This article offers an account of all illustrated editions of William Falconer's The Shipwreck (1762), including anthologies such as John Roach's Beauties, that were produced up to the end of the handpress period. It examines both the illustrations of specific scenes or moments from the poem and other visual paratext. In addition to providing a detailed study of the editions, including their marketing and pricing, it focuses on interpretive shifts in the illustrations—from exclusively ship- and shipwreck-related iconography, to the expression of human concerns, especially in terms of the tragic-sentimental mode that characterizes a large number of these illustrations. The illustrations will not be discussed in isolation but will be related to how artists at various exhibitions in that period engaged with Falconer's work and made present various aspects of it. In its comprehensive coverage of how publishers catered to different groups of buyers, the essay recovers a hitherto uncharted visual archive stemming from Falconer's poem. Questions related to readership, visual literacy, the commodification of the visual images accompanying The Shipwreck, and the role illustrations played in the mediation of the work will underpin my account of how the visual apparatuses added to editions affected the marketing and reception of Falconer's poem.
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Sandro Jung; The Visual Anatomy of Falconer's The Shipwreck, 1762–1818. Eighteenth-Century Life 1 April 2023; 47 (2): 134–165. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/00982601-10394923
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