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Saturday, April 6, 2013

A-Doré-ble images 1

'Before and after' images. It's all explained below
 Granny had a Bible. Not just any Bible. I was little and it was big. And it was richly illustrated with these dark, sepia drawings, which both fascinated and horrified me.

   I couldn't be bothered to read much of the text, which was strange and abstruse, although it pleased me that I could understand it – as text I mean. I found extraordinary some of the passages, like "And the servant put his hand under the thigh of Abraham his master, and sware to him concerning that matter."

   This is where the word "testament" comes from. Look, if you want to promise me something is true, you don't need to do it quite like that. You don't really need a testicular connection. Okay?

   The Old Testament puzzled me mightily. Who were these people? How could they be so cruel to each other? How could babies be killed by the thousand? How could you sell off a brother for twenty pieces of silver, even if he was his Dad's favourite and insulted eleven other brothers with his dreams? How could...? A million questions.

   But there the images were. These often-apocalyptic themes were translated faithfully in the drawings in Granny's Bible. (Not that we've become any kinder. All my childhood questions could and should be asked of the photos on the TV news nightly.)

   I never gave a thought to the origin of these images until quite recently, when I came across an absolute gem. 

   For no good reason except personal satisfaction, I curate a website that I don't have enough time to make what I intended of it. But one thing I do, every month, is to place on it a link to every new and updated book in English on the wondrous, freely downloadable site.

    One of the books I came across was this, and when I opened the electronic edition with images, yea, lo and behold, the scales fell from mine eyes.

   This was the origin of the vivid images in Granny's Bible. Now I could re-live all the torments and wonders of my childhood Biblical experiences.

   It's a treasure trove. These images, no doubt affected in their execution by the great Renaissance artists, but still very much the unique work of Gustave Doré, have practically defined western imagery of the Christian vision for more than a century.

   As I inspected them, one thing that disappointed me was the pallidness of the drawings. The faintness. This wasn't how I remembered them.

   Take this one, for instance.

   It displeased me, even though I couldn't be sure just much contrast and sharpness were in the originals. I thought I'd have a go at restoring them to how I remembered them. This is how it ended up.

   Then I thought I'd like to have a go at restoring a few more, and so this project started.

   My next line of thought was to check on the remarkable artist who produced these drawings, because there might be clues there to his state of mind. That was very rewarding. There's a fair biography of him prefacing the hundred images in the collection. But I learned something even more important.

   These are pencil drawings, so that softness of the images is not accidental.

   Still, when I did my electronic restoration, I was able then to detect tiny details quite lost in the downloadable reproductions – ones I'm certain were clear in those in Granny's Bible. Now I find that they were etchings prepared from the original drawings. So I'm not departing too far from the artist's vision or the Biblical reproduction, I'm sure. The printers made a slight compromise. There are tricks to knowing for certain how much fading is due to time, and I know them.

   Here are some of the more spectacular ones. I decided to give you some of the text as well, so you might enjoy the context. What's here are the first few. Wait – there's more. Next time.

   This is an artistic, historical and aesthetic exploration, not a religious one, even if there are religious implications for some who might view them.

   I taught Comparative Religion at university for many years, but I was called in mainly to help with the Asian religions, and Islam, and learned only enough of Judaism and Christianity to make fair comparisons. We had fine scholars in the Old Testament/Biblical studies area – I left that to them. I was very familiar with many of the Old Testament tales from early childhood, but that's another story.

   This might be a trip down memory lane for some, or a new experience for you. It may have not the faintest interest for others, in which case, give it a miss, but I may post some more "reconditioned" images later if there seems to be any interest. 

   I doubt if anyone else will ever bother to revitalise these images, so let this be my tiny contribution to Biblical history. As I said, there's nothing proselytising about the exercise. Very possibly, the images may scare some away. I hope not. This is a lesson picture by picture in humanity's often inhuman past.


 "And the Lord God said, it is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helpmeet for him. And the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall on Adam, and he slept, and he took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh instead thereof; and the rib which the Lord God had taken from man, made he a woman, and brought her unto the man. And Adam said, This is now bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of man. Therefore shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall cleave unto his wife, and they shall be one flesh." Genesis ii, 18, 21-24.

