Wood engraving as ghostwriting: the Dalziel Brothers, losing one's name, and other hazards of the trade

Stevens, Bethan (2019) Wood engraving as ghostwriting: the Dalziel Brothers, losing one's name, and other hazards of the trade. Textual Practice, 33 (4). pp. 645-677. ISSN 0950-236X

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This paper focuses on the work of the Dalziel Brothers, the foremost wood engraving firm in the Victorian period. It explores the problematics of authorship in an art factory with many employees who all signed ‘Dalziel’. Examining wood engraving formally, theoretically and technically, it proposes ghostwriting as an analogy for the work done by facsimile engravers. Their work is read alongside the literature they illustrated, including Wilkie Collins's After Dark (1856), Anthony Trollope's Orley Farm (1861–1862) and Lewis Carroll's Through the Looking-Glass (1871). I investigate the wood engraver's business of artistically producing someone else's lines, and carving other people's signatures. Mechanics, or creation? The line, the autograph, and the signature are powerful elements of the way we understand artistic identity. A wood engraver who signs for someone else is a paradox, undermining assumptions about creative work. Orley Farm, one of Dalziel's most successful illustrated novels, is itself a meditation on the fraudulent act of signing another's name. This paper compares different ‘Dalziel’ signatures, proposing the signature as a kind of self portrait that can help uncover the voices of unknown engraver-employees; it also presents new archival evidence about some of these employees, such as Ann and Mary Byfield from Islington.

Item Type: Article
Keywords: Wood engraving; illustration; Victorian literature; signature; authorship
Schools and Departments: School of English > English
Research Centres and Groups: Centre for Creative and Critical Thought
Subjects: N Fine Arts
N Fine Arts > NE Print media
N Fine Arts > NE Print media > NE1000 Wood engraving
P Language and Literature
P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General) > PN0045 Theory. Philosophy. Esthetics
P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General) > PN3311 Prose. Prose fiction
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Depositing User: Bethan Stevens
Date Deposited: 31 Aug 2017 15:37
Last Modified: 19 Jul 2019 13:45
URI: http://sro.sussex.ac.uk/id/eprint/69962

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Project NameSussex Project NumberFunderFunder Ref
Wood Engraving and the Future of Word-Image Narratives: The Dalziel Family 1839-1893G1706AHRC-ARTS & HUMANITIES RESEARCH COUNCILAH/M008584/1