The Dark Plate of Dombey and Son

Dickens sitting in a rocking chair with a phantasmagoria of images unspooling out of his head, all his characters he created
Buss, Robert William; Dickens’s Dream; Charles Dickens Museum, London; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/dickenss-dream-191221

Illustrations! When did books lose their way and stop putting them in?

At one point in Victorian literature, they were MORE IMPORTANT than the story! Yes, stop rolling your eyes. You see, at first Dickens’ phenomenon-starting The Pickwick Papers, was intended as window dressing for illustrator Robert Seymour’s drawings. However, floored by Dickens’ incredible imagination and energy, Seymour found the story dominated the drawings. Unable to keep pace and already in a bad mental state, Seymour committed suicide after several chapters had been published.

Still, illustrations remained key to Dickens’ stories for the rest of his career. Soon afterward, “Boz” (Dickens’ pen name) hired Hablot K. Browne (“Phiz”), who illustrated his books for the next 24 years. The popular images of many of Dickens’ characters: Scrooge, Uriah Heep, Wackford Squeers, and more come from Phiz’s faithful drawings.

And what great art! Let’s look at a special one.

Enter Dombey and Son, Dickens’ career hinge-point novel.

“On the Dark Road” by Phiz, relating a night scene of the novel uniquely featured a pre-tinted plate out of which the scene was drawn, one of the earliest examples of this method.

Dark grayscale drawing of a carriage with horses feeling down a dark road
“On the Dark Road” by Phiz

Illustrations!

When you look at one so dark and exhilarating, don’t you want them back?

Come see “the Dark Plate” for yourself up in Special Collections and University Archives!

Summer Hours

Starting after Memorial Day, the reading room will be open 10-4, Monday-Thursday.

2 adult swans, 3 babies
1971 Bomb, page 64

As always, we can also be reached by email at archives@iastate.edu. Hope everyone has a fun and restful summer planned!

Lovely Sights in Kyoto

Print of Fushimi Inari Taisha in Kyoto with traditionally clad Japanese women going under the red arches and climbing steps.
Fushimi Inari Taisha, T. Kamei

For a great reason, Kyoto is the dream of many: a city so far away from our understanding of normal that its temples, rock gardens, forests, and districts float like a dream on our eyes.

Founded officially in 794, Kyoto eventually served as Japan’s imperial capital for over 1,000 years until post Meiji restoration, when the capital moved to Tokyo. However, Kyoto’s grand cultural monuments and atmosphere remain astounding. Here in Ames, Iowa, how can we voyage to so great a place?

Easily. In Special Collections, there is a gorgeous and simple print book Ten Lovely Sights in Kyoto, which gently captures Kyoto’s beauty. At the top is Fushimi Inari Taisha, one of the most popular shrines in Kyoto, famous for its thousands of torii gates spanning a whole mountainside.

Autumn image of Tofukuji, with yellow, orange, and red trees surrounding the wooden temple.
Tofukuji, T. Kamei

Another famous sight is Tofukuji Temple, renowned especially for its fall foliage. Kyoto’s autumn colors are genuinely dazzling, ruby splashes across the mountainsides. Built originally in 1236, crowds gather on Tofukuji’s Tsutenkyo Bridge to look upon a red, orange, and yellow sea of maple leaves.

Come up to Special Collections and University Archives to see the other prints. It’ll be the best part of your day!

No Don Quixote? The Massive Influence of Amadis of Gaul

Lush action-packed painting of two knights battling. A gold knight on a white horse defends against a blow from a black-armored knight.
Confrontation of Knights in the Countryside by Eugene Delacroix, 1834

What’s a world without Don Quixote?

Imagine a Twilight Zone episode where the most influential novel of all time never existed. . .

All the books you love suddenly vanish out of your hands.

Books are more serious.

No Sancho Panza.

Yes, that’s right.

Yet what influenced the most influential?

Almost entirely forgotten except by the nerdiest of literary scholars (ahem, yes your friendly blog writer counts), a series of Spanish and Portuguese novels called Amadis of Gaul electrified the Iberian Peninsula with a mania for noble deeds, sorcery, and knights. Raised in Scotland by the knight Gandales, Amadis loves and battles his way through a series of adventures.

Over time, Spanish readers got deluged by sequels, threequels, fourquels, eightquels and more of Amadis of Gaul, written by various writers, and the market ballooned, many could not get enough of noble adventures!

Enter Don Quixote.

Amused and annoyed by the phenomena of knightly novels, Miguel de Cervantes got inspired to parody the genre. In Don Quixote, he singles out Amadis of Gaul as the progenitor of all the knightly novels and the finest. It is Don Quixote’s favorite book.

Discover for yourself this old masterpiece in a beautiful old edition at Special Collections and University Archives!

%d bloggers like this: