Festschrift for Tadhg Foley
Edited By Maureen O'Connor
Reading between the Lines Niamh O’Sullivan 135
Reading between the Lines Niamh O’Sullivan The opening editorial of the first issue of the Illustrated London News (ILN) in 1842 declared that ‘[a]rt – as now fostered in the department of wood engraving – has become the bride of literature’, thereby ascribing a subservient or decorative role to illustration.1 Initially, the anxiety was that the essential characteristics of a newspaper would be compromised by the diversion of pictorial elements, but we soon find instances of the pic- ture driving the message – the report becoming subordinate to the image. The written accounts of the Land War in Ireland, for instance, describe an uncontrollable, barbaric race; in contrast, certain illustrators show an increasingly politicized peasantry taking control of their own destiny. In general, however, the success of illustrated journals lay in the symbiotic relationship of image and text, although this balance shifts at different times, in relation to different issues, and from one illustrator to another. Prior to the establishment of the ILN, the visual aspects of the con- ventional press remained undeveloped – quality newspapers rarely used illustrations (or even visually enlivening advertisements) to animate their densely packed pages of text, for fear they would lower the tone of the paper. That said, the circulation of illustrations as ‘extras’ long pre-dated the launch of the illustrated press proper, as lurid illustrations of murders and executions were produced in crude woodcut form and issued with regular newspapers. If newspapers did introduce illustrations to meet the educational limitations of a mass audience, the contrast...
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