In these few words the Scriptures narrate the creation of the first mother of our race. In "Paradise Lost," the poetic genius of Milton, going more into detail, describes how Eve awoke to consciousness, and found herself reposing under a shade of flowers, much wondering what she was and whence she came. Wandering by the margin of a small lake, she sees her own form mirrored in the clear waters, at which she wonders more. But a voice is heard, leading her to him for whom she was made, who lies sleeping under a grateful shade. It is at this point the artist comes to interpret the poet's dream. Amid the varied and luxurious foliage of Eden, in the vague light of the early dawn, Eve is presented, coy and graceful, gazing on her sleeping Lord, while in the background is faintly outlined the mystic form of Him in whose image they were created.


 And the Lord God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil; and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live forever: Therefore, the Lord God sent him forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from whence he was taken. So he drove out the man; and he placed at the east of the garden of Eden cherubims, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life. – Genesis iii, 22-24

They, looking back, all the eastern side beheld Of Paradise, so late their happy seat, Waved over by that flaming brand; the gate, With dreadful forces thronged, and fiery arms Some natural tears they dropped, but wiped them soon; The world was all before them, where to choose Their place of rest, and Providence their guide; They, hand in hand, with wandering steps and slow, Through Eden took their solitary way.

Paradise Lost, Book XII.


 And Adam knew Eve his wife; and she conceived, and bare Cain, and said, I have gotten a man from the Lord. And she again bare his brother Abel. And Abel was a keeper of sheep, but Cain was a tiller of the ground. And in process of time it came to pass, that Cain brought of the fruit of the ground an offering unto the Lord. And Abel, he also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of the fat thereof. And the Lord had respect unto Abel and to his offering: But unto Cain and to his offering he had not respect. And Cain was very wroth, and his countenance fell. And the Lord said unto Cain, Why art thou wroth? and why is thy countenance fallen? If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted? and if thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door, and unto thee shall be his desire, and thou shalt rule over him. And Cain talked with Abel his brother: and it came to pass, – when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother, and slew him. 

And the Lord said unto Cain, Where is Abel thy brother? And he said, I know not Am I my brother's keeper? And he said, What hast thou done? the voice of thy brother's blood crieth unto me from the ground. And now art thou cursed from the earth, which hath opened her mouth to receive thy brother's blood from thy hand; When thou tillest the ground, it shall not henceforth yield unto thee her strength; a fugitive and a vagabond shalt thou be in the earth. And Cain said unto the Lord, My punishment is greater than I can bear. Behold, thou hast driven me out this day from the face of the earth and from thy face shall I be hid; and I shall be a fugitive and a vagabond in the earth; and it shall come to pass, that every one that findeth me shall slay me. And the Lord said unto him, Therefore whosoever slayeth Cain, vengeance shall be taken on him sevenfold. And the Lord set a mark upon Cain, lest any finding him should kill him.

And Cain went out from the presence of the Lord, and dwelt in the land of Nod, on the east of Eden. – Genesis iv, 1-16


 And the servant put his hand under the thigh of Abraham his master, and sware to him concerning that matter.

And the servant took ten camels of the camels of his master, and departed; for all the goods of his master were in his hand: and he arose and went to Mesopotamia, unto the city of Nahor. And he made his camels to kneel down, without the city by a well of water at the time of the evening, even the time that women go out to draw water. And he said, O Lord God of my master Abraham, I pray thee, send me good speed this day, and shew kindness unto my master Abraham. Behold, I stand here by the well of water; and the daughters of the men of the city come out to draw: water: and let it come to pass, that the damsel to whom I shall say, Let down thy pitcher, I pray thee, that I may drink; and she shall say, Drink, and I will give thy camels drink also: let the same be she that thou hast appointed for thy servant Isaac; and thereby shall I know that thou hast shewed kindness unto my master.

