Books still get read (never mind the statistics), but, graphic art no longer seriously joins the push. In the 19th century heyday of ravenous literacy, the subjects of celebrity, history/politics, and science/ technology seldom became a fervid interest. Nor was the enshrinement of “unforgettable characters” the name of the game. Fictional stories, on the other hand, being recognizably touched by what was known as “Romantic tone,” became staples for many thousands of neo-bourgeois thinkers.
It is the repository of discreet Romantic rebelliousness which formed the first wave of illustrative input in the circulation of widespread Western literature. Another aspect of this early modern phenomenon was that of premiering the novels (or poetry) by way of serialization in multi-purpose magazines. The covers of these magazines often comprised visual evocations of the literary payload.
We’ll begin this tracing of that compound with an extraordinarily provocative assault upon Age of Enlightenment prosaicness. Milady and her entourage proclaim themselves, without a word spoken, to be–appearances notwithstanding–hard at work with fathoming the instinctive priorities not likely to be clearing up the Industrial Revolution any time soon. But, as we’ll see in the rest of the entries, mystery itself becomes a triumph of sorts.
The Chap Book–an American literary magazine that lasted only four years (1894-1898)–definitely did not live long; but the care redolent in this fabulous and revolutionary cover illustration, by Frank Hazenplug, conveys the momentum characteristic of the wider enterprise.
Areas of flat composition and simplified color fields quite magically transform the overdressed, antiquated modesty to a sort of road warrior rolling along in the vicinity of daring endeavors.
Here, a sort of medieval (Arts and Craft, radical) idyll becomes an early modern profit centre. The rather eerie apparition has been enlisted to suggest the mysticism underway.
“Depeche” or “Dispatch,” spells information quickly and effectively presented. The telegraph feature celebrates the new and the improved, thus harnassing Enlightenment techiness to a new field of emotional investigation. The Romantic heroine basks in a clientele eager to go places never seen in the past.
The contents of this magazine would not be for the faint of heart!
This Spanish magazine from the beginning of the 20th century rejigs biblical mobilization to open the door to something completely different and completely daring!
Following up with Part Two, we will discuss more recent literature afloat by vintage poster art.