Mascot for #DevilDiss

Mascot for #DevilDiss
Mascot for #DevilDiss

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Writing Journal 7: Suzanne Boorsch's“The 1688 Paradise Lost and Dr. Aldrich” (1972)

Suzanne Boorsch states in “The 1688 Paradise Lost and Dr. Aldrich” (1972) that the illustrations for Book I, II and XII differ considerably from the illustrations for the rest of the books and therefore John Baptist de Medina could not have been the artist for them. Instead, she argues that Dr. Aldrich, a canon of Christ Church was the illustrator. She cites several handwritten inscriptions in books that point to this, as well as citing other Oxford residents that were aware of Aldrich’s engraving plate collection that served as the model for many engravings created at Oxford Press where Aldrich supervised many of the engravings. She lays out these primary sources in order to argue that due to his proximity and the fact that the plates for Book I, II and XII have similarities with classical plates Aldrich owned, that he must have been the designer. The intended audience is one who is familiar with the process of engraving to a certain extent, and the classical art works that are referenced as models for Aldrich’s Paradise Lost engravings.

The reason I chose this article was because it analyzes a set of illustrations for Paradise Lost and I think that said illustrations are an excellent source for clarifying what characteristics of Milton’s Satan have been focused on, and thus serve as a means to look backward at sources and analogues. It does not fit my project in that it does not relate to the literature that references devils or the character of Satan previous to Milton’s portrayal however my project does focus on the specific traits of these characters and art, from multiple time periods serves as a way to focus on that. Also, I came across this article after I decided to draft my conference proposal for SMLA whose theme is the way texts interact and are reflected in art therefore this article seemed an excellent bridge between these two aspects of my project. Boorsch also references scholars who have analyzed the connections between the illustrations and the texts which I plan on researching before finalizing my conference proposals.

Boorsch begins her article by coming to terms with the subject by explaining the history of illustrations for Paradise Lost and then moves on to point out the gap- that three of the engravings do not fit with the others and she explains the stylistic differences. She gives some background information about the man, Medina who illustrated the other plates and then brings up the question as to who could have illustrated these three mystery plates. She forwards a book inscription that makes mention of Aldrich and forwards a letter from Atterbury to Tonson, from Atterbury to his father, a contemporary who mentions Aldrich’s role in producing the almanacs published during Aldrich’s time at Christ College, and an Oxford antiquarian. She also exposes a gap when she states that twentieth century writers discussed the Oxford almanacs but with no apparent knowledge of how Aldrich was involved, citing scholars. She also counters Hiscock’s claim that Aldrich designed the composition for Book I because Boosch argues that there were models in Aldrich’s plate collection from which the design for Book I can be traced. Boosch then forwards an unpublished dissertation that mentions what the inspiration for the Book I illustration was. She ends with postulating why Aldrich would have completed these three plates, but not the others. She suggests that it’s possible that Aldrich, being quite the Renaissance man with his interests was either uninterested in such a long project or was incapable of it.

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