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Reading the Illustrations of Verne's Voyages extraordinaires: The Example of Le Superbe Orénoque

By Terry Harpold

Lateral windows

If we are to speak of "illustrations" of Jules Verne's Voyages extraordinaires [Extraordinary Voyages], we must begin at the thresholds of his fiction, with the covers of the volumes in which the Voyages were first published (figure 1).

Figure 1. Cartonnages dorés et colorés of the Hetzel 8vo ("grands octavos") editions. Shown are the three editions of Le Superbe Orénoque [The Mighty Orinoco]. Left: Type "Mappemonde dorée" [gold-leafed planisphere] (1898). Center: Type "Initiales-jumeaux" [paired initials], in two volumes (1898). Right: Type "Un éléphant, titre dans le cartouche/l’éventail" [one elephant, title in the cartouche/fan] (1907). Source: Marquis, "Jules Verne et Hetzel."

Verne's editors, Pierre-Jules and Louis-Jules Hetzel (Hetzel père and fils, respectively) were masters avant la lettre of modern "content repurposing"; consequently, the bibliographic history of Verne's works is among the most complex of modern publishing.[1] In all but a few cases, the novels were first published serially in the Magasin d’Éducation et de récréation, a biweekly magazine founded by Hetzel père in 1864 (Gondolo della Riva 1977, xiv-xvi). These versions, known today as the éditions pré-originales, included illustrations and vignettes by one, sometimes two, of about two dozen artists working for the Hetzels. At the end of their serialization, the novels were issued in two integral formats: unillustrated octodecimos (18mo), known as the éditions originales because they represent the first complete releases of each novel; and illustrated duodecimos (12mo) that included most of the images of the serialized versions.[2] Beginning in 1867 with Voyages et aventures du capitaine Hatteras, the novels were published in a third form, now the most celebrated: illustrated and ornamented editions for the Christmas and New Year's markets, the cartonnages dorés et colorés (gold-leaf and colored bindings) in "grand octavo" (large 8vo) format. These usually included two novels bound in a single book – the annual fruit of Verne's onerous contracts with the Hetzels – or a novel and one or more shorter works. Three long novels in this format were "triples," the equivalent of three works bound as one.

The textual-graphic domain constituted by these objects is unmatched in its breadth and variety; no other corpus associated with a single author is comparable. On their own, the grands octavos represent a many-tiered series. As new cartonnages were introduced, older novels were reprinted in new designs; some novels are known to exist in as many as a dozen different cartonnages. The math alone indicates the scale of the problem: the 62 novels and two collections of short fiction comprising the Voyages were published in 47 8vo volumes; if variations in binding color are considered, more than 4000 different combinations of text and binding were published between 1866 and 1919.[3] Octodecimo and duodecimo editions were only a little less varied. They were published in hardcover (demi-chagrin) and softcover (broché) versions, in a half-dozen or more color schemes and cover designs. Many of these are incompletely documented; it is possible that others remain undiscovered.

As significant as their number and variety is the remarkable visual allure of the cartonnages. At the outer boundary of the work, they compactly figure textual and graphic programs of its interior – indeed, of the whole of the series (Harpold 2005). Even before a reader of the Voyages opens a volume to its first page, she is drawn into a position of survey: the bold colors, ornate patterns, and graphic devices (landscapes, engines of travel, maps, navigational tools) set her gaze in motion, scanning, decoding, anticipating thus the invocatory gesture with which every Verne text begins. In the first paragraph, a journey is already underway, signs of a mystery have been already witnessed, a letter is in need of a reply, a strange document in need of decipherment, etc. The cartonnages install this pattern at the graphic-textual horizon of the work.

Within that horizon, there are the illustrations, strictly speaking (Figure 2).

