Illustrations for The Palik Series

by Brian Taves

Over the last 160-plus years, there have been multiple strategies of illustrating Jules Verne. Even before Hetzel, Verne stories in the Musée des familles during the 1850s were accompanied by engravings. Many publishers, especially in the last half-century, have looked to new artists and styles to picture Verne. And some believe he requires no illustrations at all (which also conveniently serves to minimize book production expenses).
In many countries, during the 19th century, the Hetzel engravings were reproduced faithfully, but they were gradually phased out with the emergence of the “new and cheaper” (as Anglophone publishers phrased it) editions that would appear by the dawn of the 20th century. There were some interesting experiments in emulating the engravings, such as the 1920s Sampson Low editions of Second Homeland and The Lighthouse at the End of the World. [1] They provided a transition to new styles that would emerge, especially as color printing took hold, most notably in the Amazing Stories covers of Verne, the paintings by Milo Winter in 1922 and W.J. Aylward in 1928 for Twenty Thousand Leagues under the Seas, and the N.C. Wyeth art for The Mysterious Island and Michael Strogoff, still in print.
These trends continued until by the 1980s, a point was reached where Verne books were as much credited to modern illustrators as the author himself. (That is, when illustrations were used at all.) Publishers overlooked the French engravings, all of them long in the public domain; only a few were sporadically used, such as by Dodd Mead in their Great Illustrated Classics series. Use of all the engravings was rare, so much so that Americans were grateful in the 1960s when Dover reprinted two Verne titles, even from the wretched Edward Roth translations, because they included all the engravings. Collecting the Hetzel engravings was largely confined to increasingly pricey finds at used bookshops or the less expensive alternative of the Livre de Poche paperbacks from France.
When coordinating the publication of Adventures of the Rat Family with Oxford University Press in 1993, I was able to show their editors, visiting the Library of Congress, the original 1891 publication in Le Figaro illustré held there, and the engravings in the journal persuaded them that these offered every advantage. Not only was the art arresting and imaginative by modern standards, but the investment required was minimal. Gradually other publishers began to thoroughly incorporate those engravings, most notably in the Wesleyan University Press Classics of Science Fiction Series. For many devotees of Verne, those engravings resumed their place in the experience of reading and collecting the author. Bernhard Krauth and the German Verne society began the process of scanning all the engravings.
When it came time for the Palik series, NAJVS was fortunate in finding a publisher, BearManor Fiction, who not only understood the need for books to be illustrated—but could reproduce them with quality. And BearManor gave us latitude for up to 50 illustrations per volume.
Most obviously, in such cases as The Count of Chanteleine: A Tale of the French Revolution, Around the World in 80 Days—The 1874 Play, and the upcoming Castles of California, the original French versions had engravings we could use. Vice, Redemption, and the Distant Colony, with several shorter works, was able to use the engravings from The Somber Fate of Jean Morénas, while Fact-Finding Mission (Jules’s first fragmentary draft of what became The Astonishing Adventure of the Barsac Mission, composed by his son Michel) resembled the first chapters of that novel, so some of its engravings were appropriate—and neither the Barsac or Morénas illustrations before had appeared in a translation.
This latter factor has been a guiding principle in my choice of art as editor of the Palik series. Many of our volumes include stories and plays not illustrated in Verne’s time. In the case of Shipwrecked Family: Marooned with Uncle Robinson, various existing engravings from Verne Robinsonades were appropriate for given points of the text. This was particularly the case when looking at Verne’s Second Homeland; these engravings had never appeared in an English-language publication, and Second Homeland, like Shipwrecked Family, also featured a mother and her children who are castaways.
In Golden Danube, the illustrations from the revision by Jules’s son, Michel, the one published by Hetzel as The Danube Pilot, were used when they still fit in Jules’s novel, Golden Danube. This is the first time this has been done in one of the books from a Jules manuscript where Hetzel published the Michel text. Some two dozen illustrations from The Danube Pilot, two thirds of the originals, met this criteria. However, this left room for over twenty more illustrations, and I found a series of views of various places along the Danube, described by the author in the novel, all from the exact time of the story, around 1900.
As in much of Golden Danube, it has been appropriate to use vintage pictures of the locations Verne discusses. Bandits & Rebels is made up of two novellas, and one of them, The Siege of Rome, was a historical adventure. In this case, the illustrations are of the places and the various real people involved, from the political leaders to the various generals in the campaign, the locations near the Vatican where battles took place. Maps revealed in detail the various stages of the siege that Verne describes (and are primarily derived from Garibaldi’s Defense of the Roman Republic, by George Macaulay Trevelyan, first published in 1907). Our next Palik book, A Priest in 1835, is set in Verne’s own Nantes in that year, so illustrations are of that milieu, as Verne knew it as a young man. Our illustrations of The Marriage of a Marquis, Bandits & Rebels, and A Priest in 1835 stand in sharp contrast to the highly modern flavor of the European editions.
There has been more. As all our volumes combine critical material with stories and plays, the introductions and afterwords were illustrated as well, and these aspects offered the opportunity to utilize 19th century images, both illustrating the points made, as well as seldom-seen art.
Then, too, there are our widely-praised full-color covers. Just as with the interior illustrations, all are from vintage European originals, and with so many to choose from, every volume uses a different cover that stands in contrast with the others. Not only have each of the Hetzel cartonnages been used, but so too have covers from the former Czechoslovakia, and the Netherlands, and the original titles have been Photoshopped to allow room for the English title. And I have been careful in selecting covers compatible with the story; for instance, you will only find “Voyages Extraordinaires” (in some cases part of the design itself) on the books Verne intended to be part of the series. Special thanks for sharing scans go to Jan RychlĂ­k, J.A. Marquis, Frits Roest, and Brian Kutzera, to Peter Overstreet for additional assistance, and BearManor’s John Teehan, layout designer.
As editor of the Palik series, selecting pictorial accompaniment has been both one of the most arduous, but most rewarding, of the tasks that has fallen to me. I am very grateful to Bernhard Krauth, and many other Vernians and archives worldwide, for their kind (and gratis) assistance in illustrating our volumes with artwork that Verne himself would have known.
The hope is that the mix will not only provide pictures new to those who collect even the scarcest Anglophone editions, but also that the fact-based illustrations will give fresh accompaniment to attract fellow Vernians who are familiar with the Hetzel texts. And, of course, they will serve the primary goal of enriching the reading experience.


[1]. Not to overlook the remarkable woodcut-style art of Roger Leyonmark in NAJVS’s own 2003 edition of Verne’s play, Journey through the Impossible.