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Extra-illustrations: The Order of the Book and the Fantasia of the Library

Part of the Palgrave Studies in the Enlightenment, Romanticism and the Cultures of Print book series (PERCP)


In Bibliomania; or Book Madness (1811), Thomas Frognall Dibdin breaks down the act of reading into a series of operations that turn the text into a script for a material practice of collecting. Extra-illustration questions the book as a cultural object, subverts its bibliographical codes and opens its boundaries to articulate additional or alternative orders of knowledge. This essay explores two extra-illustrated Shakespeares described by Dibdin. Shakespeare editor George Steevens extended the text with engraved portraits of Shakespeare, his editors, commentators, as well as characters and places mentioned in the plays. Margaret Bingham, Lady Lucan, inlaid her edition with watercolours that attempted to recreate the aristocratic world of illuminated manuscripts and to reclaim Shakespeare from the bourgeois aesthetic of the portable gallery of prints. Together they articulate the social and aesthetic spectrum of extra-illustration.


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Can this cockpit hold

The vasty fields of France? or may we cram,

Within this wooden O, the very casques,

That did affright the air at Agincourt?

(William Shakespeare, Henry V)

The imaginary is not formed in opposition to reality as its denial or compensation; it grows among signs, from book to book, in the interstice of repetitions and commentaries; it is born and takes shape in the interval between books. It is a phenomenon of the library. (Michel Foucault, ‘The Fantasia of the Library’)

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  1. 1.

    On the rise of extra-illustration, see L. Peltz, ‘Engraved Portrait Heads and the Rise of Extra-Illustration: The Eton Correspondence of the Reverend James Granger and Richard Bull, 1769-1774’, Walpole Society 66 (2004), 1–161; L. Peltz, ‘Facing the Text: the amateur and commercial histories of extra-illustration, c. 1770-1840’, in Robin Myers, Michael Harris, and Giles Mandelbrote (eds), Owners, Annotators, and the Signs of Reading (New Castle, DE and London: Oak Knoll Press and The British Library, 2005), 91–135; L. Peltz, ‘A Friendly Gathering. The Social Politics of Presentation Books and their Extra-Illustration in Horace Walpole’s Circle’, Journal of the History of Collections, 19:1 (2007), 33–49.

  2. 2.

    T.F. Dibdin, Bibliomania; or, Book Madness: A Bibliographical Romance, In Six Parts. Illustrated with Cuts (London: Printed for the Author, by J. McCrerry, 1811), 571n, 667–8n.

  3. 3.

    A. A. Renouard, Annales de l’imprimerie des Alde, ou Histoire des trois Manuce et de leurs Éditions (Paris, 1803), II, 8; T.F. Dibdin, Bibliotheca Spenceriana; or A Descriptive Catalogue of the Books Printed in the Fifteenth Century, and of many Valuable First Editions, in the Library of George John Earl Spencer, 4 vols (London: Bulmer, 1814), vol. I, vi.

  4. 4.

    M. Foucault, ‘The Fantasia of the Library’, in Language, Counter-Memory, Practice, ed. and trans. by Donald Bouchard (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1977); R. Chartier, The Order of Books: Readers, Authors, and Libraries in Europe between the Fourteenth and the Eighteenth Centuries, trans. Lydia G. Cochrane (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1994).

  5. 5.

    Dibdin, ‘Recipe for Illustration’, Bibliomania, 665–6n.

  6. 6.

    V. Knox, Winter Evenings; or, Lucubrations on Life and Letters, 3 vols (London, 1788), vol. II, 224.

  7. 7.

    I am adapting to the role of words in the practice of extra-illustration what Dibdin says about the fiction of characters and dialogue in his bibliographical writing: ‘The worthy Gentlemen, by whom the Drama is conducted, may be called by some, merely wooden machines or pegs to hang notes upon’, Dibdin, Bibliomania, vii.

  8. 8.

    Dibdin, Bibliomania, 667–8.

  9. 9.

    G. Steevens, ‘Advertisement’, in The plays of William Shakspeare. In fifteen volumes. With the corrections and illustrations of various commentators. To which are added, notes by Samuel Johnson and George Steevens. The fourth edition; Revised and augmented (with a glossarial index) by the editor of Dodsley’s collection of old plays, 15 vols (London, 1793), University of Manchester, John Rylands Library, Spencer 22347, manuscript annotation in the preliminary papers of vol. 1.

