Goblin Market, illustrated by her brother, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, alongside those that are less well known.

The Database brings together for the first time illustrations from a variety of literary works and publications that it would be otherwise impossible to see side by side. Although representing only a fraction of the range of images that appeared in books and periodicals in the period it gives a sense of the richness of the material and the place of illustration in Victorian visual culture.

The database is the culmination of a three-year project, based in the Centre for Editorial and Intertextual Research, and funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC).

Dr Julia Thomas, the director of the project, said, "Illustration was everywhere in the Victorian period. Pictures accompanied poems, short stories, novels; they appeared in magazines, periodicals and newspapers, in books for adults and children. Despite this, illustration has become almost invisible today. Victorian novels are usually published without their original pictures, and illustration is rarely accorded the critical or scholarly attention it merits. This is particularly unfortunate in the twenty-first century, when visual communication is dominant as never before."

"The Database of Mid-Victorian Wood-Engraved Illustration grew out of a desire to make these images visible and to suggest the significance of illustration for an understanding of Victorian culture."

The aim of the project was to digitise and mount on a publicly accessible website a cross section of illustrations from different literary texts and by a range of artists and engravers.

The illustrations are described bibliographically and iconographically. This dual method of referencing the illustrations allows for new and sophisticated ways of searching the digital archive, enabling the user to identify connections and differences between images by searching across multiple fields, including the name of the artist, engraver, the title of the work, and the content of the pictures.

Copyright of the structure and contents of the database belongs to Dr Julia Thomas, Dr Tim Killick, Dr Anthony Mandal, and Professor David Skilton from the Centre for Editorial and Intertextual Research, Cardiff University.

The Database of Mid-Victorian Wood-Engraved Illustration -

'The Daily Governess', London Society (June 1862), illustrated by Adelaide Claxton, engraved by Edmund Evans