These beautifully illustrated and curated collections of letters are published by Batsford. Each volume can be enjoyed on its own, and together they provide a delightful window into history as seen through famous writers’ own words and period art.
List of books in the series
The Illustrated Letters of the Brontës, selected and introduced by Juliet Gardiner (2021)
The Illustrated Letters of the Brontë sisters – Charlotte, Emily and Anne – is the story both of the real world of the Brontes at Haworth Parsonage, their home on the edge of the lonely Yorkshire moors, and of the imaginary worlds they spun for themselves in their novels and poetry.
The Illustrated Provence Letters of Van Gogh, selected and introduced by Martin Bailey (2021)
Vincent van Gogh’s letters are an exceptionally vivid and moving testimony to the artist’s struggle to survive and work. They have always been widely read but this book’s combination of letters and illustrations gives an intimate insight into the painter’s daily domestic life in Arles and Saint-Remy, his spiritual torment and the process of artistic creation itself.
Vincent tells his own story of his most creative period. The book includes important letters to Gauguin and his brother. The selection is profusely illustrated throughout with his paintings, drawings and facsimile letters, many of which contain revealing sketches of his work in progress.
The Illustrated Letters of Oscar Wilde, selected and introduced by Juliet Gardiner (2020)
An illustrated biography that tells the life of Oscar Wilde through his own words – private letters, poems, plays, stories and legendary witticisms. It includes his relationships with key artists and writers of the time, such as Ruskin, Charles Ricketts, and Lillie Langtry.
It is illuminated throughout with paintings, engravings, contemporary photographs, cartoons and caricatures of Wilde and his social circle, e.g. by Aubrey Beardsley, Toulouse Lautrec, James Whistler and Max Beerbohm. It also details Wilde’s ruin after the trial and its outcome. The profundity of his writing from prison and exile form an epitaph, not only to his own life, but also for the era that carelessly delighted in it.
The Illustrated Letters of Jane Austen, selected and introduced by Penelope Hughes-Hallett (2019)
A striking account of the letters and correspondence of Jane Austen, illustrated with portraits, facsimile letters, topographical engravings and fashion plates, that aims to bring to life the world Jane Austen inhabited.
The letters, with an accompanying commentary by Penelope Hughes-Hallett, are separated into six periods of Jane Austen’s life, between the years 1796, when she was twenty, and 1817, the year of her death. They celebrate Jane Austen’s talent for expressing exactly what she perceived, making this an illuminating companion to her novels. Although the book follows a broadly chronological scheme, the letters are arranged round visual themes, including the Hampshire countryside, social life in Bath and London, domestic pursuits, paying visits and travelling by carriage.
The Illustrated Letters of the Pre-Raphaelites, selected and introduced by Jan Marsh (2018)
The Pre-Raphaelites was a charmed circle of love, friendship and art. Within an ever-changing flow of affections, and intimacies as richly patterned as a tapestry, they worked together as companions, lovers and partners. They shared tragedy as well as happiness, critical hostility as well as success, even the griefs of infidelity and discord. These creative partnerships, which also created the firm William Morris and Co, revitalised Victorian art and design.
This is an illustrated history of the linked lives and loves of these supremely talented artists of late Victorian Britain shown through their passionate writings. It features the painters, poets, critics and designers: Ford Madox Brown, Edward Burne-Jones, Fanny Cornforth, William Holman Hunt, John Everett Millais, William and Janey Morris, Chrstina, Dante Gabriel, and William Rossetti, John Ruskin, William Bell Scott and Lizzie Siddal.
The Illustrated Letters of Virginia Woolf, selected and introduced by Frances Spalding (2017)
The moving story of the life and work of novelist Virginia Woolf, revealed through her own letters to those closest to her and beautifully illustrated with contemporary photographs and paintings, many by members of the Bloomsbury Group, such as Woolf’s sister Vanessa Bell, Roger Fry and Duncan Grant.
The letters – at times witty and irreverent, at times melancholy and introspective – reveal insights into the complex personality of the novelist herself. “A true letter”, she insisted, “should be like a film of wax pressed close to the graving of the mind”. The book contains biographical notes on the main recipients of the letters, together with background information on Virginia Woolf’s life and work.