King's College London
Exhibitions & Conferences
From woodcut to photograph: techniques of book illustration

Late Victorian wood engraving

Wood engraving of a boy peeking out of the door at goblinsWood engraving of a boy peeking out of the door at goblinsThe revival of wood engraving as a means of illustration, pioneered by Bewick in the early 19th century, was later embraced enthusiastically by the Pre-Raphaelite painters and their associates.

Leading artists such as Dante Gabriel Rossetti, John Everett Millais, William Holman Hunt and Arthur Hughes drew their designs directly onto the wood block, instead of merely providing the engraver with a sketch or painting to copy. They produced illustrations of great beauty, originality and finesse, of which Rossetti’s illustrations for the poems of Tennyson are probably the best known.

Arthur Hughes (1832-1915) specialised in the illustration of children’s books, such as Christina Rossetti’s collection of her own nursery rhymes, Sing-song, and the stories of George MacDonald. His designs, at once simple and imaginative, were perfectly suited to the illustration of books for children and his collaboration with MacDonald lasted for over 40 years.

MacDonald (1824-1905), a former Congregationalist minister who also lectured briefly at King’s College London, wrote prolifically for both adults and children and his writings embodied his deep Christian beliefs.

He is best known today for his magical children’s stories, such as The princess and the goblin, whose symbolic mysticism influenced many later writers, such as CS Lewis and Maurice Sendak. First published in 1872 with wood engravings by Hughes, it is shown here in a later edition which re-uses Hughes’ illustrations.

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