  10. 10.

    Horace Walpole, ‘Of collectors of English portrait-prints’, ‘Book of Materials’, 3 vols, vol. II (1772), 2, Yale University, Lewis Walpole Library, 492615; on Joseph Gulston’s compilation of an appendix to Granger documenting the portraits of foreigners in England, his collection of 23,500 English portraits, and the sale of his books in 1784 and his prints in 1786, see L. Namier and J. Brooke, House of Commons 1754–1790 (London: Secker, 1964), vol. I, 562; John Nichols, Illustrations of the Literary History of the Eighteenth Century, vol. V, 1–60.

  11. 11.

    Steevens, ‘Advertisement’ penned in the preliminary papers of The plays of William Shakspeare, Spencer 22347, vol. 1.

  12. 12.

    Manuel Alvarez Espriella [Robert Southey], Letters from England, 2nd edn, 2 vols (London, 1808), vol. I, 235.

  13. 13.

    Lucy Peltz discusses a satirical woodcut vignette featuring the extra-illustrator’s workshop as ‘The Destruction Room’ in ‘Facing the Text’, 91–3.

  14. 14.

    For a discussion of the extra-illustrated book as a ‘methodized scrapbook’, see J.M. Bulloch, The Art of Extra-illustration (London: Treherne, 1903), 11.

  15. 15.

    Dibdin, Bibliomania, 669.

  16. 16.

    J. Klancher, ‘Wild Bibliography’, in I. Ferris and P. Keen (eds), Bookish Histories (Palgrave, 2009).

  17. 17.

    Ibid., 28–9.

  18. 18.

    S. Sillars, ‘Reading Illustrated Editions: Methodology and the Limits of Interpretation’, Shakespeare Survey 62 (2009), 162–81, on 167.

  19. 19.

    A slip of paper dated 1 June 1783 announces: ‘To accommodate those Gentlemen who wish to insert the Prints of this Work into Quarto Editions of Shakspeare, a Number of Proof Impressions are Printed upon a Royal Paper for the Purpose, Price Seven Shillings and Sixpence. Any Gentleman who desires it, may change small Paper Prints of As You Like it for the Larger, by Application to the Publisher’, inserted between the cover and the first print, The picturesque beauties of Shakespeare, being a selection of scenes, from the works of that great author; intended to contain the most striking incidents and descriptions of Each Play; in Oval Prints, six inches by four and a half wide (London: Taylor, 1783–87), No. II, University of Oxford, Bodleian Library, Johnson d.832.

  20. 20.

    The Times, 5 December 1786, 2; Prospectus dated 28–29 November 1786, The Times, 2 Dec 1786, 1; ‘The Preface’, A Catalogue of the Pictures in the Shakspeare Gallery, Pall-Mall (London, 1789) mentions the letterpress being printed by ‘Mr Nicol, his Majesty’s Bookseller’ with ‘Types … made in his own house’, and the editorial expertise of George Steevens’s ‘national Edition of the Works of Shakspeare’, xv–xvi.

  21. 21.

    On the Shakespeare Gallery in the context of the British School, see R. Dias, Exhibiting Englishness: John Boydell’s Shakespeare Gallery and the Formation of a National Aesthetic (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2013); S. Sillars, Painting Shakespeare: The Artist as Critic (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006), 254–99.

  22. 22.

    ‘Sets of Prints, fine Impressions, adapted to each of Shakspere’s Plays … may be bound up with any Edition of his Works’—including ‘Boydell’s Edition, or any of the smaller Publications’—‘or added to them as a Supplementary Volume of Embellishments’, The Oracle, 8 April 1793; also quoted in R. Dias, ‘John Boydell’s Shakespeare Gallery’, PhD Thesis, University of York, 2003, 270n.

  23. 23.

    Dibdin, Bibliomania, 571n, 668n; see also T.F. Dibdin, Aedes Althorpianae; or an Account of the Mansion, Books, and Pictures, at Althorp: the Residence of George John Earl Spencer (London: Nicol, 1822), 206.

  24. 24.

    Dibdin, Bibliomania, 571–85.

  25. 25.

    For instance, a first edition of The Merchant of Venice inlaid on large paper ‘with the autograph of L. Theobald and carefully collated by him with the other edition of the same date’, see Bibliotheca Steevensiana, 87, no. 1279, and inlaid first quartos of Midsummer Night’s Dream (no. 1285), The Taiming of the Shrew (no. 1302) and Titus Andronicus (no. 1304).

