The Story of a New York House (Illustrated Edition)

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The Story of a New York House

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The garden of Abdul Gasazi. Happy birthday Oliver! King Krakus and the dragon. The long dive. Natural history. Ox-cart man. The tale of Fancy Nancy : a Spanish folk tale. Tilly's house. More than stand-alone works of art, though, book illustrations would be the dominant means of carrying on the visual legacy of The Spy over the years. Even though Cooper himself would have little to no connection to the illustrated editions of his works produced during his lifetime or after, these works are well worth examining as part of the Cooper legacy.

For one thing, they provide glimpses into how artists from various times and places—many of them among the most prominent in their day—visualized Cooper's portrayals. To me, though, part of the charm of illustrated editions lies not only in their visual appeal but in the extra measure of care they suggest: illustrated editions take deliberate time, effort, and expense to produce; they may give us insight into how the publishers hoped to increase the appeal of the work in the marketplace, or they may suggest something about a literary work's cultural or artistic relevance, including its status as a classic.

In that sense, then, The Spy has dozens of illustrated editions testifying to its staying power. It may seem surprising that the first illustrated editions of The Spy were produced not in America, but in Europe. European publishers at that time often had more resources at their disposal than their American counterparts, and American publishers publishing American authors found themselves at a cost disadvantage if they paid their authors whereas they could reproduce foreign authors cheaply due to a lack of international copyright.

Many of the earliest editions and translations were produced without illustration, but as it became clear by the late s and early s that Cooper's writings would have staying power, illustrated texts began to appear. One of the first illustrated editions of The Spy was produced in the Netherlands: a Dutch translation, De Spion , appeared in in two volumes from publisher W.

Van Boekeren in Groningen, containing a frontispiece engraving the same in both volumes by Dutch painter Christiaan Julius Lodewyck Portman and engraver A. Zeelander Fig. It depicts the ghastly moment when Harvey Birch's father, Johnny Birch, staggers out wrapped in a bedsheet and on the verge of death to bless his son, frightening an invading band of marauding Skinners away—another scene that would be a favorite with many subsequent illustrators. The novel was popular with other illustrators on the continent, too. Among the several Italian translations of The Spy that appeared, an one by Constantino Mezzana of Rome incorrectly billing itself as the first Italian translation was illustrated Fig.

In Spain, Barcelona publisher J. Grau brought out El Espia , a four-volume translation by "J French illustrators were especially prolific. A second edition, also without illustrations, followed in , but by , the firm was issuing L'Espion as part of a series of Cooper's collected works, with illustrations by Tony and Alfred Johannot, who also illustrated other Cooper titles Fig.

By , Gosselin came out with yet another edition, this time with more illustrations and even a map albeit one with scarcely any detail showing the location of New York amid the surrounding states Fig. Gosselin would reprint this edition, with minor variations, in and later. Another Paris publisher, Gustave Barba, got into the game later but introduced some innovations of his own. The text was accompanied by twenty-five vignettes by popular illustrator and caricaturist Charles Albert d'Arnoux, better known as Bertall.

Bertall's images seem particularly suitable for Cooper's novel with their engrossing blend of the pathetic, the comic, and the grotesque Figs. Colburn and Bentley contracted with Cooper to revise the texts of several of his earlier novels to include in this series of one-volume editions, which were geared toward a lower price point and more popular readership than the expensive original three-volume format.

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Accordingly, Colburn and Bentley without Cooper's involvement commissioned two frontispiece engravings by Daniel Maclise and Charles Marr to enhance the work's appeal Figs. Maclise was one of Britain's leading painters of historical and literary scenes, and one of his illustrations—that of Harvey Birch fleeing for his life—captures a fluid sense of motion missing from many contemporary illustrations. By the s, Bentley had new competition in London from publisher W.

Clark, who issued a cheap version of The Spy in with text in two columns per page and illustrations by Calvert interspersed. Bertall's French volume seems to have inspired many of the choices of scenes and character portrayals, even so, several of the illustrations in this volume have a comic quality reminiscent of artwork for Punch magazine during this same era, portraying caricatured stereotypes or illustrating humorous moments in the story the best being the moment when Henry Wharton topples a distracted sentry through an open window Figs.

Back in America, illustration did not come to most of Cooper's works until well after his death in In the case of The Spy , a few special stand-alone illustrations appeared during his lifetime. Lynch Fig. Matteson and Charles Birch, accompanied by a brief reflection by editor Robert A. West Fig. Illustrated editions of the novel itself were slower in coming. This deluxe volume, part of a collected set of Cooper's novels which Townsend promoted as a national literary enterprise—a "splendid" edition of "unsurpassed elegance"—was printed on fine-quality ivory paper and illustrated with engravings based on drawings by Felix Octavius Carr Darley, America's foremost illustrator of the mid-nineteenth century.

The delicate, richly detailed frontispiece engravings of this set of Cooper's works Figs.


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Less familiar are the numerous small vignette illustrations that fill the white space at the ends of chapters Fig. These more minimalistic scenes maintain the sketchier appearance of the original Darley drawings. The Darley illustrations also formed the backbone of the massive presentation volume Pages and Pictures from the Writings of James Fenimore Cooper , which contained excerpts of Cooper's writings with introductory essays by his daughter Susan.

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