To what extent does the method an illustration is produced contribute to it's meaning?

Submitted By LauraEddleston
Words: 1695
Pages: 7

To what extent does the method by which an illustration is reproduced (e.g. wood, engraving, etching) determine it's meaning and relation to the text?

The method by which an illustration is reproduced is a particularly important factor to consider when determining the meaning and relation of an image to the text. There are three main forms of illustration which I will be exploring in this paper: etching, engraving and photography. Methodology contributes to the over all effect of an illustration and establishes a connection between text and image. Each form of illustration has positive and negative factors which give explanation as to why some methods are better suited to different types of texts.

The technique used by illustrators impacts greatly on the meaning of the text depicted in the illustration. The most popular form of illustration in the eighteenth century was Etching. This form of illustration is a very complex and time consuming process. Etching is achieved through the use of many different needles; of which come in a variety of sizes and styles. Incisions are made in a plate using these needles, the procedure is long and multifaceted. Etchings were popular within topographical and architectural books as they display important details without having to interpret words . There are many reasons which would explain why etching was fashionable amongst this style of text; two of which are significant. The first observation made concerns the physical divide between text and image. Etchings can not be placed on the same page as text, titles must be hand written on to the image and placed on an entirely separate page. This dilemma determines a lack of relation between image and text and the illustration begins to seem impersonal. The reader can apply a secondary opinion on the text through observing the illustration before or after reading and interpreting the words due to this physical divide. Considering this lack of relation between the image and text, etched illustrations were used in novels and short stories. George Cruikshank is well known for his etched illustrations, especially those he produced for texts by Charles Dickens. Dickens would include 'most of the important details in the etching, he yet clearly maintained a decided authorial independence'1. This demonstrates that certain authors believed in the separation between image and text, outlining that the meaning of a illustration is second to that of words.

The second significant detail about etching is the complicated method of production. Mistakes can be made during the lengthy construction of the design. It can be argued that etching therefore gives a greater meaning to the text. The etched illustration displays artistic initiative and interpretation. The etcher can apply flamboyancy and imagination to the illustration. Although, this is not widely appreciated by those supplying text to home the illustration. With the slightest resistance, the etcher can consequently 'command spontaneity of expression almost equal to that in drawing with the pen or pencil'2. There is an ability of inaccuracy which can further blur the relationship between an etched illustration and the text. Etchings reflect the text, but can adapt the meaning. This suggests that individuals observing each illustration will have different and broad views on the meaning of the etching in relation to the text. Etchings were produced in black and white, which leads to the illustration lacking some expression. Coloured illustrations were not commonly heard of during the emergence of etching. This meant that the black and white method of etching did not experience competition during the early period. It was not uncommon for illustrations to be hand-coloured. An otherwise tedious task, hand-colouring illustrations became a hobby for a large quantity of women. This colouring method gave the illustrations a new lease of life and clarified the meaning of individual illustrations