In a reading of James Thomson's The Seasons that largely draws on the history of the book and the fields of print culture and illustration studies, I offer a narrative of the changing interpretation of the poem between 1730 and 1797. Not only did readers, in response to changes in zeitgeist, alter their consumption and reading practices of the text, but they also interpreted the poem by translating it into a range of different media such as furniture prints, porcelain designs, sculpture, and book illustrations. I shall examine different responses to Thomson's poem by discussing a number of illustrations that were printed in editions, published both in London and the newly emerging regional publishing centers but disseminated across Britain. Apart from documenting the representational shift from depicting the poem as theodicy to reading it as a narrative of nature and domesticity, I shall relate my discussion of the illustrations to changes in technology, the reading revolution, and the skillful marketing strategies of both cheaply produced and luxurious editions of The Seasons in the late eighteenth century. By contextualizing the production within a new midcentury book trade that catered to different classes of readers, the essay makes a contribution to understanding Thomson's text as a cultural classic of iconic significance that was being reinvented (in ever new media and interpretations) throughout the second half of the eighteenth and the first half of the ninteenth centuries.
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Sandro Jung; Visual Interpretations, Print, and Illustrations of Thomson's The Seasons, 1730 – 1797. Eighteenth-Century Life 1 April 2010; 34 (2): 23–64. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/00982601-2009-015
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