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Friday, February 01, 2008

Tilt, Bogue and the first graphic novel

(* Since yesterday's post was a 'last', I thought I thought I'd make today's a 'first'. Messrs. Tilt and Bogue of 86 Fleet-street published the first 'graphic novel' back in 1841 and, as it's something I know little about, I thought I'd do some digging...)

From The Examiner, 23 October 1841:
The Adventures of Mr Obadiah Oldbuck. Tilt and Bogue.
This is a series of comic outlines, in the wildest spirit of caricature, purporting to set forth "the crosses, chagrins, calamities, checks, chills, changes and circumgirations," by which Mr Obadiah Oldbuck's courtship was attended; showing also the issue of his suit, and "his espousal to his Ladye Love." But it is, in point of fact, no other than a compilation, with some intermeddling and not the least acknowledgment, from the adventures of our old friend Monsieur Jabot (sic).

No doubt there is a great deal of fun in the thing, but it is not so certain that it will find admirers in the class for which this translation is intended. Not to say that some of the spirit escapes in the transmission, there is a national exaggeration in it emphatically French in style; the humorous allusion is for the most part local; and the hits at the monks, for example, have little or no meaning on this side of the Channel. Some cleverness is at the same time shown in the insertion of one or two English touches, and after all it is a thing to be judged of by itself, and laughed at without why or wherefore.
The first British graphic novel, The Adventures of Mr Obadiah Oldbuck was obviously, from the first, a plagiarism of Les Amours de Mr Vieux Bois by Rodolphe Töpffer (1799-1846). Töpffer's original had appeared in Paris in 1837, although the Swiss schoolmaster had drawn an earlier version for the amusement of his pupils' and friends' amusement ten years earlier; it was his third published book, following Histoire de Mr. Jabot (1933) and Histoire de Mr. Crépin (1837). The British edition that appeared in the autumn of 1841 was, in fact a plagiarism of a plagiarism as its engravings were based upon pirated edition published in 1839 by Gabriel Aubert (Paris, Aubert, Galerie Vero-Dodat). According to Thierry Groensteen (quoted here), the Aubert editions were redrawn and the images reversed left-to-right. Töpffer, angered by the poor quality of the pirated editions, produced an improved version of Mr Vieux Bois... and Aubert promptly produced improved pirate editions of the three books. I believe the British Oldbuck was based on either the improved Töpffer edition or the improved pirated Aubert edition. You can see some comparisons between various editions here. My feeling is that, if the American edition was based on the British edition, the latter was probably based on the revised pirated Aubert edition.

Although it seems unlikely that the adventures of M. Vieux Bois were available widely to the general public here in the UK, they were certainly available, as were other French albums. For example, the following advert appeared in The Morning Chronicle, 2 September 1842:
FRENCH ALBUMS.-- Mons Télémaque, ou les Aventures du Fils d'Ullsse, price 6s.; Le Prince Colibri, price 6s., being two new French Comic Album Stories, with many ludicrous sketches in the same style as the nine popular Monsieur Vieuz-bois and Co., 6s each album.--at DELAPORTE'S Parisian Repository, 37 and 38, corner of Burlington-arcade and gardens.
Delaporte was, according to Leonardo De Sa, the authorised London agent for Aubert. M. Delaporte's Parisian Repository was advertising as early as 1841, and moved to 116, Regent-street, in 1843. They were advertising until at least 1847.

The adventures of Obadiah Oldbuck soon made their way to the United States where they were printed in a supplement to Brother Jonathan Extra IX (New York, Wilson & Co.) on 14 September 1842.
A second album by Töpffer followed in 1842 entitled The Comical Adventures of Beau Ogleby, based on Histoire de Mr. Jabot. The date appears to have been uncertain amongst researchers but it is listed amongst the new publications in the February 1842 issue of The Gentleman's Magazine. Such a quick follow-up, only a few months after the release of Obadiah Oldbuck presumably indicates that the latter must have sold reasonably well.

Denis Gifford owned a copy of this rare book and recorded that "Where
Töpffer drew his hero Jabot looking to the right, Messrs. Tilt and Bogue show Beau Ogleby looking to the left." Whilst Denis thought that it may have been a deliberate change made "with an eye to copyright", the simpler and more likely explanation is that it was derived from the first (1839) pirated edition by Aubert.

In 1845,
Töpffer's M. Cryptogame began serialisation in the Parisian magazine L'Illustration, appearing in 11 episodes between January and April. David Bogue (now running what was formerly Tilt and Bogue) published an authorised translation of the story later that year using stereotypes delivered to London by Töpffer's cousin, Jacques-Julien Dubochet. According to Leonardo De Sá, it was published in July 1845 and predated the first French album collection (published in October 1846); the only advertising and a review I have managed to trace date from November 1845.

From The Examiner, 15 November 1845:
New work by the Author of 'Mr Oldbuck.' Just published, price 5s. cloth, Veritable History of Mr Bachelor Butterfly; showing how, after being Married, he narrowly escapes Bigamy, and becomes the Step-father of Eight Hopeful Children. A series of Plates of the most Bizarre description, with Letterpress Illustrations.

Also, by the same Author.

Mr Oldbuck's Grotesque Adventures. 84 Plates, 7s. cloth.
Beau Ogleby's Comical History. 6s. cloth.