And it came to pass before he had done speaking, that, behold, Rebekah came out, who was born to Bethuel, son of Milcah, the wife of Nahor, Abraham's brother, with her pitcher upon her shoulder. And the damsel was very fair to look upon, a virgin, neither had any man known her: and she went down to the well, and filled her pitcher and came up. And the servant ran to meet her, and said, Let me, I pray thee, drink a little water of thy pitcher. And she said, Drink, my lord; and she hasted, and let down her pitcher upon her hand, and gave him drink. And when she had done giving him drink, she said, I will draw water for thy camels also, until they have done drinking. And she hasted and emptied her pitcher into the trough, and ran again unto the well to draw water, and drew for all his camels.

And the man wondering at her held his peace, to wit whether the Lord had made his journey prosperous or not.

And it came to pass, as the camels had done drinking, that the man took a golden earring of half a shekel weight, and two bracelets for her hands of ten shekels weight of gold: and said, Whose daughter art thou? tell me, I pray thee; is there room in thy father's house for us to lodge in? And she said unto him, I am the daughter of Bethuel the son of Milcah, which she bare unto Nahor. She said moreover unto him, We have both straw and provender enough, and room to lodge in.

And the man bowed down his head and worshiped the Lord. And he said, Blessed be the Lord God of my master Abraham, who hath not left destitute my master of his mercy and his truth: I being in the way, the Lord led me to the house of my master's brethren.

And the damsel ran, and told them of her mother's house these things. – Genesis xxiv, 9-28. 


 These are the generations of Jacob. Joseph, being seventeen years old, was feeding the flock with his brethren, and the lad was with the sons of Bilhah and with the sons of Zilpah, his father's wives; and Joseph brought unto his father their evil report. Now Israel loved Joseph more than all his children, because he was the son of his old age; and he made him a coat of many colors. And when his brethren saw that their father loved him more than all his brethren, they hated him, and could not speak peaceably unto him.

And Joseph dreamed a dream, and he told it his brethren: and they hated him yet the more. And he said unto them, Hear, I pray you, this dream which I have dreamed. For, behold, we were binding sheaves in the field, and, lo, my sheaf arose, and also stood upright; and, behold, your sheaves stood round about, and made obeisance to my sheaf. And his brethren said to him, Shalt thou indeed reign over us? or shalt thou indeed have dominion over us? And they hated him yet the more for his dreams and for his words.

And he dreamed yet another dream, and told it his brethren, and said, Behold, I have dreamed a dream more; and, behold, the sun and the moon and the eleven stars made obeisance to me. And he told it to his father and to his brethren; and his father rebuked him, and said unto him, What is this dream that thou hast dreamed? Shall I and thy mother and thy brethren indeed come to bow down ourselves to thee to the earth. And his brethren envied him; but his father observed the saying.

And his brethren went to feed their father's flock in Shechem.

And Joseph went after his brethren, and found them in Dothan. And when they saw him afar off, even before he came near unto them, they conspired against him to slay him. And they said one to another, Behold, this dreamer cometh. Come now, therefore, and let us slay him, and cast him into some pit, and we will say, Some evil beast hath devoured him; and we shall see what will become of his dreams. And Reuben heard it, and he delivered him out of their hands; and said, Let us not kill him. And Reuben said unto them, Shed no blood, but cast him into this pit that is in the wilderness, and lay no hand upon him; that he might rid him out of their hands to deliver him to his father again.

And it came to pass, when Joseph was come unto his brethren, that they stript Joseph out of his coat, his coat of many colors that was on him; and they took him and cast him into a pit; and the pit was empty, there was no water in it. And they sat down to eat bread; and they lifted up their eyes and looked, and, behold, a company of Ishmaelites came from Gilead with their camels bearing spicery and balm and myrrh, going to carry it down to Egypt. And Judah said unto his brethren, What profit is it if we slay our brother, and conceal his blood? Come, and let us sell him to the Ishmaelites, and let not our hand be upon him, for he is our brother and our flesh. And his brethren were content.

Then there passed by Midianites merchantmen; and they drew and lifted up Joseph out of the pit, and sold Joseph to the Ishmaelites for twenty pieces of silver; and they brought Joseph into Egypt.

And the Midianites sold him into Egypt unto Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh's, and captain of the guard. – Genesis xxxvii, 2 – 12, 17-28, 36 


 And there went a man of the house of Levi, and took to wife a daughter of Levi. And the woman conceived, and bare a son: and when she saw him that he was a goodly child, she hid him three months. And when she could not longer hide him, she took for him an ark of bulrushes, and daubed it with slime and with pitch, and put the child therein; and she laid it in the flags by the river's brink. And his sister stood afar off, to wit what would be done to him.

