Editions so far... (24 Apr 2012)

By Ms Bee Hughes

A cursory glance at the works of Stoker and his contemporaries demonstrated that illustration was a popular and familiar part of the Victorian reading experience. Dickens, for example, worked closely with illustrators to produce pictures to match his work (as demonstrated by the recent British Library exhibition – A Hankering After Ghosts: Charles Dickens and the Supernatural.) It is a little unexpected, then, that Dracula escaped being illustrated in any way for three decades after its publication – and it took until 1985 for an edition illustrated by any means other than photographic stills.

Despite the popularity of the novel among fin-de-siècle readers, and a well received adaptation to the stage in the 1920s, it took the release of Tod Browning’s cinematic adaptation Dracula (Universal, 1931) to prompt the publication of the novel with pictures to accompany the text. In 1930, in anticipation of the forthcoming film, Grosset & Dunlap published an edition complete with stills from the soon-to-be blockbuster.

This tradition has persisted as further cinematic adaptations have been released (see next post for timetable of illustrated editions), with most of the ‘big’ releases accompanied by a stills-illustrated edition of the novel. So, from the very beginning, illustrative representations of Dracula have been unquestionably influenced by the aesthetic choices of cinema.

From the first instance of using film stills to illustrate the novel Stoker’s words become secondary to cinema in the visual representation of Dracula, echoing the shift in recognition of the story by the public. This shift pervades all subsequent visual representations of the novel, including illustrative ones which results in the disruption of the ‘interpenetration’ (Sanchez-Marti, 2011, p. 90) of word and image that is fundamental to the creation of engaging illustrations within the parent text. Where this relationship is interrupted, one observes illustration as page filler – an uncomfortable marriage of artistic vision and literature that fails to provide illumination or elaboration of the text at hand.

Works Cited:
Sanchez-Marti, Jordi, Illustrating Printed Middle English Verse Romances, c. 1500 - c. 1535, Word & Image, 27:1, 90-102 (2011)

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