A recent English Literature PhD graduate Dr. Michael Goodman created an online,
open access, digital archive which contains over 3500 illustrations from the four major illustrated editions of Shakespeare’s Complete Works in the Victorian era.
Michael Goodman of Cardiff University created this collection as part of his PhD project, offering artists around the world access to thousands of digital versions of Victorian Shakespeare illustrations, completely free.
You can access the Victorian Illustrated Shakespeare Archive, explore the gallery using its vast word clouds as a mean of searching for something in particular like Castles, Horses, Kings, Clowns, Swords, Fairies etc…
In order to isolate the illustrations, Michael used Photoshop. He single-handedly scanned the hard copies and tagged each image, you can imagine what a tedious and long process it was.
“The database emphasizes that there really is a ‘Shakespeare Universe’ where different motifs, ideas and themes recur.” Michael Goodman
Besides offering a large digital database, the archive gives insight on how different artists approached the same text with different illustration styles.
The illustrated editions available are by Kenny Meadows, Charles Knight, H. C. Selous and John Gilbert. The first, by Charles Knight, appeared between 1838 and 1841 and it includes conservative designs by various artists.
The Meadows edition in 1854 contains very different illustrations to Knight’s edition, however the Selous one published in 1864 saw a return to the formal realism used in Knight’s. As for the Gilbert edition, it may be the most expressive of the four, rendering the characters with a psychological realism.
All of this content is free through the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license, that means that you can:
Share — copy and redistribute the material in any medium or format
Adapt — remix, transform, and build upon the material for any purpose, even commercially.