Dogs in Books: An Illustrated History

From The Brothers Grimm to Lassie, or what Victorian limericks have to do with Ancient Greece.

If you are a lover of dogs and a lover of books, then you’ll be head over heels with Dogs In Books: A Celebration of Dog Illustration Through the Ages. From Aesop’s Fables to the Bible to Alice in Wonderland to Oliver Twist and beyond, the slim but mighty volume chronicles the dog’s inextricable presence in our collective history, art, and mythology through contemporary drawings and rare archival illustrations of more than 30 famous dogs culled from the British Library’s collection.

In the introduction, Catherine Britton, Senior Editor at the British Library, reminds us:

The written evidence of the relationship between dogs and humans is almost as old as literature itself. In the eighth century BC Homer wrote in The Odyssey of Odysseus’ return to Ithaca, where only his faithful old dog Argos recognised him. Odysseus had been away, Homer says, for 7300 days, or twenty years, and Argos was by now old and infirm, but still struggled to greet his master.”

Alongside each image is a short essay that contextualizes the dog and its cultural significance, as well as the history of the illustration itself.

Two shepherd and their sheepdog hear of the birth of Jesus. From a fifteenth century Book of Hours, France.
A huntsman keeps his two greyhounds firmly restrained with a leash. From the Luttrell Psalter, circa 1320-40
A donkey, dog, cat and cockerel make their own form of music in order to frighten away robbers from their house. From The Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm, translated by Mrs. Edgar Lucas, illustrated by Arthur Rackham. Constable & Co., 1909
The soldier is taken aback by the sight of the supernatural dog standing on the chest of money. From Fairy Tales by Hans Christian Andersen, illustrated by Harry Clarke. G G Harrap & Col, 1916
Bizarre dogs (and their equally odd owners) from the limericks of Edward Lear. From The Book of Nonsense written and illustrated by Edward Lear. Frederick Warne & Col, 1885
Toto looks on with some interest as Dorothy talks to the Cowardly Lion. From The New Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum illustrated by W W Denslow. Bobbs-Merrill Co, 1903
The curse of the Baskervilles. From The Hound of the Baskervilles by Arthur Conan Doyle, illustrated by Sidney Paget. Strand magazine, serialized 1901-19102
The cover of The Call of the Wild, illustrated by Philip R Goodwin and Charles Livingston Bull. William Heinemann, 1903
Dinah the Aberdeen terrier barks at ‘a palpitating vacuum cleaner.’ From Collected Dog Stories by Rudyard Kipling, illustrated by Marguerite Kirmse. Macmillan & Co., 1934
The unmistakable features of Lassie. From Lassie Come-Home by Eric Knight, illustrated by Marguerite Kirmse. J C Winston Co., 1940
Having eaten ‘a whole dish of mayonnaise fish,’ there are unsurprisingly ‘curious pains in my underneath.’ From A Dog Day or The Angel in the House by Walter Emanuel, illustrated by Cecil Aldin. William Heinemann, 1902
Mr and Mrs Dearly, surrounded by their dalmatians. From One Hundred and One Dalmatians by Dodie Smith, illustrated by Janet and Anne Grahame-Johnstone. William Heinemann, 1956

‘Are You Lonesome Tonight’

Original silkscreen. George Rodrigue, 2009

Equal parts charming and illuminating, Dogs In Books is an absolute treat for those who love literature’s fuzziest heroes.

(Via: Brain Pickings)

10 of the Most Beloved Dogs in Literature

#10. Argos, The Odyssey

One of the first dogs ever to be named in Western literature, Argos is the most faithful of them all — having waited for his master to return for twenty years, he is the only one to recognize Odysseus for his true self when he does appear. Then finally, having seen his master safely home, the old dog can die in peace, an enduring symbol of fidelity and love.

#9. Snowy, The Adventures of Tintin

Where would Tintin be without Snowy? Dead several times over, we expect (and vice versa, of course). Snowy is a goldmine of cynical commentary and fond eye-rolling to Tintin’s happy-go-lucky optimism (especially in the earlier books), and though, true, he sometimes gets distracted by bones, he is excellent at chewing through restraints. Just keep him away from Haddock’s whiskey.

#8. Toto, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz

How could you not love “a little black dog with long silky hair and small black eyes that twinkled merrily on either side of his funny, wee nose”? Dorothy’s stolid companion in L. Frank Baum’s Oz books, Toto seems to be just a normal dog at the beginning, just an adorable foil for the heroine to talk to. But in later books, as other animals are revealed to have the ability to speak, Toto finally admits that he can speak too — he just chooses not to. Oh snap, Dorothy.

#7. Buck, The Call of the Wild

Poor Buck. Stolen from a cushy life on a California ranch, he is sold into sled dog slavery in the harsh climes of Canada, where he becomes more beastlike than he had ever imagined possible. But when he meets John Thornton, he is reminded just how powerful love can be, even in the face of tragedy.

#6. Tock, The Phantom Tollbooth

Obviously, we love Norton Juster’s Tock, the ”watchdog” who rescues Milo from the Doldrums and accompanies him on his adventures. After all, we all need somebody to (im)patiently explain things to us like “since you got here by not thinking, it seems reasonable to expect that, in order to get out, you must start thinking.” Good advice for any dire scenario.

#5. Lassie, Lassie Come-Home

Though most people probably know Lassie from her on-screen franchise (twelve movies and several seasons of television), she originated in a 1938 Saturday Evening Post story by Eric Knight, later expanded into his 1940 novel Lassie Come-Home, which chronicles the dog’s trek to get back to the boy she loves so dearly. Capturing the hearts of millions, the franchise exploded, spawning many more books, and even a couple of radio programs, in addition to all that screen time.

#4. Old Yeller, Old Yeller

We admit it: the name Old Yeller still kind of gives us pangs of deep upset left over from childhood, when we cried for hours over this book. Old Yeller saves the family so many times! And then they have to shoot him! It’s the ultimate sacrifice for everyone! This book was probably the very first tragedy of our young lives, and so will always have a special place in our hearts.

#3. Ghost, A Song of Ice and Fire

We know, we know: Ghost is technically a direwolf. But hey, direwolves are canines too, and Ghost is doglike enough — loyal to a fault, Jon’s constant companion — that we decided to count him. Plus, he’s one of the best literary canines around: slippery, silent and pure white, he was the only one of his litter to be born with his eyes open, as much of an outcast — and as strong — as his keeper. Plus, there’s that whole warg thing. You know, no big deal.

#2. Fang, Harry Potter

We’ve always had a soft spot for Hagrid’s lumbering boarhound. Sure, he’s a big, slobbering coward — until it comes to Hagrid, and then he’s as gallant as can be, ready to leap in front of any stunning spells that might be sent his way.

#1. Jip, David Copperfield

Dora Spenlow’s lapdog is spoiled absolutely rotten, to be sure — but then again, he’s only a mirror of Dora herself: pretty, irritable and always the center of attention. Indeed, Jip lasts only as long as Dora does, dying by her side at the exact moment his mistress closes her eyes for the last time.

(Via: Flavorwire)