  26. 26.

    Bibliotheca Steevensiana. A Catalogue of the Curious and Valuable Library of George Steevens, Esq. Fellow of the Royal and Antiquary Societas,(Lately Deceased.) (London, 13–23 May 1800), no. 1313, quoted in Dibdin, Bibliomania, 581.

  27. 27.

    Steevens, ‘Advertisement’, The plays of William Shakspeare, vol. I, i,

  28. 28.

    Ibid., vi.

  29. 29.

    Ibid., v and footnote; newly paginated section after the Advertisement, i–viii; Shakspeare Illustrated, by an Assemblage of Portraits and Views, Adapted to the whole series of that Author’s Historical Dramas; to which are added Portraits of Actors, Editors, &c (London: S & F Harding, 102 Pall Mall, 1793).

  30. 30.

    Gentleman’s Magazine 70 (May 1800), 178–9, on 178.

  31. 31.

    ‘Painted by Zoffanii, Esq R.A. The face engraved by W. Evans | Engraved from a Portrait Painted by Zoffanii in’774 | Published Sep 1 1800 by S. Harding no 127 Pall Mall, BM 1868,0822.2470.

  32. 32.

    A handwritten note pasted on the flyleaf of the first volume leaves posthumous directions: ‘On my death, I request my Executrix, Miss Elizabeth Steevens, to send these eighteen Volumes of the edition of Shakspeare 1793, to the Right Hon.ble Earl Spencer, first Lord of the Admiralty.—they are, in this manner, bequeathed to his Lordship (as a sincere though inconsiderable mark of regard) by George Steevens | Hampstead Heath, Aug. 30. 1795.’

  33. 33.

    The Index volumes bear the stamp of Charles Lewis in the top left corner of the turn-in. H.M. Nixon, ‘English Bookbindings X’, Book Collector 3 (Summer 1954) dates Charles Lewis’s first binding to 1812; on Charles Lewis, see T.F. Dibdin, The Bibliographical Decameron, VIII; C. Ramsden, London Book-binders 1780–1840 (London: Batsford, 1956), 14–16.

  34. 34.

    Karl Marx, ‘The Fetishism of the Commodities and the Secret Thereof’, Capital, trans. S. Moore and E. Avelling, ed. Frederick Engels (London: Lawrence and Wishart, 1954), 77.

  35. 35.

    The foundation of Spencer’s collection of fifteenth-century books dates to his acquisition of Count Revickzky’s library in 1790; see Dibdin, Bibliotheca Spenceriana, vol. I, i–ii. Spencer acquired an outstanding collection of early printed books by Aldus Manutius. On the dispersal of libraries, see Edward Edwards, Memoirs of Libraries (London: Trübner, 1859), vol. II, 121–32, and 147–51 on Spencer’s acquisitions.

  36. 36.

    Bibliotheca Steevensiana, 86, no. 1334.

  37. 37.

    S. Sillars, ‘The extra-illustrated edition’, The Illustrated Shakespeare, 1709–1875 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008), 216.

  38. 38.

    The first portrait presented to the National Portrait Gallery on its opening in 1856, the Chandos portrait of Shakespeare (NPG 1), takes its name from its late eighteenth-century owner James Brydges, 3rd Duke of Chandos, who acquired it in 1789. The portrait was engraved in Rowe’s 1709 edition, and has been the key point of reference for the likeness of Shakespeare; see Vertue’s Notebook entries in 1719, quoted in Tarnya Cooper, Searching for Shakespeare (London: National Portrait Gallery, 2006), 54, 57; on Shakespeare editors and Shakespeare’s likeness, see also Margreta de Grazia, Shakespeare verbatim: the reproduction of authenticity and the 1790 apparatus (Oxford: Clarendon, 1991), 78.

  39. 39.

    De Grazia, Shakespeare Verbatim, 82.

  40. 40.

    Steevens, ‘Advertisement’, The plays of William Shakspeare, vol. I, ii.

  41. 41.

