Illustrations in books - aye or nay?

Do you like illustrations in books?

  • They're good/great.

  • They can work, but only if they're very good.

  • I don't care either way.

  • I dislike them.


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Teresa Edgerton

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#22
Dickens novels would be less rich without the illustrations of Phiz and others:
I absolutely agree with that. If all illustrations were as good and as suited to their respective texts, I'd be saying it's a shame that not all novels are illustrated.
 

Parson

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#23
I can't help noting that all of the positive examples (AFAIR) are from books written at least in the first part of last century. --- I cannot think of any book that I've read of more recent vintage that has illustrations that have added much. Now Maps and schemetics are different for me, and often useful.

Edit: There are a few paperback covers which have added significantly to the enjoyment of the book. The edition of Andre Norton's Catseye that I read decades ago had a great cover that got me into the story.
 

Bick

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#24
It’s interesting that SFF short stories mostly came with illustrations in magazine publications, and some of the illustrations of the classic stories were great. And yet when anthologised or collected, the illustrations are rarely (never?) reproduced alongside the text. A shame! I remember reading A Sound Of Thunder by Bradbury in the original Planet Stories issue where it was published and thinking how great the old illustrations were. Its a copyright issue is it, or just too expensive? I’d definitely pay for an anthology with original magazine illustrations - how great would the Hall of Fame anthogies be then?!
 

Teresa Edgerton

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#25
I imagine that it is, as you say, a copyright issue. As with stories, I think magazines pay only for the right to publish the art once and only exclusively for a certain period. After that, anyone who wanted to publish the illustrations would have to pay that artist for the right to do so. So both a copyright issue and a matter of expense. Plus the publication of an anthology might conflict with the art being published elsewhere. And a bunch of other possible complications. (Editor of anthology doesn't like the artwork the magazine art department commissioned. Artist becomes more in demand in the interim and naturally expects to be paid accordingly. Etc. etc.)

Though I agree that Hall of Fame anthologies with original magazine illustrations sound appealing.
 

Joshua Jones

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#26
I think I'm in the consensus that illustrations can be great if they match the subject well. Some of it depends on the target audience; for children's books, for example, they are virtually a necessity, while YA can benefit from them and adult could go either way. I think genre is also pretty relevant; illustrations seem to work better in fantasy, while schematics seem to make more sense in SF. Maps are genre specific as well; they seem to be very helpful in fantasy, but I can't see a space opera benefitting much from them.

I think the subject of the illustrations can be important and vary with genre a bit as well. I like having illustrations of the races featured in fantasy, but I am less interested in this in SF as I am interested in pictures of the tech in use, such as the protagonist's ship preparing to dock at a spaceport. Landscape shots can be quite useful in just about any genre, though.
 

Toby Frost

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#27
I think there are some books or stories that I specifically wouldn't want illustrated, at least in certain ways. Obviously, there are stories like Lovecraft's, where often the thing that would drive you mad if you saw it just looks like a blob with some tentacles when depicted on the page. There are also characters who aren't heavily described, and who I wouldn't want to see as images, particularly if interpreted by whatever the fashion of the time was.

One of the reasons that I like Tolkien's and Tove Jansson's illustrations for The Hobbit is their vagueness. There as much an invitation to imagine the rest of the details as they are a literal depiction of those details.
 

Parson

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#28
Maps are genre specific as well; they seem to be very helpful in fantasy, but I can't see a space opera benefitting much from them.
I did find the star maps in David Weber's Honor Harrington books to be useful. But they did suffer from the 2 dimensional view of a 3 dimensional system. He tried to show in spheres, which kinda worked.
 

Extollager

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#32
But don't you find yourself using these images in your minds eye rather than your own?
That depends. This can be a real problem. I personally would avoid Alan Lee's Lord of the Rings for that reason. On the other hand, I don't find it to be something bad in regard to some of the books I have mentioned in this thread.

I also wonder about the "mind's eye." I'm reasonably visual -- I have difficulties with some abstract language, and have cared about art since I was a kid (even as a very amateur artist) -- but I don't think that, when I read, I usually have detailed images in my mind. It's more elusive than that.

I do find that the images, and the voices, from the Lord of the Rings movies got in my way when I read it again afterwards, and didn't like that very much. On the other hand, since I suspect the miniseries, with Alec Guinness, of Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy from 40 years ago is better than the novel, I would be happy to be reminded of the series if reading the book -- while realizing that I would likely imagine things in it differently if I'd never seen the series.
 
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#33
I think it depends on how/where the illustrations are used more than how well they are drawn. Sometimes certain areas within a book can really benefit from even just a simple illustration. Jasper Fforde has some great black/white illustrations in his Thursday Next books and in the Nursery Crimes series. Tolkien's own illustrations (and those of Alan Lee or John Howe) were also a beautiful addition. How many illustrations are another issue, unless its a children's book, I wouldn't want a book to be too heavily illustrated or it would begin to detract
instead of enhance.
 

picklematrix

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#34
Im actually I big fan of illustrations, and I wish more books used them. A good writer will paint a fairly vivid picture in my head with words alone, but illustrations can definitely help a little. I can't recall reading a book with pictures so bad that they made it worse, so I'd say they may be a good idea and appropriate in quite a few situations.
Some books of course are well known for their illustrations. The Edge Chronicles, for instance, are famous for their beautiful artwork.
 

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