History of the Book

Impact of Swift’s Work

            The work of Gulliver’s Travels into Some Remote Regions of the World (Gulliver’s Travels)written by Jonathan Swift has many different editions and versions since it was first published in 1726 (Brady 1). Although the story of this book remains relatively the same, in which the protagonist, Gulliver, speaks in first person as he tells the story of how and where he traveled. He opens with the comment of where he comes from, which is Nottinghamshire. The story continues and Gulliver tells his tale of traveling to Lilliput and Brobdingnag, as this edition only has the first two parts of the book. (Swift 5, 99 [1909]). There are other editions that include all four parts, in which Gulliver travels to other places and recounts his adventures that he has, which is seen in the 1892 version of this book (Swift [2009]). However, the 1909 edition has sixty illustrations and those illustrations impact the way Gulliver’s Travels was read in America. Considering that the novels that were published during this time were the works that are classics, such as The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by Frank Baum, Sailing Alone Around the World by Joshua Slocum, The Call of the Wild by Jack London, and Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery, it is understandable why Gulliver’s Travels was viewed the way it was (Timeline). These books have a sense of adventure, and they became widely popular, so the theme of travel continues in Gulliver’s Travels. This may have had a small part in why Swift’s work was so popular during the 1900s in America, since it was talked about by scholars and critics in the early twentieth century, seen in Twentieth Century Interpretations of Gulliver’s Travels, in which Frank Brady edited a collection of critical essays (Brady 4). Regarding illustrations, Chris Russell, a scholar who writes for the Literary Hub, believes that “book illustrations has existed in some form since the advent of the written word” (Russell). As studied in class, illustrations were seen on manuscripts in which “the text of a book was carved into the same block as the image,” which is something Russell talks about as well. He goes on to say that the practice of publishing adult fiction that have illustrations is “strongly linked with eighteenth and nineteenth century western literature” (Russell). Illustrations have been around before the codex, and will continue to be seen in books because they clearly have an impact on readers. Joan Boudreau, a curator for the Smithsonian National Museum of American History in the division of Culture and the Arts, wrote on the brief history of book binding, and she says, “American inventions associated with the book were having a bit of a boom between the 1850s and the 1880s.” This is interesting because this timeframe is just before the publication of the 1909 edition of Gulliver’s Travels. This means that the 1909 edition of the book was made when there was technology available, regardless of the fact the technology was relatively new. One invention in 1868 changed the way books were bound, which was created by an Irish-born American, David McConnell Smyth, who created the first book-sewing machine, which allowed books to be bound with a single thread sewn through the folds (Boudreau). By the time it was 1890, there was a more efficient machine that allowed books to be bound at a faster rate, called a case-making machine, as introduced by scholars in the University of Massachusetts (Casper et al. 224). The illustrations, cover illustration, and the binding found in the work of Gulliver’s Travels that was published in 1909 are factors that impacted the readership of Americans during this time.

