The History of Illustration Project (HIP) is a remarkable grass-roots initiative, brought into being by several interested individuals, formerly unacquainted with each other, in response to the long-voiced need for a textbook.
Others were invited to join in writing this textbook as lacunae in specialties were identified. HIP is an entity independent of any one school or organization. Leadership has been non-hierarchical and is an organic expression of individuals’ personal interests and drive. From this has evolved an organization based on commitment and qualifications.
Susan Doyle (Rhode Island School of Design) is the Editor and final arbiter based on input from the other Contributors. Assistant Editors are Jaleen Grove (independent scholar) and Whitney Sherman, Director of the MFA in Illustration Practice at the Maryland Institute College of Art.
Forming a non-profit group [501(c)3] is under discussion.
Written by an international team of illustration historians, practitioners, and educators, A History of Illustration covers image-making and print history from around the world, spanning from the prehistoric to the contemporary. The book contextualizes the many types of illustrations within social, cultural, and technical parameters, presenting information within a flowing chronology, complemented with self-reflexive “Key Theme Boxes” on vital issues and arguments in the field.
In order to create a comprehensive history, vast amounts of interconnected information are synthesized into an essential guide—i.e. a thorough and organized reference, rather than an encyclopedic encapsulation that would be too massive to be of practical use in the classroom.
The book also includes “Tech-Boxes” to expand on technical innovations that are mentioned in the narrative text, as well as a page-to-page timeline to highlight relevant historic events and innovations as they converge with important developments in illustration. The volume also has a glossary.
The learning outcomes of A History of Illustration stress the ability to critically analyze images from technical, cultural, and ideological standpoints, to arrive at an appreciation of both historical and contemporary illustration. Students will thus be able apply these critical skills to bring intellectual rigor to current illustration production and to visual studies in illustration.
In The Classroom: Courses in the history of illustration have to date been taught without the benefit of a textbook, meaning that content and quality varies with instructors—many of whom have no formal history training. Consistency of the history suffers throughout the field as unreliable sources have been heavily depended upon. Histories overlook the global in favor of the local or national; and links to other fields such as media studies and art and design histories have been under-developed. A History of Illustration ensures a reliable, consistent level of education and provides a common body of knowledge from which more advanced work can progress.
In The Discourse: One result of having no history book has been that people outside the field of illustration have developed the erroneous impression that the field of illustration lacks a unique tradition or philosophy of its own, and is not an academically rigorous discipline. By presenting practitioners as critical thinkers as well as makers, A History of Illustration provides a much-needed counterpoint to myopic art histories that have ignored or denigrated illustration.
In The Academy: Being inherently interdisciplinary, illustration is often regarded as adjunct to various disciplines such as visual art, design, literature, world history, sociology, science, media etc., and thus fell into a taxonomic crack in the academic world. A History of Illustration is an essential step in exposing the centrality of image-and-text production to human endeavor, and more appropriately presents illustration as both connective and generative throughout its history. A History of Illustration complements Visual Studies, and the recent emergence of Illustration Studies as a new discipline in the Humanities.
In The Museum: With increased focus on visual culture in recent years, museums have begun mounting exhibitions that include or feature illustration. But because of the historic neglect of Illustration Studies, few curators are knowledgeable about techniques unique to illustrators, commercial print technology, or the traditions of valuation of illustration among illustrators and illustration collectors. A History of Illustration acts as a primer for museum professionals new to illustration, and can also be made available as part of the educational programming in museums.
In The World: The education of students in critical visual literacy is a primary objective of this book, because illustration is used to promote worldviews and disseminate knowledge. In addition to traditional printed formats, illustration flourishes on websites and apps, is used to model scientific theories, and to envision everything from special effects to entire worlds in film work. In short, illustration has always been the most pervasive and popular of art forms in the world — and is arguably the most influential. A History of Illustration will provide the reader with cognitive and critical skills for interpreting and making images with consciousness and responsibility.