November 05, 2012 by Amanda Visconti

Book Ghouls: Grangerizing as Book Hacking's Black Sheep

Update, 7/18/2013: My Archbooks Architecture of the Book Encyclopedia article on Grangerizing is now available: http://drc.usask.ca/projects/archbook//grangerizing.php

Grangerizing is the expansion of a published book through the addition of illustrative images such as prints and etchings, as well as (to a lesser extent) textual material such as correspondence and playbills. Images are affixed on extra pages rebound into the codex (i.e. interleaves) or simply added on top of the existing text. This visual form of annotation is named after James Granger, an eighteenth-century collector, clergyman, and writer whose early use of the technique was rewritten as its origin; the technique was in vogue in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries before the rise of cheap printed images and books.

Devotees of the popular hobby of Grangerizing argued that their reuse of visual material from other books was an “exquisite handicraft” that made use of texts that would otherwise have been junked (“Extending”). This reuse was another factor where Grangerizing and extra-illustration tended to differ; Grangerizers freely cannibalized other books to find the best images for their chosen text, while “extra-illustration” was a term usually applied to techniques that did not leave other books mutilated (Jackson 186). This cutting up of books caused a divide among book collectors as well as controversy with the general public; where the Grangerizers saw their work as curation and preservation of the best in image and text, others pointed to the increasing likelihood of encountering mutilated books with images (and often nearby text) snipped out.

For the book collectors whose goal was to preserve fine and historically interesting volumes as they were created, Grangerizing was a perversion of a long-celebrated activity–according to an 1892 critic, “‘breaking up a good book to illustrate a worse one” (“Extending”). The author of the 1809 treatise The Bibliomania speaks of “the mischief which this passion for collecting prints has occasioned” (Jackson 189). Bibliographic discussions from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries are replete with colorful invective against the Grangerizers’ depredations, for which Holbrook Jackson's The Anatomy of Bibliomania is a rich and lighthearted source (especially the chapter "Grangeritis Diagnosed"). Some highlights:

  • "as he that is bitten with a mad dog bites others, and all in the end become mad; either out of affection of novelty, vanity, or blind zeal, the giddy-headed will embrace the deep intricacies of Granger, and without farther examination approve them" (Ferriar as cited in Holbrook Jackson 576)
  • "Grangeritis… is a very general and violent symptom; the patient is a sort of literary Attila or Gengis Khan, who has spread terror and ruin around him; and he pursues his obscene passion with fiendish fascination: the moment Irving Brown came into possession of a book, it was put under the rack to extort its capacity for illustration. Of one hundred books extended by the insertion of prints which were not madefor them, ninety-nine are ruined; the hundredth book is no longer a book: it is a museum, or at best, a crazyquilt made of patches cut out of gowns of queens and scullions." (Burton, Locker-Lampson, Bulloch, "A lawyer of Troy, U.S.A.", Tredwell, and H. P. du Bois as cited by Holbrook Jackson 577)
  • "by Granger school'd / In Paper-books, superbly gilt and tool'd, / He pastes, from injur'd volumes snipt away, / His English Heads, in chronicled array" (Ferriar as cited in Holbrook Jackson 578)
  • "May the spectre of Thomas Frognall Dibdin haunt the souls of these impious rascals, and torture them with never-ceasing visions of unobtainable and rare portraits, non-existent autographs, and elusive engravings" (Willaim P. Cutter as cited in Holbrook Jackson 580)
  • "Andrew Lang stoutly declares such a Book-Ghoul to be more hateful than the biblioklept, because he combines larceny with destruction: He is a collector of title-pages, frontispieces, illustrations, and look-plates. He prowls furtively among public and private libraries, inserting wetted threads, which slowly eat away the illustrations he covets; and he broods, like the obscene demon of Arabian superstitions, over the fragments of the mighty dead. He divides this variety into three classes: The antiquarian ghoul who steals title-pages and colophons. The aesthetic ghoul who cuts illuminated initials out of manuscripts; and the petty, trivial,and almost idiotic ghoul of our own days, who sponges the fly-leaves and boards of books for the purpose of cribbing the book-plates. This type is still regarded as a Book-Ghoul, even though his aim is grangerization. Uncompromising book-collectors branded James Gibbs, the grangerite-bookseller, as a book ghoul, a reptile who regards title-page and colophon as his natural prey" (Andrew Lang, Locker-Lampson as cited in Holbrook Jackson 573)

Works Cited

“Extending the Book: The Art of Extra-Illustration”. Notice and notes for an exhibition at the Folger Shakespeare Library, Washington, D.C. Curated by Erin C. Blake and Stuart Sillars, with LuEllen DeHaven. http://www.folger.edu/template.cfm?cid=3346&CFID=2324710&CFTOKEN=60961550

Jackson, H. J. Marginalia: Readers Writing in Books. Yale University Press, 2001.

Jackson, Holbrook. "Of Grangeritis". The Anatomy of Bibliomania. 2nd Printing. Farrar, Straus, and Co., 1950. 576-582.