            Elaborating on the technology that was available in the late nineteenth to early twentieth centuries, scholars at the University of Texas talk about the invention of the Bullock Press, which was the first press to be fed by continuous roll paper, and this invention is still used in printing presses today (Printing Yesterday and Today). Something that was created in 1865 still has an impact on the creation of books. This timeframe also saw the inventions of monotype and linotype machines, which helped make the printing process more efficient (Printing Yesterday and Today). The Bullock Press made the process easier because the paper that went into the machines were self-feeding instead of fed by hand, which allowed later models to produce 30,000 pages per hour (Printing Yesterday and Today). Before linotype and monotype machines were available, “all type was set and composed by hand.” Now, the use of these machines needs a mechanical way of setting type, “which was much more efficient than hand composition” (Printing Yesterday and Today). These inventions eventually led to the machines we have today, and changed the course of book-making and bookbinding techniques. Chromolithography was also something that was readily used in the early 1900s, according to scholars in the University of Massachusetts (Casper et al. 224). Margie Dana, a marketing writer who has her own business helping companies to create and curate great content, shares, “chromolithography is a method for making multi-color prints using stones or metal plates.” This process is a chemical process and involves pressure in order to create an image onto a page of a book (Dana). This is something that was used to make illustrations in books during the late 1800s and early 1900s, and could have been a possible method used for the illustrations of Gulliver’s Travels. In contrast, the book cover illustrations were done differently: by wood engravings, as explained by the Gale and Ira Drukier Curator of Prints, Drawings, and Photographs, Nancy E. Green, in an article by Cornell University. She also gives a little bit of background on wood engravings: “the history of the medium of wood engraving evolved from the oldest printing technique, woodcut…which goes back to the fifteenth century” (Green). She makes an interesting statement that this started to decline in the nineteenth century, but some artists wanted to keep this technique and so in 1920, wood engraving was still a way to illustrate book covers (Green). Ellen Mazur Thomson wrote a journal article on the issues of book cover design that was published by Oxford University Press, in which she states, “American publishers regarded cloth bindings as permanent, rather than temporary covering and saw decorated cloth as an important advertising tool” (230). This is interesting because it regards the way book covers were made as well as how they were bound during this timeframe. She also talks about the materials that were available to bind books, especially for American publishers. She says that “Americans were more adventurous in the variety of leathers they used for bindings” (Thomson 234). This tells us that leather was common to use for binding, since the books we have now have a hardback or paperback cover. A scholar who wrote an article for American Printer and Lithographer states that case-making machines are still used today, as they are available for purchase (Smith). Another scholar who wrote an article in the same book as Smith, talks about case-making and how it’s a relatively new concept, “the modern bookbinder has at his command the complex machinery of modern invention” (Gress). Case-making is relatively new in terms of the history of bookbinding, yet, it was available when the 1909 edition of Gulliver’s Travels was released. So, at the end of the nineteenth century and beginning of twentieth century, technology was available and used to create books, provide illustrations, and make book binding an efficient possibility.

Moving on to how chromolithography was used to create illustrations within the books, “the image is applied to a porous limestone or zinc plate with a grease-based crayon or ink [then] the stone is coated [then] paper is placed on the inked image and run through a printing press to transfer the image…using pressure” (Dana). This is most likely how the illustrations in Gulliver’s Travels were done because the illustrations in this edition are not colorful, since lithography was first used for monochromatic colors (Dana). Color came later and the process was more tedious because each color was on a different stone and then printed onto the paper (Dana). Since color was harder to do, it would make sense that the only illustrations that have color in Gulliver’s Travels is in the cover illustration as well as the first illustration before the title page (Swift [1909]). Chris Russell argues that “trends in both book publishing and visual art shifted considerably in the twentieth century…and book illustration became increasingly associated with children’s literature.” He continues by mentioning that “figurative art was shunned in the art world as outdated and taboo” (Russell). However, it is interesting that Gulliver’s Travels remained a popular novel even though the 1909 edition has sixty illustrations and was read by people of all ages. On the other hand, these illustrations are more literal than figurative, so they could have been more easily accepted by the American society. These illustrations change the way the book is read because readers can visualize the narrative story of the book more readily when there are illustrations to look at.

