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VIRTUAL BOOK TALK: Gems of Art on Paper: Illustrated American Fiction and Poetry, 1785–1885
with Georgia Barnhill
In the immediate aftermath of the Revolutionary War, only the wealthiest Americans could afford to enjoy illustrated books and prints. But, by the end of the next century, it was commonplace for publishers to load their books with reproductions of fine art and beautiful new commissions from amateur and professional artists.
Georgia B. Barnhill, an expert on the visual culture of this period, explains the costs and risks that publishers faced as they brought about the transition from a sparse visual culture to a rich one. Establishing new practices and investing in new technologies to enhance works of fiction and poetry, bookmakers worked closely with skilled draftsmen, engravers, and printers to reach an increasingly literate and discriminating American middle class. Barnhill argues that while scholars have largely overlooked the efforts of early American illustrators, the works of art that they produced impacted readers' understandings of the texts they encountered, and greatly enriched the nation's cultural life.
Georgia Barnhill studied art history at Wellesley College (B. A., 1966) and was the Andrew W. Mellon Curator of Graphic Arts at the American Antiquarian Society for more than forty years, retiring in 2012 as the director of the Society’s Center for Historical American Visual Culture (CHAViC). Her publications include numerous articles on ephemera, prints, and book illustrations. Among her publications are the Bibliography on American Prints of the Seventeenth through Nineteenth Centuries, Wild Impressions: The Adirondacks on Paper, and Drawn from Nature & on Stone: The Lithographs of Fitz Henry Lane. She has edited conference volumes issued by AAS and by the Colonial Society of Massachusetts. She has been active in the Print Council of America, the American Historical Print Collectors Society, and the Ephemera Society of America, among others.