And the daughter of Pharaoh came down to wash herself at the river; and her maidens walked along by the river's side; and when she saw the ark among the flags, she sent her maid to fetch it. And when she had opened it, she saw the child: and, behold, the babe wept. And she had compassion on him, and said, This is one of the Hebrews' children. Then said his sister to Pharaoh's daughter, Shall I go and call to thee a nurse of the Hebrew women, that she may nurse the child for thee? And Pharaoh's daughter said to her, Go. And the maid went and called the child's mother. And Pharaoh's daughter said unto her, Take this child away, and nurse it for me, and I will give thee thy wages. And the woman took the child and nursed it.

And the child grew, and she brought him unto Pharaoh's daughter, and he became her son. And she called his name Moses: and she said, Because I drew him out of the water. – Exodus ii, 1-10. 


 Now Heber the Kenite, which was of the children of Hobab, the father-in-law of Moses, had severed himself from the Kenites, and pitched his tent unto the plain of Zaanaim, which is by Kedesh.

And they shewed Sisera that Barak, the son of Abinoam, was gone up to Mount Tabor. And Sisera gathered together all his chariots, even nine hundred chariots of iron, and all the people that were with him, from Harosheth of the Gentiles unto the river of Kishon.

And Deborah said unto Barak, Up; for this is the day in which the Lord hath delivered Sisera into thine hand: is not the Lord gone out before thee? So Barak went down from Mount Tabor, and ten thousand men after him.

And the Lord discomfited Sisera, and all his chariots and all his host, with the edge of the sword before Barak; so that Sisera lighted down off his chariot, and fled away on his feet. But Barak pursued after the chariots, and after the host, unto Harosheth of the Gentiles: and all the host of Sisera fell upon the edge of the sword; and there was not a man left.

Howbeit Sisera fled away on his feet to the tent of Jael, the wife of Heber the Kenite; for there was peace between Jabin the king of Hazor and the house of Heber the Kenite. And Jael went out to meet Sisera, and said unto him, Turn in, my lord, turn in to me; fear not. And when he had turned in unto her into the tent, she covered him with a mantle. And he said unto her, Give me, I pray thee, a little water to drink; for I am thirsty. And she opened a bottle of milk, and gave him drink, and covered him. Again he said unto her, Stand in the door of the tent, and it shall be, when any man doth come and enquire of thee, and say, Is there any man here? that thou shalt say, No. Then Jael, Heber's wife, took a nail of the tent, and took an hammer in her hand, and went softly unto him, and smote the nail into his temples, and fastened it into the ground: for he was fast asleep and weary. So he died.

And, behold, as Barak pursued Sisera, Jael came out to meet him, and said unto him, Come, and I will show thee the man whom thou seekest. And when he came into her tent, behold, Sisera lay dead, and the nail was in his temples. Judges iv, 2-22.

So she drives a nail into his brain. Some tough stories, aren't there? Would you like me to continue? I've rejuvenated quite a few more.

dore1 | dore2


  1. With such a wonderful childhood introduction no wonder you entered the field of comparative religions. You have the pictures looking terrific. Did you do this in your fantastic "media room"? It's all very clever.  Perhaps lack of such wonderful pictures was the basic flaw in my Christian education. The main Bible I have was a grandmother's too but it only has maps in it such as the "Lands Peopled by Noah's Families" through to "Apostle Paul's Missionary Journeys".  I also have a Book of Common Prayer from my other grandmother, but typical of her practical nature she saved, between it's delicate leaves, her Certificate  from the Department of Public Instruction attesting that in 1891 she passed with honours a course in Plain Cookery.

    Most of my grandchildren have received a smattering of Christian Education and my six year old granddaughter, after seeing Sound of Music, has decided to become a nun. My seven year old granddaughter has been more of a skeptic. She questioned the order of creation and also the genesis of the creator. Recently she said something about God and I asked her if her doubts had been resolved. She replied, " Yes, the teachers all say he is true and anyway  I have seen a picture of him." I try not to impose my feminist, atheist views upon my grandchildren but could not help enquiring, "How do you know God is a he?" She responded, "But Grandma, no girl would have a ridiculous name like God."

