Why No More Illustrations in Novels?

Why are there no more illustrations in novels except for those for children?

I’m going to guess it’s because illustrations suggest that … the novel is for children.

Of course, many (most?) fantasy novels have maps, but those don’t count.

Did adult novels used to commonly be commonly illustrated? None of the older books I have here have illustrations, except the ones that were first published as serials in magazines.

There are still some; Mercedes Lackey’s novels often have them, and Jim Butcher’s Backup had them. But they no doubt cost extra - artists don’t work for free - and presumably illustrated ones don’t usually sell better.

Not a new question, in basics at least…

Roger Zelazny’s Changeling and Madwand were published in the 80s with illustrations, as were some of his other works. And I have a 1979 hardbound called Forty-Two Tales (an Edgar Allan Poe collection) with some pretty cool illustrations. You probably just didn’t come across the right books.

I read mostly science fiction and fantasy. Occasionally there are maps or illustrations of the world or area, and that’s about it for any sort of interior illustrations.

Hell, it’s hard enough to get good COVER illustrations for books, let alone interior illustrations. I’ve seen a lot of really bad illustrations, where it seems that whoever was in charge of getting the cover illustrated just wandered over to the stock art files, picked the one that had the most dust on it, and called it good. Sometimes the cover art seems to be done from a quick verbal description, without the artist reading the book before even doing a preliminary sketch.

I’ve also seen some really great interior illustrations by Phil Foglio in the old Myth series by Robert Asprin, in the trade paperbacks by Starblaze. Each illustration was worthy of study.

Artists have an annoying habit of wanting to be paid for their work, too.

There’s a series of anthologies called L. Ron Hubbard’s Writers of the Future, which showcases amateur SF/fantasy short stories and artwork.

All of the above, especially cost, price, money, and dollars.

But also. The feeling is that readers like to imagine their own faces, images, and settings. Imposing them hurts rather than helps the work.

The younger the child the less likely they will be able to imagine the world for themselves. As audiences grow older, illustrations grow fewer.

Well, I’ve encountered adult books with illustrations, but I read the OP as meaning that these were much more common in the past. I haven’t really observed that (though that doesn’t mean its not true)

And time. It takes a long time to accrue the illustrations to fill a book - there may be 25-30 required, which would take months - and that time isn’t often spare between finished draft and publishing date.

19th Century and older novels often had a frontispiece illustration of an important moment in the book and a handful of illustrations in the text. But the practice faded out by the mid-20th century. A recent exception was Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, which had a handful of illustrations, but the was because it was trying to create the mood of being a 19th Century book.

Just wanted to say Phil Foglio’s work MADE the Myth series by Robert Asprin, some of the most influential trade paperbacks ever.

I think if adults want to read books with pictures, there are now a huge library of comics and graphic novels aimed at adults; and this fills the niche for most readers.

As RealityChuck notes, 19th century novels often had illustrations in them, especially if the setting was “Exotic” or “Fantastic”- I’ve seen facsimile reprints of works like The War Of The Worlds, the various H. Rider Haggard/Alan Quatermain novels, some of the works of Arthur Conan Doyle, Jules Verne stories, and A Princess of Mars which had illustrations in them. Not a huge number, to be fair, but they were there, usually to illustrate a key or especially dramatic point in the story.

Why that’s no longer done is a good question, though- as much as I like reading novels, sometimes I think a few illustrations would go a long way towards livening them up.

My copy of Jane Eyre has illustrations, and I have several other old books that do, including a first-edition Twain.

I have illustrated copies of Jane Eyre, Pride & Prejudice, and a nearly complete set of Dickens with 4-6 Victorian prints per volume. There’s something very charming about those images of heart-shape-faced heroines and curly-headed, frock-coated heroes with innocuous captions taken from the text of the novel.

I wondered whether novels were illustrated on their release or in later editions after they had proven their popularity. This article deals with Jane Austen’s novels, which were initially published without pictures. Her continuing popularity (& cheaper printing technology) resulted in many later illustrated editions. But we also hear about Charles Dickens:

Was periodical printing cheaper than books? The Sherlock Holmes stories were also published in magazines & Sidney Paget’s illustrations shaped The Great Detective’s image. (Darn, this is an interesting topic.)

Even though printing technology has improved, artists still need to be paid. So most novels are published without pictures. As mentioned, graphic novels fill a niche. Some are original publications & others are based on existing works. Perhaps “serious” folks avoid them; I can be a serious reader but enjoyed the graphic Fafhrd & Greymouser stories as much asthis guy.

Today, the most common way of “illustrating” a novel is making a movie. Or a mini-series…

But that reinforces the dichotomy of ‘feast or famine’ with regards to illustrations - in comics and graphic novels, the medium is primarily visual, with words being relegated to a secondary position. (This notion is fresh in my mind at the moment after a couple of panels I attended last weekend at Toronto Wizard World Comic Con.)

Personally, I think that I’d be very interested in something in between - an ‘Illustrated novel’ with novella-length text, carrying the primary narrative, but at least 30 good graphic-novel quality illustrations for key moments… and ideally, as with graphic novels, the story could be written in such a way as to make the illustrations as strong a component as possible, instead of afterthoughts.

Hmm… maybe I should try to find somebody who can actually draw and collaborate on a project like this. :smiley:

I’ve been noticing more illustrations in books for, well, children but much older children, on the cusp of the Young Adult section. Notably, there are amazing illustrations in the Edge Chronicles that really make the books, and also the Last Apprentice books have wonderful illustrated chapter fronts.

Now that I’m thinking about it, another one I wish I still had was the illustrated version of Niven’s The Patchwork Girl.