It all began in 1769. John Granger published his Biographical History of Englandwithout pictures. He did, however, include extra leaves in the book so that people could add their own illustrations. His readers took that cue, often pillaging other books for portraits to accompany the thumbnail biographies in Grangers book.
Extra Illustration Gains Popularity
Over time, the practice expanded to other titles and came to be called grangerization. Books that have been grangerized may also be described as extra illustrated. Shakespeares works were commonly grangerized; people would add playbills, portraits of the actors or characters, or illustrated scenes from the plays.
The Bible is also a commonly grangerized book; owners may add family names, certificates of baptism, and other memorabilia. One famously grangerized Bible was originally three octavo volumes. After the addition of over 30,000 extra illustrations, the finished product was a whopping sixty folio volumes. The Bible now belongs to the Huntington Library collection.
Grangerized Books and Collecting
The act of extra illustration has drawn fire since its beginnings. While proponents defended it as exquisite handicraft, detractors argued that it was breaking up a good book to make a worse one.
At any rate, grangerizing has produced some incredibly artistic works. Rare book collectors have found extraordinary volumes that contain everything from variant title pages, watercolors, and etchings, to original drawings, manuscript pages, and mezzotints.
If you encounter a grangerized book, its important to consider a few factors. First is the quality of the original bookis it a fine volume or a cheap paperback? Next consider the extra illustrations, which may be rare and valuable unto themselves. Finallyand perhaps most importantlyconsider your personal interest in the work and the extra illustrations.
Have you added any grangerized books to your collection? Where did you find them, and what is the most interesting extra illustration youve discovered?
Further Reading: The New Yorker