Pre-Raphaelite Illustrators

The Pre-Raphaelites created beautiful works of art from the mid nineteenth century which were highly distinctive and, at the time, revolutionary. Whilst their major works which include paintings, sculpture and stained glass are best known, some of the artists also illustrated books and we can enjoy these without the need to travel to an art gallery.

My personal favourite is the Poems of Christina Rossetti (who was also a member of the Pre-Raphaelite group), illustrated by Florence Harrison. Published in 1910, the books benefits from recent innovations in the printing industry which enabled the artist's paintings to be reproduced faithfully, including their their rich use of deep, saturated colours.

The book also includes numerous line drawings and ornaments in the text, which would be enough in most books. But it is the colour plates which really make it special.

The plates are 'tipped in' - glued along one edge only and attached to grey backing paper.
The plate is then protected with a tissue guard to stop the ink transferring to the opposite page.

We'll never own a Pre-Raphaelite masterpiece like Waterhouse's famous Lady of Shalott. But we can certainly enjoy our illustrated books as works of art in miniature.
John William Waterhouse, The Lady of Shalott (1888), now at Tate Britain.
It stands about 6 feet (2 metres) high.