Figure 2. Left: Frontispiece of Le Superbe Orénoque. Engraving by G. Roux (1898). Right: Map of the "Cours de l’Orénoque" ["Course of the Orinoco"] (SO I.vii). Engraving by E. Morieu (1898); the draftsperson is unknown. The map is based on one of the two maps in Jean Chaffanjon's Voyage aux sources de l’Orinoque (1889), to which have been added the (fictional) River Torrida and Mission de Santa Juana, in the lower right corner.[4]

Most are woodblock engravings, chromolithographs, and chromotypographs, an early technology for color printing. Many of the novels published after 1899 include one or more photographs. The earliest novels included numerous in-text vignettes, emblems, and ornaments of chapter beginnings. These are less common after the late 1860s, when full-page illustrations become the norm.[5] In all, there are more than 4500 images in the Hetzel Voyages, an average of over 60 in each novel, about one every six to eight pages.[6] Landscapes, vehicles, people, animals and colossal events conjured by the adventures are delimned and reaffirmed by them. Thirty novels include one or more maps describing the path of a voyage, many of which were drafted for the novel in which they appear – several by Verne himself (Harpold 2005). In the earlier novels, character studies and landscapes are common, more suggestions of the novels' themes than depictions of events. In the later novels, the images more closely track events of the narrative, though they also may depart from them in interesting ways.

Regrettably, these images are mostly unknown to twenty-first century Anglophone readers. With a few exceptions, English translations of the Voyages include few or none of the illustrations.[7] Why this should be I can't say definitively. One translator of Verne into English has reported that his publishers protest that the images would make paperback editions too expensive for university students, presumably the primary readership of quality translations. The problem, they complain, is not the cost of securing permissions or getting hold of fair originals – all of the illustrations are long out of copyright and are easily acquired – but that including them would increase page counts by as much as 25%.[8] On its face, this seems an economic argument, but only if one has already accepted an austere – and I think, scandalously reductive – notion of what constitutes the body of a work and which of its traits must be carried over in translation. Surely something important is lost if we must sacrifice a quarter of the work so as to save… the text, in the narrowest sense of that term.

In contrast, most modern French-language editions of the Voyages at least nod in the direction of the legacy they inherit. The covers of the inexpensive Livre de Poche (LdP) editions, for example, are decorated in silver and red filigree that evokes the spirit of the later cartonnages, and they include all, or nearly all, of the illustrations (figure 3).[9]

Figure 3. Covers of Livre de Poche (LdP) editions of Vingt mille lieues sous les mers [Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea]. Left: The 1966 edition. Right: The 1997 edition. Each incorporates elements of illustrations by Alphonse de Neuville for the 1870 Hetzel edition. (Both of the LdPs include all of de Neuville's illustrations.)

The preservation of the illustrations in these editions demonstrates something about the reception of Verne that deserves careful consideration: for generations of European (and, especially, French) readers, texts and images of the Hetzel editions have been inseparable; for them, Verne has always been an illustrated writer (Gauthier 1984, Martin 1966).[10]

Characteristic of this approach to the images, Daniel Compère has described them as the "lateral windows" of the Voyages, suggesting thus a relation between programs of the author and programs of the artists that is more than mere repetition.[11] The term is evocative for readers of Verne fortunate enough to have access to the images because it signals an aspect of the reading that is familiar to them: when the image arrests the textual sequence, a sort of sideways illumination is cast on the adjoining passages. This lateral view has its own grammar and method and way of opening the narrative to other modes of reading, even as we are aware of its indirection and liminality.[12] When it is documentary, a realist illustration guarantees the narrative's probity, even at its most improbable turn. When it is fanciful or dream-like, the image jolts us back from a complacency engendered by Verne's style. We can get lost in his taxonomies and lists if consider them only effets du réel, and not – as is more often true – superabundant caricatures of a monolithic real that text aims to fracture. The excessive character of the images plays an analogous role: their accessory function, their too much in relation to textual planes of the narrative, repeats these operations of caricature and fracture at the level of the page (a reading surface) and the book (a series of surfaces, independent of its narrative logic).[13] It is possible to read for these operations in Verne without the lens of the illustrations, but it easier to do so when the whole of this diorama unrolls before us.[14]

The two Jean(ne)s

Mais, dira-t-on, cela finit comme un vaudeville… Eh bien, qu’est ce récit, sinon un vaudeville sans couplets, et avec le dénouement obligatoire du mariage à l’instant où le rideau baisse?
[But, you will say, it ends like a vaudeville. Well, what is this story, if not a vaudeville without rhyming couplets, and with the obligatory ending of a marriage as the curtain drops?]
– The closing line of Clovis Dardentor (1896)[15]

