Gustave Doré’s Exquisite Engravings of Cervantes’ Don Quixote


In a now defunct list­ing from Bau­man Rare Books for an 1868 edi­tion of Miguel de Cer­vantes’ Don Quixote with illus­tra­tions by Gus­tave Doré, we find the fol­low­ing unat­trib­uted quo­ta­tion: “in every Eng­lish-speak­ing home where they can spell the word ‘art,’ you will find Doré edi­tions.” It’s odd that the homes should be “Eng­lish-speak­ing” when Doré’s illus­tra­tions were orig­i­nal­ly an 1860 French com­mis­sion, but the quote at least demon­strates the enor­mous pop­u­lar­i­ty of Doré’s Quixote. His ren­der­ings were so influ­en­tial they deter­mined the look of Quixote and San­cho Pan­za in many sub­se­quent illus­trat­ed ver­sions, stage and film pro­duc­tions, and read­ers’ imag­i­na­tions.

Per­haps the most suc­cess­ful illus­tra­tor of the 19th cen­tu­ry, the dap­per Doré was also at work on a momen­tous commission—this time from an Eng­lish publisher—to illus­trate the Bible. He went on to edi­tions of Rime of the Ancient Mariner, Par­adise Lost, The Divine Com­e­dy, Poe’s The Raven, and many oth­er famous works of lit­er­a­ture. But his Don Quixote may be the lit­er­ary com­mis­sion for which he’s best remem­bered.


Doré appar­ent­ly entered a crowd­ed field when he took on Cer­vantes’ foun­da­tion­al text. For a lit­tle con­text, Bau­man Rare Books also quotes a cer­tain schol­ar sur­named “Ray,” who offers this pré­cis of the edition’s cre­ation:

Don Quixote was a text cal­cu­lat­ed to test even Doré. He was match­ing him­self against Coypel and Tony Johan­not, not to men­tion the Span­ish illus­tra­tors of the great Ibar­ra edi­tion pub­lished in Madrid in 1780. He met the chal­lenge superbly… At first he intend­ed only 40 designs, but Cer­vantes’ book cap­tured his imag­i­na­tion, and he arranged for a major work… Don Quixote and San­cho Pan­za reached their defin­i­tive ren­der­ing in Doré’s designs.

Doré end­ed up com­plet­ing over 200 illus­tra­tions for his edi­tion. You can see a cou­ple of those “defin­i­tive,” and exquis­ite, engrav­ings above and below. The edi­tors of Bib­liokept main­tain a sep­a­rate site post­ing all of the Doré Quixote illus­tra­tions. Project Guten­berg has an Eng­lish full text Quixote with the illus­tra­tions scanned in, and the Uni­ver­si­ty of Buf­fa­lo has an exten­sive search­able dig­i­tal col­lec­tion of Doré illus­tra­tions. And if you just have to con­form to the tastes of “every Eng­lish-speak­ing home where they can spell the word ‘art’ ” and own a Doré Quixote of your own, you can pur­chase a re-cre­ation of an 1870 edi­tion for only three month­ly install­ments of $125. It’s a “pub­lish­ing trea­sure.” Prince­ton Uni­ver­si­ty has more infor­ma­tion on the engrav­ings.


via Bib­liokept

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Gus­tave Doré’s Dra­mat­ic Illus­tra­tions of Dante’s Divine Com­e­dy

Sal­vador Dalí’s 100 Illus­tra­tions of Dante’s The Divine Com­e­dy

Hen­ri Matisse Illus­trates 1935 Edi­tion of James Joyce’s Ulysses

See Pablo Picasso’s Spare, Ten­der Illus­tra­tions For a Lim­it­ed Edi­tion of Aristo­phanes’ Lysis­tra­ta (1934)

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness

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