For example, in the first part of Gulliver’s Travels, when Gulliver is washed ashore in Lilliput, and he is tied down, he mentions the stage that was built: “I saw a stage erected about a foot and a half from the ground, capable of holding four of the inhabitants, with two or three ladders to mount it” (Swift 10 [1909]). In the illustration that is on the next page, there are four inhabitants on the stage, however, one of them looks like he barely has enough room, therefore disallowing him to have a visual on Gulliver. So, this illustration can give the reader an idea of what that stage might look like, but it is inaccurate in the demonstration of having enough room for four inhabitants. This impacts readership because it’s not a completely literal illustration, which is something that Russell was talking about. Americans in the early 1900s wanted illustrations to help them “identify with Gulliver in his travels, even while recognizing his naiveté in the First Voyage and vanity in the Second” (Brady 6). In this example, Gulliver’s ‘naiveté’ is seen when he is overwhelmed by the royal attention that the emperor had given him, even though he is strong and big enough to destroy them all, but he acts like they have power over him (Swift 14, 16 [1909]). Another example of when illustration is used to impact readers is when Gulliver is in Brobdingnag, and the situation is reversed, where he is a little person in a world of giants. He tells his story of being in a small box, “Whenever I had a mind to see the town, it was always in my traveling closet, which Glumdalclitch held in her lap in a kind of open sedan, after the fashion of the country, borne by four men and attended by two others” (Swift 145 [1909]). The illustration that talks about this scene is on following page, and it impacts the reader because the illustration lacks setting, other than the sedan and a crowd of people. There is no sense of the people of Brobdingnag being giant-like, and Gulliver himself is very difficult to see, which takes away the impact because it isn’t clear that there’s a strain from the crowd to take a look at him. However, the drawing of Gulliver shows the contrast in the size, but at first glance, he looks like a smudge on paper. This illustration is also impactful in that there were men who carried the sedan in which Glumdalclitch sat in, because when it’s first read, the reader doesn’t visualize the sedan without wheels. The illustration reinforces that it was indeed a sedan that was pulled by men, even though the illustration clearly shows two men, instead of four. Brady argues that “we recognize ourselves in the Lilliputians or in Gulliver in Brobdingnag, we become aware of our pettiness” (75). These two illustrations support this argument because when we’re on top, as the Lilliputians were when Gulliver was tied down, we tend to think of ourselves better than others. The reader also might realize their own pettiness as they critique the illustrations they see as they’re reading the story and by criticizing how they would have liked to see the illustration done. On the other hand, when we’re forced to think less of ourselves, we tend to make ourselves a lot smaller than we are. With the idea of pettiness in mind, the meaning of the illustrations is changed because the work Brady edited had the views of how people in the twentieth century viewed Gulliver’s Travels. The illustrations reinforce the views and it could either impact readers in a negative or positive way, depending on whether they change the petty views or not. Also, ‘vanity’ was mentioned before, and it is seen in the second voyage when the people of Brobdingnag treat Gulliver as a precious toy for their own causes. They were so self-absorbed in what they wanted and how they felt that they disregarded Gulliver and the fact that he was still a human (Swift 135-139 [1909]). Since readers of the twentieth century had these ideas in mind, the illustrations have an impact because the pettiness, naiveté, and vanity become subtly seen in the illustrations as well as in the stories that Gulliver talks about.  

Another interesting thing that was previously mentioned is the fact that the illustration

just before the title page is the only illustration that has color. Henry Ward, author of Process: The Photomechanics of Printed Illustration, talks about the chromolithography and he mentions that monochromatic colors were cheaper and easier since each stone did not have to be a different color (44). This can make one wonder whether color or monochromatic illustrations were more common in this period. If color was just starting to be seen in illustrations, since the technology for it was relatively new, then monochromatic was more common in this period. Although, it is possible that the printing press decided to make the rest of the book monochromatic to either save money, or because that’s what they were accustomed to. This changes the way readers view the book, because the one page of illustration that has color sets up an expectation that the rest of the illustrations might also be colored. Since the rest of the book is monochromatic, then readers might begin to wonder why. This curiosity impacts readers they are also made aware of the fact that both options (color and monochromatic) were used in the creation of illustrations.

