Book illustrations have existed in some form or the other since the introduction of the written word. Modern book illustrations have originated from western literature during the 15th century where block books contained text that was carved in the same block as the image. Pauper’s Bible which was the most famous among the block books looked something like a medieval graphic novel.
The practice of publishing adult fiction that was accompanied by representational images can be traced back to the 18th and 19th century western literature and the rise of the novel. Charles Dickens had a close collaborative relationship with illustrators. Dickens would provide an illustrator with an outline of his plot before he wrote the text. He would closely monitor the illustrations to ensure that they precisely match with his own conceptions.
During the 20th century, trends in book publishing and visual art have changed considerably. The practice of publishing visual representations with text in adult literature significantly declined. Book illustrations were associated with children’s books and popular writing. During the middle of the 20th century, it was rare to find book illustrations in new works of literary fiction.
One of the reasons behind the decline of book illustrations is the shortage in talented book illustrators. It became rare to find an illustrator who has a traditional view of book illustration like the ones that dominated the 18th and 19th centuries. There was also a lack of demand for traditional book illustrations in adult fiction. Skillful examples of book illustrations in the 20th century can be found in popular children’s literature.
The introduction of e-books and digital publishing has rekindled the interest in books as objects of beauty. Illustrations were placed alongside literary books. Once again, writers and artists collaborated to create modern illustrations that will match with text. For an artist, the unique experience of creating an illustration to complement one’s vision has become an exercise in humility.
Impressive custom book illustrations can be created by Maria Rabinky to complement captivating word choice. Through book illustrations, the inside of a book can be equally beautiful as the cover. Artistic masterpieces can make a book irresistible.