    Edward Capell’s Mr William Shakespeare: his Comedies, Histories, and Tragedies, 10 vols (1768–69), followed by Notes and Various Readings to Shakespeare, 3 vols (1779–83). Capell’s crucial role in Shakespeare criticism is discussed in S. Jarvis, Scholars and Gentlemen: Shakespearean Textual Criticism and Representations of Scholarly Labour, 1725–1765 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1995), 184–5, and M. Walsh, Shakespeare, Milton and Eighteenth-Century Literary Editing: The Beginnings of Interpretative Scholarship (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997), 182–4.

  42. 42.

    De Grazia notes Malone’s efforts to go back to the original in commissioning the Royal Academy miniaturist Ozias Humphry to copy the Chandos portrait for his 1786 edition, and in substituting Shakespeare’s likeness from the Chandos portrait in reproducing the Stratford monument; Shakespeare Verbatim, 83–5.

  43. 43.

    Steevens, ‘Advertisement’, The plays of William Shakspeare, vol. I, iii–iv.

  44. 44.

    See Thomas Birch, Heads of Illustrious Persons of Great Britain, engraven by Mr. Houbraken, and Mr. Vertue, With their lives and characters (London: J. and P. Knapton, 1743).

  45. 45.

    Jacobus Houbraken after Samuel Cooper, John Thurloe, line engraving, published 1738, NPG D28918.

  46. 46.

    Steevens, ‘Advertisement’, The plays of William Shakspeare, vol. I, i.

  47. 47.

    On the variorum and Samuel Johnson’s sense of the ‘syncretic character’ of textual criticism, ‘to be assembled by collecting the efforts of the many’, see Jarvis, Scholars and Gentlemen, 162–5.

  48. 48.

    J. Derrida, Of Grammatology, corrected edition, trans. G. C. Spivak (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Press, 1997), 158; the bibliographical imagination in Derrida’s sentence is theorized in P. McDonald, ‘Ideas of the Book and Histories of Literature: After Theory?’, PMLA (January 2006), 214–28, on 222–3.

  49. 49.

    J. Strutt, The Regal and Ecclesiastical Antiquities of England: containing … representations of all the English Monarchs from Edward the Confessor to Henry the eigthth. Together with many of the great persons eminent under their reigns (London, 1773), I; listed as item 1734 in Bibliotheca Steevensiana, 112.

  50. 50.

    Steevens, The plays of William Shakspeare, Spencer 22347, vol. XIII, 442.

  51. 51.

    Vertue, ‘K. Edward III’, in The History of England. Written in French by Mr. Rapin de Thoyras. Translated into English, with Additional Notes, by N. Tindal, 3rd edn, 4 vols (London: Knapton, 1743–1745), vol. IV, 190. See also Vertue’s The Heads of the Kings of England, proper for Mr Rapin’s History (London: Knapton, 1736).

  52. 52.

    Strutt, Regal and Ecclesiastical Antiquities, 12.

  53. 53.

    Steevens, The plays of William Shakspeare, Spencer 22347, vol. VIII, 5; Strutt, Regal and Ecclesiastical Antiquities, 36.

  54. 54.

    Steevens, The plays of William Shakspeare, Spencer 22347, vol. VIII, 16.

  55. 55.

    Ibid., 174; Strutt, Regal and Ecclesiastical Antiquities, 10.

  56. 56.

    The contemporaneity of the question of the body of the king is noted in handwriting in Edmond Malone’s copy of Steevens’s 1793 edition in the margin of the passage extra-illustrated by Steevens in Spencer 22347: see The plays of William Shakspeare, vol. VIII, 185, University of Oxford, Bodleian Library, Mal. C.186: ‘[At Worcester must his body be interr’d] A stone coffin, containing the Body of King John, was discovered in the Cathedral Church of Worcester, July 1. 1797. Steevens’.

  57. 57.

    Steevens, The plays of William Shakspeare, Spencer 22347, vol. XII, 63.

  58. 58.

    Ibid., vol. XIII, between 16 and 17, illustrating footnote on 17.

  59. 59.

    Ibid., notice of Pericles: The Academie of Eloquence. Containing a Compleat English Rhetorique, Exemplified, with Common-Places, and Formes, digested into an easie and Methodical way to speak and write fluently, according to the mode of the present times (London: Moseley, 1654). The frontispiece includes oval portraits of Demosthenes, Cicero, Bacon and Sir Philip Sidney; the only direct connection can be drawn from ‘The Epistle Dedicatory’: ‘Pericles (the orator) was no less Tyrant in Athens then Pysistratus; without acknowledging other difference, then that this exercis’d his Empire armed, the other without armes, by the sole terror of his speech.’

