Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Cranford becomes a detective story

This is my much-loved, rather battered copy of Cranford. It was once owned by someone called Olive Oxley, about whom I know nothing. I found the book in a junk shop about 40 years ago and I like to think it is now as much mine as it was Olive's.

I have been looking for clues in the book to help me date it. It was published long before ISBNs, catalogue details and all those other pieces of helpful information started to appear in our books.

This edition was published in London by Chapman and Hall Ltd. I did some research and found that this company published Dickens and Thackeray; that Anthony Trollope bought one-third of the company for his son in 1868; that Arthur Waugh (father of Evelyn) was managing director between 1902 and 1930, when the company was merged with Methuen and later became part of the Thompson Corporation.

Enquiring further, I discovered that Cranford was first published as a single volume by Chapman and Hall in 1853 but there was nothing in my copy to show that it was such an early edition.
The next avenue to explore was the printer: The Press Printers Limited, 64 Long Acre, London W.C. Unfortunately that didn't get me very far as the address is now that of a retail outlet for camping equipment.

I turned my attention to the illustrator, Evelyn Paul and discovered that she studied art in Camden and produced illustrations and illuminations for books between 1904 and 1928. Her Cranford illustrations were published in 1910. There is more about her work in the Digital Library of Illuminated Books.

I have always loved to read Cranford, I thoroughly enjoyed the recent dramatisation on BBC television and this little exercise in detection has kept me amused for several hours. I now also have an entirely new distraction to keep me away from the household chores: I want to learn a lot more about illustrators.


  1. It was good fun, e. I'm going to start reading up on illustrators, beginning with Victorian women as that website looked like a good source of information to get me started.

  2. Now that sounds like an interesting thing to get your teeth into - illustrators. Perhaps I should rephrase that... ;-) Good illustrations can really enhance a book. I love the ones in the Sherlock Holmes books for instance and my favourite children's illustrator is Edward Ardizzone. I have a prized copy of Minnow on the Say by Philippa Pearce with gorgeous drawings by him. I'll be interested to see where you go with this.

  3. Cath, I can see I am going to be very busy! I think children's book illustrators would be an excellent study in itself but I'm looking first at Victorian women illustrators, contemporaries of Evelyn Paul. Although that group includes Kate Greenaway, so I could be distracted!

  4. If you are intereted in this subject you might like to look at Illustration magazine. Their website is www.illustration-mag.com

  5. Brideofthebookgod, what a wonderful nickname! Thanks for the reference, I'll be going over there next.

  6. Fascinating subject M - but then I've always been fascinated by book illustrations. So, having read your post, I picked up two books that happened to be close at hand and then, you know how it is, a few thoughts were suddenly turning into a full blown post. So that's what I'm doing - writing a post on the subject to complement yours - with full credit to Random D, for setting the wheels in motion.

  7. I love it when my distractions distract someone else, D. I'll be over to see what you have to say.


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