D. Bogue (late Tilt and Bogue), Fleet Street.
From Lloyd's Weekly London Newspaper, 23 November 1845:
The Veritable History of Mr Bachelor Butterfly, showing how it was diversified by many changes, for, after being married in the belly of a whale, he narrowly escaped bigamy, and became the stepfather of eight hopeful children. -- This singular narrative of engravings, by the author of "The Adventures of Obadiah Oldbuck," has issued from the mine of a neighbour, Mr. Bogue, of Fleet-street -- a spot which has been fruitful in bye-gone times when "Tilt" appeared at the advent of Christmas, under the witty auspices of a "Hood" -- and "Comic Annuals" gave pungency to the taste of the dull town, during the literary feed of the wintery months. "Bachelor Butterfly" now flutters among the holiday press; and, we think, from the very absurdity of his uncommon, and improbable adventures, laughter must be elicited from the tickled nerves of his readers. He has a touch at some of the sentimental, as, "we may be happy yet;" -- the ludicrous, as, "the man in the whale's belly fishing for his wig," "a game of coits in its ribbed abode with oystershells," "the Maynooth priest," and the "potato disease." The "finis," with the fiddler who begins his tune on the title page, is well done.
* * * * *
Charles Tilt's bookshop by George Cruikshank, from Cruikshank's Almanack for March 1835.

David Bogue was born in 1807 or 1808, of a respectable Scottish family, the nephew of Dr. David Bogue (1750-1825), the eminent Dissenting minister, author of An Essay on the Divine Authority of the New Testament (1801). In early life, Bogue became assistant to Mr. Thomas Ireland, bookseller, of Edinburgh, with whom he remained until 1836 when he came to London and joined the the establishment of Charles Tilt. Tilt (born in 1797) was already well established, having worked at Hatchards and other bookselling businesses from the age of 14. His own publishing and bookselling business was established in 1826 at 86 Fleet Street, at the corner of St Bride's Passage.

Charles Tilt did very well as a bookseller, publishing his book in a variety of formats aimed at a range of pockets. According to Logan Delano Browning, in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, "He frequently used the extensive side windows of his shop to display his offerings, which were often so popularly received that railings were required to hold back the crowds who came to view them, and their availability was reported in newspapers such as The Times."

In 1840, Tilt passed over three senior employees to invite David Bogue to join him as a partner. Thus, Tilt and Bogue became the publishing imprint for a wide range of books, many highly illustrated, on art, wild flowers, books of poetry, etiquette, railway companions and glossarys. After three years, Tilt sold out his interest to Bogue for approximately £50,000 and Bogue continued to publish a wide range of illustrated books and cheap editions, although his fortunes began to decline in the mid-1840s.

His chief asset was George Cruikshank whose association with Charles Tilt had begun as early as 1827 and led to the successful publication of My Sketch Book (1833) and the annual Cruikshank's Comic Almanack (1834-52). Unfortunately, the association was not always successful: the Almanack had begun well, with contributions by William Makepeace Thackeray, but suffered from the competition with its rival Punch's Almanack which began publication in 1844; Cruikshank's Omnibus (9pts, May 1841-Jan 1842), edited by Laman Blanchard, did not make any significant profit; and, although well known today, such sets as The Bottle (1847) and The Drunkard's Children (1848) were a complete flop at the time.

Bogue's publishing continued until his death on Wednesday, 19 November 1856, at the age of 48. A notice carried in many newspapers revealed that "On Tuesday, Mr Bogue was in the city, transacting his usual business. On the evening of that day he was at home with his family at his residence in Camden Town, and retired to rest in his accustomed health and spirits. About 8 o'clock yesterday morning he complained of a sudden sense of suffocation, almost immediately afterwards became speechless, and in two or three minutes had ceased to exist. The deceased was for many years in partnership with Mr Tilt at whose death he carried on the business alone, and was greatly respected for the uprightness and straightforwardness which marked all his transactions."

"He was a man of great intelligence and enterprise, strict integrity, and kind disposition, and his loss will be deeply felt," said the Illustrated London News. Bogue was survived by his wife, Alicia (1822?-1904), and five children, Anne (1846-1910), Alicia (1847?-1909), Charles Tilt (1849-1921), Edgar (1850-1919) and David (1852-1897).

On his death, Charles Tilt returned to the business from which he had retired sixteen years earlier. Tilt had amassed quite a fortune and began travelling around the continent and Middle East, one trip inspiring The Boat and the Caravan (1847) about his tour of Egypt and Syria. In the 1850s he had split his time between homes in Brighton, London and Bath. Tilt had to negotiate with various creditors and, in June 1857, the Publishers' Circular announced that the business had been purchased "for a large sum" by the firm of Kent & Co. of Paternoster-row.

Charles Tilt retired to his home in Penbridge Gardens, Bayswater, where he died on 28 September 1861, leaving the considerable sum of around £180,000 to his daughter, Mrs. Jane May Gladstone.

The full version of the Tilt and Bogue (1842) Beau Ogleby can be found here. (The first few pages appear blank but keep going.)
The full version of the David Bogue (1845) Bachelor Butterfly can be found here.
The home page of Leonardo De Sá's site dedicated to Histoire de Mr. Vieux Bois can be found here.

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