  60. 60.

    Steevens, The plays of William Shakspeare, Spencer 22347, vol. VIII, 22.

  61. 61.

    Ibid., vol. XIII, 533–55; see Bibliotheca Steevensiana, 66, no. 1108.

  62. 62.

    Steevens, The plays of William Shakspeare, Spencer 22347, vol. XV, 289.

  63. 63.

    Quoted in Walsh, Shakespeare, Milton, and Eighteenth-Century Literary Editing, 183.

  64. 64.

    Kim Sloan, A Noble Art: Amateur Artists and Drawing Masters c. 1600–1800 (London: British Museum, 2000), 213.

  65. 65.

    Walpole, ‘Advertisement’, Anecdotes of Painting in England (1771), vol. IV, viii; mother and daughter are listed under ‘Works of Genius at Strawberry Hill by Persons of rank & Gentlemen not Artists’.

  66. 66.

    See mezzotint by James Watson, 1 April 1776, and in a later stipple engraving by Samuel Freeman, published by Dibdin after Robert William Satchwell, after Angelica Kauffmann (both National Portrait Gallery).

  67. 67.

    Horace Mann to Horace Walpole, 27 October 1778, The Yale Edition of Horace Walpole’s Correspondence, ed. W. S. Lewis (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1937–83), vol. 24, 417; Walpole to Mann, 9 May 1779, vol. 24, 475; Walpole to Mann, 12 December 1780, vol. 25, 104.

  68. 68.

    Dibdin, Bibliomania, 667. A few years later the cabinet was held responsible for the ‘muriatic leprosy’ that had, in so few years, spotted the volumes, and was disposed of in favour of one entirely in mahogany; see Bibliographical Decameron, vol. II, 340n, quoted in Judith Goldstein Marks, ‘Bookbinding practices of the Hering Family, 1794-1844’, British Library Journal (1980), 44–60, on 47.

  69. 69.

    Marks, ‘Bookbinding practices of the Hering Family, 1794-1844’, 46–7; see Dibdin, Bibliotheca Spenceriana, vol. II, 520, and 525 on Charles Hering as ‘rather sound and substantial, than elegant and classical’; vol. II, 349 on a Hering binding in the Aldine Cabinet; see also vol. III, 29, 357.

  70. 70.

    Margaret Bingham, Lady Lucan to John George Earl Spencer, October 1806, British Library, Althorp Papers G.210, Add. 75982.

  71. 71.

    The Bedford Book of Hours was in the sale catalogue of the Duchess of Portland’s Museum (1786) and George III aimed to buy it for Eton College, but was outbid by the bookseller James Edwards. It was discussed in R. Gough, An Account of the Rich Illuminated Missal Executed for John Duke of Bedford (London, 1794), then appeared in the sale catalogue of Edwards’ library in 1815; see A.N.L. Munby, Connoisseurs and Medieval Miniatures (Oxford: 1972), 3–8.

  72. 72.

    British Library, Add. MS 18850, f. 256v, reproduced online at, accessed 9 January 2015.

  73. 73.

    ‘From a curious Limning in a (MS) rich Prayerbook presented by himself to K. Hen 6 now in the possession of the Earl of Oxford.’

  74. 74.

    Dibdin, Bibliotheca Spenceriana, vol. III, after p. 58; Dibdin, Aedes Althorpianae, 202.

  75. 75.

    Dibdin, Bibliomania, 405, 543; see also 458, 554.

  76. 76.

    Dibdin, Aedes Althorpianae, 200–1.

  77. 77.

    Margaret Bingham, Lady Lucan to John George Earl Spencer, October 1806, British Library, Althorp Papers G.210, Add. 75982.

  78. 78.

    Steevens, Shakespeare, vol. II, 507 ff.

  79. 79.

    On Garrick’s monument and the Shakespeare Jubilee, see M. Dobson, The Making of the National Poet: Shakespeare, Adaptation, and Authorship, 1660–1769 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1992), 134–84, 214–22.

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Calè, L. (2016). Extra-illustrations: The Order of the Book and the Fantasia of the Library. In: Craciun, A., Schaffer, S. (eds) The Material Cultures of Enlightenment Arts and Sciences. Palgrave Studies in the Enlightenment, Romanticism and the Cultures of Print. Palgrave Macmillan, London.

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