With the exception of the Livre de Poche covers shown in Figure 3, the cartonnages and illustrations shown in the first section of this essay are represenative of a single novel: Le Superbe Orénoque [The Mighty Orinoco], published by Hetzel fils in 1898.[16] I've not kept to the Orénoque because it is a particularly distinguished example of the illustrated Verne. The cartonnages (Figure 1) are handsome, but are not the most appreciated by collectors. Most critics consider the novel's artist, George Roux, among the less accomplished of Verne's illustrators.[17] The Orénoque is significant, however, because in order to illustrate it Roux faced a problem that is to my knowledge unique in Verne's œuvre, and his solution is notably discerning of Verne's textual programs. Its example can tell us much about potential engagements of images and texts in the Hetzel series and subsequent illustrated editions of Verne's fiction.[18]

The novel is set in 1893. A young Frenchman, Jean de Kermor, and his uncle, the sergeant Martial, set out on an expedition to the headwaters of the Orinoco, one of the great rivers of South America.[19] They hope to discover the fate of Jean's father, the Colonel de Kermor, who disappeared fourteen years earlier in self-imposed exile after his wife's death in a shipwreck, believing that their only child had also died. The boy and his uncle join up with an impromptu band of adventurers and scientists, including three cantankerous Venezuelan geographers who animate the novel's comic scenes; and two Frenchmen, the explorer Jacques Helloch and the botanist Germain Paterne, who are cataloguing flora of the Orinoco Basin.

The journey is captivating and perilous. Framed by grassy plains and dense forests, the river and its banks present exotic and inviting panoramas. The travellers are tested by rough water, sudden storms, savage and strange animals, an earthquake, marauding natives, and a group of cutthroat bandits whose leader has an old score to settle with Jean's father. The further upstream the expedition travels, the more numerous and the greater the dangers until, in the novel's climax, Jean and Martial are kidnapped by the bandits. All will end happily, however: the boy and his uncle are rescued by the militia of the Mission de Santa Juana – led by the saintly Father Esperante – the bandits defeated and their leader slain. And in a dénouement as contrived as any in Verne, Esperante is discovered to be Jean's long-lost father, the Colonel de Kermor, and Martial not the Colonel's brother but his faithful servant. Father and child are joyously reunited. The novel ends with a promise of that classic terminus of comedy: a marriage.

A marriage?! We have, in fact, been hoodwinked: halfway through the novel, we discover that young Jean is Jeanne, the Colonel's daughter, who has disguised herself as a boy. Her reasons for this disguise are never made clear, though it is suggested they have to do with the perils of an Amazonian journey for a young woman. But this is, at most, an alibi for narrative and textual functions of her disguise. Such is the providential grace of fiction that a reason for the masquerade is in the final analysis unnecessary: the pretext for another of Verne's games of textual doubling, Jeanne's turn as Jean is demanded more by the formal structure of the adventure than by any pretense of verisimilitude (Harpold 2005).

Yet, we still may have seen it coming. A first visual cue is the lovely young woman shown in the upper right of the novel's frontispiece (Figure 2). She, of course, is Jeanne, but she never appears as such for more than half the novel and not in this dress until its penultimate chapter. If we are not one of those readers who leafs ahead to discover whodunit before we actually read to the revelation, we will have started out wondering who this young woman is and when we will meet her.

That happens at the start of chapter 3 – but she or, rather he, looks like this (Figure 4) –

Figure 4. "Son livre sous les yeux…" Jean de Kermor and Sergeant Martial on the deck of the steamer Simon-Bolivar, reading Chaffanjon's Voyage aux sources de l’Orénoque (SO I.iii). Engraving by G. Roux (1898).

