Art For The Illustration Of Literature
( Originally Published Late 1800's )
One of the most simple and direct purposes to which the art of painting was early applied, and for which it is still extensively resorted to, is the communication from one person to another, however distantly apart from each other these different individuals may be, of the ideas of various objects or scenes, of which, without such a mode of describing them, they would be able to form but very imperfect notions ; and it is so far a great means, and, indeed, in some cases the only method, of communicating knowledge of this kind. Its great use in this respect is particularly adverted to by Locke in his ' Treatise of Education ;'* wherein he declares the advantage of illustrating books in this manner, and how well it would be if it were more generally adopted by authors, not only on botany and natural history, but on many other subjects, by means of which alone their readers could be enabled to form correct notions of the objects they describe. The importance and value of the arts for this purpose, are further evinced by the want of some aid of this kind in many of the sciences, especially those of an abstract nature, such as mathematics, metaphysics, and often too in treatises on general literature, and the great shifts to which men are occasionally put, to supply something of this sort. For obtaining some visible substance or being to work upon in the pursuit of the first, straight lines drawn in different directions are made use of. The second is absolutely destitute of any aid of this nature, which is one cause of its difficulty and tardy progress, and in consequence of which the mind is unable to apply itself so steadily to the pursuit of this as to other branches of learning which possess this requirement. When treating on the third of these subjects, metaphor is largely availed of as the best method to impress ideas on the mind, by a reference to really existing material and visible common objects, But, by the aid of the graphic art, ideas are conveyed to the mind with the accuracy afforded by mathematical figures, and with much greater clearness and vigour than could be effected by metaphorical language, It is here worthy of remark, that in exercising what is ordinarily termed the apprehensive faculty, by which ideas and knowledge are received into the mind, they are imprinted with the greatest force when communicated at once through the senses, rather than by the understanding. Hence it is that metaphors almost always refer to ordinary visual objects.
In historical narration of every kind, whether of past trans-actions, or the condition or the manners of remote ages, both the events recorded and the scenes described are much more clearly conveyed, and more firmly impressed on the mind, by the aid of pictorial illustration, than by mere verbal description of them. Illustrations of this nature also serve in many other cases to afford more correct ideas of objects than could be communicated by words. Thus, in narrating the discoveries made in a foreign country, it would be impossible to effect any proper and adequate description without the aid of the graphic art, particularly as regards its scenery and general aspect, the appearance of the natives, the animals, the vegetable and different productions found upon it. And how important it is to be able to form a clear and complete notion of each of these, especially to us who have such extensive foreign possessions, and carry on so much traffic and intercourse with far distant nations, I need not point out. In history, too, of all kinds, not only is the pictorial art absolutely essential to present a cor rect idea of the costume and buildings and different objects described, but by this means the leading events narrated may be best retained.
The art of poetry, and that of eloquence as well, has its peculiar use in impressing ideas upon the mind, by the vividness of its descriptions, as also in affording the most lofty and grand notions of the scene portrayed. Music and architecture aid here; and dramatic acting represents to us real transactions in the most striking manner.