Pet Book Report #2: Images

As I mentioned in my first post, the illustrations in More hints on Ettiquette were done by George Cruikshank, a famous caricaturist renowned for his illustrations in books like this one. It was Cruikshank’s illustrations for Charles Dickens, speculatively, that underpin this manual’s misattribution to the author. Cruikshank also had a significant history of collaborating with satirists, and is partly responsible for authoring the character of John Bull in British political cartoons included, for example, in Vic Gatrell’s 2006 book City of Laughter.

While most of Cruikshank’s illustrations appear to be copperplate engravings–for instance, the ones that accompany Lawrence Sterne’s novel Tristram Shandy–the images in this manual are wood cuts. Besides the fact that the work’s title page describes its images as such (“WITH CUTS, BY GEORGE CRUIKSHANK”), it would be easy to see in the absence of that information. A close inspection of Cruikshank’s illustrations yields their makeup of individual ungraded contours, which Philip Gaskell’s classic manual of Bibliography notes is a feature of the wood cut (155). Any gradation is indicated, instead, using crosshatching. Further, the illustrations are in line with the text, suggesting that they were set along with it. This, according to Gaskell, is evidence that a wood cut was used; other forms of image reproduction required separate processes that were less likely to be done at the same time or on the same page as the printing of alphabetic text (272).

I would like to go beyond the circumstances of how these images were composed and (re)produced, however, in order to do similar work to scholars like Juliet Fleming (2006) and Jonathan Senchyne (2012): Fleming speculates as to the functions of printers’ flowers in early modern texts, to elucidate both the early modern period’s printing practices and a model for considering paratextual images in other sociohistorical contexts; while Senchyne reanimates the “stereotype” metaphor by linking its tenor with its vehicle, arguing that physical stereotypes re-inscribed whiteness and blackness. Both authors are meticulous in describing the material aspects of the images on the works on which they focus, but they move beyond a mere cataloging or exegesis of them, towards incorporating those images in a critique of the editions in which they appear. Applying this critical model, the wood cuts in More hints on etiquette perform a significant portion of its rhetorical work of parodying Charles William Day’s popular Hints on etiquette [note: A tidbit lost in the time between posts: I found out that this book is, indeed, a parody!] and, more broadly, the etiquette manual genre.

None of these images has a caption, and are thus dependent on their surrounding text in which they are embedded to be contextualized and contextualize. The first wood cut appears on the title page, and is an illustration of a monocled man in a close-fitted pinstripe morning suit, holding a top hat and cane. I read this image as either a personification of the guide that the anonymous author–and the book itself–claims to be, or as a projection of who the reader might become with that guide’s aid. In this way, the image might, in Fleming’s words, “announce [itself] as [a] product[] of the press” (182).  His arms are outstretched, presenting the book to the reader. It is difficult, because of the detail of the woodcut, to make out the specifics of his expression, but it might be interpreted as either a half-smile or one of resigned service to his function.
The next illustration is a similar figure (hat donned) on stilts, which appears alongside the height of a paragraph listing the most “High and Mighty” and society (emphasis mine). The next included image also literalizes its surrounding text, showing birds landing and feeding in an ill-advised gentleman’s “birds nest” hairdo (22). The third is a vision of our dandy mascot of sorts with his hand in his back pocket, “templating a full back” view of which one might give “them (the ladies)” an “opportunity of contemplating” (never minding, of course, the insult her accompanying man make take, which he cannot display anyway, so crippled by the polite society) (33). A two-page spread literalizes how the authors report seeing a young gentleman in a theater box (56-57). There is an image of a “finished” gentleman, slumped over a pole: finished as in having a polished surface appearance, as in having been schooled in proper manners, and–perhaps most potently as in being very, very drunk (61). The final one in the manual is of a man who is, literally “endeavouring to make ‘a whistle of a Pig’s tail'” like the manual’s effort of the reader–“Finally, endeavor to be a gentleman,” the manual advises in its final lines, “and then / Etiquette / will come as easy as Whistling” (78).

These images, in another of the purposes for paratextual images that Fleming cites, may fill readers’ expectations for what they would see upon opening such a book (170). A guide is expected to demonstrate as much as to explain–to teach their charges to ‘walk the walk’ by example: described in the manual as “the art of treading the stage” (32). But, of course, the satiric manual makes a mockery of this expectation with images that are patently ridiculous.

I am interested, going forward, to see what images (if any) appear in Day’s guide and how this manual remixes them. The images are not “freed from the obligation to signify” (Fleming 188), since they contribute to making the manual’s meaning. I am further struck by the predominance of the images in the other paratextual components of the parody: the ads that appear in the front- and/or backmatter of the three versions refer exclusively to illustrations: they are for “GEORGE CRUIKSHANK’S WORKS” and other “Beautifully Illustrated Works / just published / BY CHARLES TILT, FLEET STREET.” These ads suggests that the images are not intended to be mere ornamentation; the work presents them with the same, or more, importance as the text. I look forward, next week, to examining those ads in more detail.

Works Cited

Fleming, Juliet. “How to Look at a Printed Flower.” Word & Image 22.2 (2006): 165–187. Web. 7 Sept. 2016.
Gaskell, Philip. A New Introduction to Bibliography. New Castle, Del: Oak Knoll Press, 1995. Print.
Senchyne, Jonathan. “Bottles of Ink and Reams of Paper:: Clotel, Racialization, and the Material Culture of Print.”Early African American Print Culture. University of Pennsylvania Press, 2012. 140–158. Web. 19 Oct. 2016.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *