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Sandro Jung, James Thomson’s The Seasons, Print Culture, and Visual Interpretation, 1730-1842 (Lehigh University Press, May 2015)
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“Sandro Jung’s study of The Seasons is a fresh and stimulating history of the publishing and marketing of one of the most popular texts of the eighteenth century. But it is also far more than that. This book radically extends our understanding of the cultural and economic value of Thomson’s poem by investigating its visual readings and its complex cultural afterlife within and far beyond Britain as the poem’s imagery morphed across an astonishing range of visual arts, including engravings in books, prints, cartoons, ceramics, furniture, and music. The result is a persuasive demonstration of the intersections between technology, aesthetics, commerce, market, and reception.”
— James Raven, University of Essex and Magdalene College, University of Cambridge
“Here is the writing of a fresh new chapter in the scholarship of The Seasons. Consideration of print, paratexts, pictures, price, and pocket diaries all make for the richest contextualisation yet of the production and consumption of James Thomson’s poetic masterpiece from its first appearance to the early decades of the nineteenth century.”
— Gerard Carruthers, Francis Hutcheson Professor of Scottish Literature, University of Glasgow
Drawing on the methods of textual and reception studies, book history, print culture research, and visual culture, this interdisciplinary study of James Thomson’s The Seasons (1730) understands the text as marketable commodity and symbolic capital which throughout its extended affective presence in the marketplace for printed literary editions shaped reading habits. At the same time, through the addition of paratexts such as memoirs of Thomson, notes, and illustrations, it was recast by changing readerships, consumer fashions, and ideologies of culture. The book investigates the poem’s cultural afterlife by charting the prominent place it occupied in the visual cultures of eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century Britain. While the emphasis of the chapters is on printed visual culture in the form of book illustrations, the book also features discussions of paintings and other visual media such as furniture prints. Reading illustrations of iconographic moments from The Seasons as paratextual, interpretive commentaries that reflect multifarious reading practices as well as mentalities, the chapters contextualise the editions in light of their production and interpretive inscription. They introduce these editions’ publishers and designers who conceived visual translations of the text, as well as the engravers who rendered these designs in the form of the engraving plate from which the illustration could then be printed. Where relevant, the chapters introduce non-British illustrated editions to demonstrate in which ways foreign booksellers were conscious of British editions of The Seasons and negotiated their illustrative models in the sets of engraved plates they commissioned for their volumes.
About the Author
Sandro Jung is research professor of early modern British literature and founding director of the Centre for the Study of Text and Print Culture at Ghent University.