            As far as technology goes for the cover illustrations, chromolithography could have been

a way that book covers had color in them, however, it doesn’t seem to be the most common way of illustrating. According to Norman Rockwell Museum, the illustrations were mostly hand-drawn at this time or they had used wood engravings, which was briefly mentioned. To use the wood engraving technique, one would need to cut a wood block “from a smoothed plank cut longitudinally from the tree trunk…once the design has been established by cutting away the wood…the block is inked with a small roller called a brayer…and then put through the printing press” (Green). It’s interesting why this technique was still favored despite the tedious work that was put into it, but hand-drawing a cover illustration also took time. Scholars at the Norman Rockwell Museum comment on hand-drawn illustrations: “Techniques borrowed from the nineteenth-century poster-artists gradually infiltrated the book industry” (Book: Cover Art). This tells us that artists were still favored, especially since they could illustrate in a way that attracted buyers. The use of artists was also something that publishers were looking for, not just the mechanical use of chromolithography (Book: Cover Art). Essentially, publishers and printing presses had two main options for how they wanted the cover of their book to be illustrated: by hand, or using wood engravings. Thomson mentions that there was a lot of criticism in the illustrations of book covers during the early twentieth century. People wanted “the cover design [to] express or in some manner be related to the content of the book” (Thomson 237). This was something critics debated about as early as 1848, not long before the 1909 edition of Gulliver’s Travels was published, when an English publisher Joseph Cundall agreed, ‘every book should be decorated as far as possible in accordance with its contents’ (qtd in Thomson 237). These two statements can be seen in the cover of Gulliver’s Travels. The character of Gulliver is in the front, while there is a castle of some sort in the background. It is unclear whether the castle is one of the voyages, Lilliput or Brobdingnag, or if it’s a representation of England, where Gulliver is from. If it is a representation of England, then it’s interesting how the illustration of Gulliver is much bigger than the castle, because Swift wanted to talk about “education and politics…science” and his goal was to create a satire about England and other countries (Brady 26). This cover illustration has an impact on readers because the stance that Gulliver is taking in the illustration gives a certain kind of focus to what Gulliver’s main ideas about various issues are, such as government, war, and politics. It also gives the idea that what Swift is saying through this book is more important, yet it’s still said in a satirical way. The colors that are seen in the cover illustration of this edition is intriguing, and makes one wonder why it was colored the way it was. Those who wrote for the Norman Rockwell Museum make an interesting point, which is “in the post-war era, book covers became vitally important as the book became commercially competitive” (Book: Cover Art). This could mean that Gulliver’s Travels may have been popular because of the unique and interesting cover. Considering that there was competition, publishers had to re-create the designing of book covers in order to catch the buyer’s attention. This specific edition had an impact on readers who bought the book because some argue that “it is the reader, the person who own it, who cares for it, who is going to have a certain feeling about the book, to whom the book cover will have significance” (Thomson 231). The critics in Thomson’s journal article mention that the cover of a book was important for readers because the illustrations gave them a certain feeling and it had a significant impact on them, resulting in their purchase of the book. This cover illustration has interesting streaks of red and blue, along with the green background. The red and blue colors may have been used on purpose to either show the contrast, or to show tension. The red could have also been used to signify danger because it’s in the title, on the castle’s roof, on the pathway to the castle, and on Gulliver’s clothes. The colors could have subconsciously warned readers about the content of this book. According to Robert McCrum, a writer for The Guardian, “[this book] has never been out of print since the day it first appeared.” Granted, McCrum is talking about the first edition of the book, which came out in 1726, however, the fact that this book “sold out its first printing in less than a week” (McCrum). This reveals the idea that people bought this book, and were interested in this book ever since it came out. This idea is also supported by the editor of The Cambridge Companion to Jonathan Swift published by Cambridge University Press, Christopher Fox, “Gulliver’s Travels quickly became a conversation piece, and soon it was a classic…as the best-selling text written in English for almost three centuries” (216). If this book was first published in 1726, three centuries later is already considered the twenty-first century, thus establishing the book as a popular work.

