Schmidt, Rachael. Critical Images: The Canonization of “Don Quixote” Through Illustrated Editions of the Eighteenth Century. Montreal and Kingston: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 1999.
Reviewed by William Warner | July 12, 2000
The last few years have rediscovered the centrality of Don Quixote to eighteenth century Britain. Rachael Schmidt has given us an authoritative survey of the illustrations of Cervantes novel, Critical Images: The Canonization of “Don Quixote” Through Illustrated Editions of the Eighteenth Century. This is an extremely useful, theoretically informed study of the illustrations used in the editions of this enormously popular novel over the course of the long eighteenth century, from the Lord Carteret edition of 1738 to the Romantic illustrations of Francisco de Goya. This book, along with the David Blewitt’s study of the illustrations of Robinson Crusoe, helps to overcome the visual asceticism of those many imageless 20th century scholarly editions of canonical novels. This book establishes illustrations as a valuable historically specific translation of the word into image. In addition, Professor Schmidt’s Critical Images confirms part of Motooka’s thesis: that for the eighteenth century British culture, “Don Quixote” was more than a novel. It was a rich interpretive field for meditation upon a broad spectrum of ideas and issues.