by E.M. Sanchez-Saavedra
The employment of my leisure-hours for several years of my life, will, doubtless, be numbered among my idlenesses, perhaps my weaknesses; but, I hope, never amongst my sins. – The Rev. James Granger, 1769
When a man gives himself up to the government of a ruling passion, – or, in other words, when his Hobby-Horse grows headstrong, – farewell cool reason and fair discretion. – Laurence Sterne, The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman (1763) Book II, Chapt. V
James Granger (1723-1776), an English clergyman, biographer, and print collector, was the son of William Granger, and Elizabeth Tutt, born at Shaston, Dorset. Although his family was poor, he matriculated at Christ Church, Oxford, on April 26, 1743, but left the university without taking a degree. Nevertheless, he qualified for holy orders.
Granger was ordained and became the vicar of Shiplake, Oxfordshire. He rusticated in this small village for the rest of his life. In time, Granger came to be considered odd, if not mentally unbalanced, by his congregation, especially after he delivered a sermon on “an Apology for the Brute Creation, or Abuse of Animals censured” in 1772. The mention of “lower animals” in the pulpit was considered but little better than blasphemy. His outspoken political views inspired Samuel Johnson’s quip: “The dog is a whig. I do not like much to see a whig in any dress, but I hate to see a whig in a parson’s gown.”
His claim to fame rested not in his clerical achievements, but in his extracurricular activities. For years, his hobby and principal interest was the collection and cataloguing of printed and engraved portraits of English subjects. He is chiefly remembered as the author of ‘A Biographical History of England, from Egbert the Great to the Revolution: consisting of characters disposed in different classes and adapted to a methodical catalogue of engraved British heads’ (1769). In 1806 a continuation of the work from the revolution of 1688 to the end of the reign of George I appeared in 3 volumes, from manuscripts left by Granger and the collections of the editor, Mark Noble.
He devised a plan and outline for classification and published the un-illustrated first edition in 1769. He corresponded with anyone and everyone who possessed a library containing illustrated books and visited them to examine and catalogue their holdings. Granger’s sources of information were published posthumously in ‘Letters between the Rev. James Granger, M.A., and many of the most eminent Literary Men of his time: composing a copious history and illustration of the Biographical History of England. With Miscellanies and Notes of Tours in France, Holland, and Spain, by the same Gentleman,’ London, 1805, edited by James Peller Malcolm.
Early critics accused him of preserving the memory of nonentities, whose only achievement was an engraved likeness. Today, these oddities are considered the most interesting and valuable prints, among the stiffly formal portraits of the Peerage. Thus, we have entries for the semi-mythical ‘Moll Cutpurse;’ King Henry’s jester, Will Sommers; Irish faith-healer Valentine Greatrakes; Titus Oates in the Pillory and other bizarre images. Captain John Smith and Pocahontas (Matoaka, alias Rebecca) are also found in Granger’s lists, along with poet and calligrapher John Davies of Hereford, who penned the verse below Smith’s likeness.
In 1773 or 1774 Granger accompanied John Stuart, Lord Mountstuart (1744-1814), later Baron Cardiff, on a tour to the Low Countries. The young nobleman, like many on the Grand Tour, began a collection of portraits, presumably under Granger’s direction.
His relationship with his Shiplake parishioners continued to deteriorate and he tried to find a ‘living’ elsewhere, but without success. On Sunday, 14 April 1776, he performed divine service apparently in his usual health, but, while in the act of administering communion, he suffered a massive stroke and died next morning, “notwithstanding every medical assistance.”
The following collections have been published in illustration of Granger’s work:
(a) ‘Portraits illustrating Granger’s Biographical History of England’ (known under the name of ‘Richardson’s Collection’), 6 parts. London, 1792-1812. The publisher, bookseller and auctioneer William Richardson, operating at various addresses at High Holborn and the Strand, London, from 1778 to 1814, ran an “Ancient and Modern Print Warehouse.” Later editions of Granger’s biographical history through 1824 are embellished with Richardson prints, some of which may have been struck from original copperplates. Most were reproduced with greater or lesser accuracy from early impressions. Richardson also purchased Granger’s original correspondence with notable people, later edited for publication by J.P. Malcolm.
