The extra-illustrated “Necessary Errors”

“Of all bookish fads, that of extra illustrating is the most interesting,” the New York Times wrote on 19 June 1897. By 22 February 1903, however, the Times had changed its collective mind: “The extra-illustrator of books, when he has stalked abroad in modern days, has been a pathetic figure.”

Extra illustration was—is?—the practice of rebinding a book so as to include lithographs, portraits, maps, original manuscripts, and ephemera. It was also sometimes called “Grangerizing,” because it caught on after readers began DIY-illustrating James Granger’s 1769 Biographical History of England. Its heyday was in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Because so many source materials were gathered and protected in extra-illustrated volumes, examples are prized by archivists and scholars today. The Huntington is currently showing an exhibition of extra-illustrated books, and the Folger has an online exhibit on its website.

All this is by way of saying that I’ve put together a collection of photos, ticket stubs, maps, and postcards that an extra-illustator could, if he were so inclined, bind into a copy of my novel Necessary Errors. Some are personal mementos; some I bought last month on Ebay. I’m going to be posting them on this blog in bits and pieces, over the next couple of months, under the tag “extra illustrated.” I’ll also try to post them on Tumblr, which I don’t really understand, so have patience. In each post, I’ll append binding instructions—that is, I’ll say which page the illustration should follow. But please don’t take this too seriously!

One thought on “The extra-illustrated “Necessary Errors””

  1. Hi,Caleb Crain: the idea of extra-illustrated is scintillating in an anachronistic but modern multi-dimensional (layered publishing? in fusing audio/text/special effects) way. I look forward to seeing your memorabilia & acquired mementos.

    Your range of interests, erudition and writing I find imaginative and engrossing.

    Thank You !

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