    On Monday, when I next see her, I will show her your beautiful and quite moving picture of the expulsion of Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden. She will probably ask to see the others too.

    I especially like SISERA SLAIN BY JAEL for no particular reason. Anne P

    1. Funny thing is, I never dreamed I'd end up teaching in the field of comparative religions, but this is Chaos Theory in real life....

      Bibles were wonderful places to find unexpected documents. In our household any large, heavy book could contain extremely well-pressed leaves and wildflowers. I daresay, with regret, they've disappeared; the botanical specimens as well as many of the books.

      I am much impressed by your grandmother's Certificate in Plain Cookery. From my childhood I can well imagine some of the recipes, and nearly taste the 'dough-boys' and Shepherd's Pie.

      I see you have benefitted greatly from your grandchildren's thoughts on theology. The monastic life never appealed to me, though some monasteries I've seen would have been excellent for playing Cops and Robbers.

      So you liked Sisera. Sometimes I wonder about you, Anne. You'll like the next one too, I'll wager. :)

  2. This is great,thank you! I remember Gustav Dore more for his fairy tale illustrations. I don't know how to copy this picture of Red Riding hood and the wolf into this page ,but here's the link:

    My grandma's Bible has no illustrations, sadly. You WERE lucky -it makes a huge difference!

    Anyway -I prefer the stories of the Mahabharata:) So much more magical and layered!

    Julie M xx

    1. Isn't that amazing – now I see this image, I'm aware that I've probably seen many Doré illustrations without knowing who the artist was. It would have been hand-coloured – possibly by someone much later.

      It crossed my mind to colorise one of his biblical images myself, but then felt I should be true to the original spirit of the drawing. Still, it would be fun. Maybe I'll do it on a suitable one later, just to please myself.

  3. Good work on restoring the old pictures, Denis. For me, yes, it was a trip down memory lane. Just for a moment I recaptured the wonder of childhood Sunday School - the bibles, hymn books, the awe, Jesus wants me for a sunbeam, and the dreams of becoming a missionary among the heathen. By the time I should have got around to doing it, however, I was one of them. Oh well, dream on.

    1. Sunday School, which I attended a few times without much enthusiasm, I remember particularly for the brightly coloured gummed stamps that you had to lick and stick on the right empty space in a nice little book. You wouldn't have wanted to get it wrong though – the glue on them, which tasted like ... glue, wasn't ever meant to come off.

      But I was a pretty good licker and sticker, if I say so myself.

  4. These illustrations caused me to rummage through the dust of the long-untouched section of children's books on our shelves, to find the (mostly)far less erudite than you have here, bible illustrations of my childhood.

    I was a book worm as a child even though we could afford to have very few children's books in our home. I was raised on Henry Lawson, Banjo Patterson, Mark Twain, a dictionary, cheap encyclopedias, the Bible,an atlas and lots of maps. Do you remember the large format history of Austraila with Captain Cook, The First Fleet and naked Aborigines with spears on the front cover? I've forgotten its title. My brother has it in Canberra, but it was much beloved by all three of us.

    The only books really meant for small children in the house were the ones with much loved, but often quite alarming and sometimes violent and gory illustrations. "Bible Stories and Pictures" by Mrs Adelaide Bee Evans (Pub: Signs Pub Co. - no date) was given to me by my parents for my 4th (!) birthday - in 1954. I suspect they bought it from a door-to-door salesman. My sweet mother was easy prey for a charming man! One of Dore's is in there in all its glory - "Jacob Goeth into Egypt". But it isn't in black and white!
    Thanks for the memories, Den.

    1. Was the Aboriginal man in the foreground looking out on to this scene of strange sailing objects in the harbour? I have some memory of that if so. Maybe you could badger your brother to scan the cover and send it to me.

      If you want a trip down memory lane and don't have a copy of the Mrs Adelaide Bee Evans book, try this:

      "Bible Stories and Pictures"

      Double-click on the images on the left for a large sized slideshow. Sadly the Doré picture isn't one of the ones featured.


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