            The final thing that impacted readers was the binding of the book itself. People at Norman Rockwell Museum say that books were hand-bound before the early nineteenth century, and that “book bindings functioned as a protective device” (Book: Cover Art). This means that there was a lot of work put into the actual binding of the book until case-making machines and the Bullock Press came about. Hand-bound books don’t have the seamless seams of the case-making machine that Smyth invented, and now this machine creates binds in which the thread is hidden behind the binding of a book (Library Quality). Gress talks about the usage of the case-maker to bind books and starts by clarifying “the modern bookbinder’s work is far more difficult and more varied than that of our grandfathers’ day [because] the work done is not only artistic and thoro, but of almost infinite variety” (Gress). One would need to create a binding and decide whether they wanted a full leather binding, half leather, or three-quarters leather, or if they want to use leather at all. Although, the scholar does appreciate the quickness of a machine to make large orders for bookbinding (Gress). The 1909 edition of Gulliver’s Travels has a hardback cover, however there is a cloth-like material that is used as well. The case-making machines can use cloth instead of leather, which is most likely how this edition was made. This kind of book cover impacts readers, and buyers, because if it was bound with leather, the reaction most likely would have been different. It may have been possible that people were starting to steer away from the use of leather as a binding method. If this was the case, then it is also possible that a cloth-covered book was easier to use when it was read. Another thing that is interesting is that bindings were used as protection, meaning that people may not have cared what their binding looked like until the 1820s, when “change began to occur in how a book might be covered” (Book: Cover Art). When this change took place, the “binder’s first decision was to choose the background color” (Thomson 237). When it was close to the 1900s, binding was an issue that was heavily debated, as well as what would get buyers to buy them (Thomson 229). These decisions now impact the reader because they might not pick up a book that has a background color that they didn’t like, or they could reject a book because of the way the illustration was done. To quote Henri Marius Michel, one of the critics who was a part of the debate in Thomson’s journal, “The binding should be designed to enclose a specific work whose meaning, tone and character would be evoked for the reader before he opened it” (Thomson 231). This changed the way publishers looked at cover illustrations because suddenly binding was something that mattered to people, and they needed to create covers that would be bought. In the early twentieth century, people were critiquing different kinds of bindings and analyzed what books were bought and the kind of binding those books came with.

            To conclude, Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift is a satirical novel on the issues England faced with its society and other countries. Fox mentions that “writers [in this time] saw themselves as performing a crucial cultural, social, and political role” in their books, Swift being one of these writers (220). However, this edition of Gulliver’s Travels would not have existed without technology, regardless of what Swift was trying to do through his main character. Technology plays a big part in determining the impact of this edition to its readers. The decisions that went behind the illustrations, cover illustration, and the binding of this book influenced the ultimate view on the book in America during the late nineteenth century and going into the twentieth century. We would not have realized the naiveté, pettiness, vanity that are seen in the illustrations of Gulliver’s Travels, as well as the drastic colors and the tension in the cover illustration, and the different options that were available for the binding of the book, and how they changed the way the book was viewed if the technology did not exist when it did. Technology also plays a role in the way the 1909 edition of Gulliver’s Travels is seen by readers and how the different decisions impacted how the book was read in the twentieth century in America. The existence of chromolithography was important because it created a faster way to print illustrations, rather than hand-drawing them or using wood engravings. However, the use of wood engravings was still a common technique because it was used for the cover illustrations of books, which required more effort for advertising and marketing purposes. Case-makings was also a big invention because the printing of books became much faster and was more efficient. This helped printing presses print a large number of books in a shorter amount of time. Case-making machines became available because of Smyth’s invention of the book-sewing machine in 1868, and this invention led to the use of mechanical techniques for setting type, seen in the monotype and linotype machines. After researching the history of bookbinding and illustrations, one can see how much things have changed and how different things are now. However, that doesn’t mean that this history should be ignored; in fact, it should be known in order to know how impactful the 1909 edition of Gulliver’s Travels into Some Remote Regions of the World really is for readers all around the world.




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