(b) Samuel Woodburn’s ‘Gallery of [over two hundred] Portraits ... illustrative of Granger’s Biographical History of England, &c.,’ London, 1816.
(c) ‘A Collection of Portraits to illustrate Granger’s Biographical History of England and Noble’s continuation to Granger, forming a Supplement to Richardson’s Copies of rare Granger Portraits,’ 2 vols. London, 1820-22.
‘Grangerizing’ or ‘Extra-illustration’ became a term used to mean the collection of additional illustrations to be interleaved with a text. The text and the illustrations are produced separately, and the ‘extra-illustrator’ is neither a publisher nor a printer, but an independent collector.
According to Robert R. Wark in ‘The Gentle Pastime of Extra-Illustrating Books,’ The Huntington Library Quarterly, vol. LVI, no. 2 (Spring 1993), pp.151-165
The idea was to start with a book that interested you. It might be on almost any subject – biography, history, travel, Shakespeare, and the Bible were among the most frequent choices. You gathered works of art on paper (mostly prints, less frequently drawings, and occasionally, after the mid-nineteenth century, photographs) that could serve as appropriate ‘extra’ illustrations to the text. You mounted the illustrations on sheets uniform in size with the pages of the text; the book was taken out of its binding; the extra-illustrations were interleaved at appropriate places; the whole was rebound, often expanded to several volumes rather than the one or two with which the operation started. If, as often happened, the pages of text were of smaller size than the majority of the illustrations then the text was remounted on sheets chosen to accommodate the illustrations.
Although Granger lent his name to the practice of extra-illustration, often known as ‘Grangerization,’ the earliest reference in the Oxford English Dictionary to the use of his name to denote extra-illustration dates from 1881. The country parson would have been horrified by the excesses perpetrated by fanatic ‘extra-illustrators’ as they mutilated thousands of illustrated antique books to acquire prints for their collections. By the time the craze ended in the mid Nineteenth Century, scarcely an unspoiled volume remained in England, outside of large private and state collections.
As an unintended consequence, ‘Grangerization’ most likely led to the ‘scrapbooking’ mania of the Nineteenth and Twentieth centuries, which concentrated on pasting everything from personal correspondence to gaudy, lithographed tradesman’s cards into special albums. Following the 1876 U.S. Centennial celebration, businesses began to advertise through the medium of illustrated ‘trade cards,’ ranging from small business cards to large die-cut and embossed chromolithographs, imported from Europe. These were avidly collected and pasted into albums until about World War I, when scrapbookers switched to snapshots and color illustrations clipped from magazines.
A modern pictorial archive, founded in 1964, bears the name ‘The Granger Collection,’ in honor of the “spiritual founder” of preserving images for posterity.
The Ashmolean Museum website contains a detailed article on ‘Grangerization’ HERE.
Further reading:— Lucy Peltz, ‘The Cut and Paste of English History,’ Country Life, 24-31, December 1998, pp.66-68— Robert R. Wark, ‘The Gentle Pastime of Extra-Illustrating Books,’ The Huntington Library Quarterly, vol. LVI, no. 2 (Spring 1993), pp.151-165 (Largely based on the extensive holdings of the Huntington Library.)— Lucy Peltz, ‘The pleasure of the book: Extra-illustration, an 18th-century fashion,’ Things, no. 8 (Summer 1998), pp.6-31— Robert A. Shaddy, ‘Grangerizing: “One of the Unfortunate Stages of Bibliomania,”’ The Book Collector, vol. 49, no. 4 (Winter 2000), pp.535-546— Dictionary of National Biography, Granger, James (1723-1776), print collector and biographer, by Thompson Cooper. Published 1890
Continue to Part II Gallery HERE.