– that is, dressed as Jean de Kermor. Verne has some fun at the reader's expense in these early chapters. It's soon obvious that Jean and his uncle share a secret, but it is difficult to tell what it might be and Verne is exceedingly careful to keep things that way. There are textual clues. The young man interrupts his companion often, preventing him from uttering certain turns of phrase – French is a gendered language; an adjective or participle can give the game away with a single letter. Few of Verne's novels are as frequently punctuated with ellipses, especially in the early chapters, when Jean and Martial labor to speak around something that must not be mentioned… to the reader. They, of course, know exactly what they're (not) talking about; their discretion, especially when alone, is the simplest dramatic device.[20] There are several near-misses – Martial has a habit of inexplicably springing to the defense of his nephew. These are also dramatic devices: Martial doesn't need to make this many fumbles for us to see that he is uncomfortable with the ruse. Verne seems to feel that his reader, on the other hand, may need the constant prodding that she's been given the slip again.[21] Always the careful physiognomist, he has spelled the whole thing out as clearly as he might without simply stating the obvious:

Ce jeune garçon ne paraît pas avoir plus de seize à dix-sept ans. Il est de taille moyenne et semble doué d’une constitution vigoureuse pour son âge. Sa figure est un peu sévère, triste même, lorsqu’il s’abandonne à ses pensées habituelles; mais sa physionomie est charmante, avec le doux regard de ses yeux, le sourire de sa bouche aux petits dents blanches, la carnation chaude de ses joues, assez hâlées d’ailleurs par l’air vif des dernières traversées.
[The young man looks no older than sixteen or seventeen. He is of average size and seems to have a vigorous constitution for his age. His face is a little grim, even melancholy, when he surrenders to his usual train of thought. But his physiognomy is charming, his eyes are gentle, his smile reveals small white teeth, and his blushing cheeks are flushed by the bracing air of his recent transatlantic voyage.] (SO I.ii)

In retrospect, the boy is just a bit too charmant(e). Yet, it would be easy to mistake his prettiness for the flower of youth; after all, the text reports, many times over, that he is a young man, un jeune garçon. But we should remember here that Verne is partial to the most ostentatious wordplay, and this recurring syntagm could be another of those phonetic winks-and-a-nudge of which he is especially fond: Jean, the text tells us again and again, is a Jeanne-garçon.[22]

As the novel's illustrator, Roux has to hold up his side of this scheme, dropping just enough hints to lay the groundwork for the coming revelation, but not showing so much as to give it away without some effort on the reader's part. After Jeanne's appearance in the frontispiece – remember, the reader hasn't discovered that they are the same individual – images of Jean in the first half of the novel appear to show… well, a young man. They deflect us, then, from the textual cues, which we will assume point to some other sort of intrigue. Knowing that the reader's impulse is first to trust her eyes, author and artist thus conspire to keep the secret as long as necessary. By showing Jean unambiguously as a boy, Roux provides Verne with cover for his textual legerdemain.

Until, that is, the climax of Book I, when Jean's hidden identity is revealed. The voyagers are caught midstream in a chubasco, a species of violent thunderstorm common in the Orinoco basin, accompanied by strong winds and intense lightning. The boy is thrown from the falca (a kind of canoe with a thatched roof) into the roiling waters:

Figure 5. "Jean avait été précipité dans ces eaux tourbillonnantes" ["Jean had been thrown into these roiling waters"]. At the height of the chubasco, Jean falls into the river as Martial reaches for him. Jacques Helloch rises in the background, preparing to leap in after Jean (SO I.xiv). Engraving by G. Roux (1898).

Roux's depiction of the scene (Figure 5) shows Jean falling headfirst, his face submerged in the waters. Even if we assume that the image captures an instant in time, Jean's posture seems strangely mannered, as though his tumble were a signal of some other event. In fact, the fall from the falca is plainly a baptism; it is, moreover, an immersion of the part of Jean's anatomy most likely, first, to have given away the secret (there has never been any question of Verne or Roux revealing other parts), and second, to anticipate a transformation after the immersion. Roux the physiognomist: when Jean is pulled from the waters, he is subtly changed (Figure 6):

Figure 6. "Le sergent Martial portait Jean." Martial carries Jean to the shore (SO I.xv). Engraving by G. Roux (1898).

Cradled in Martial's arms in a blanket that looks much like a long dress, his facial features are more feminine than in earlier illustrations. Imagine, if you will that this is the first time we see Jeanne; I think it unlikely that a reader would mistake her for a young man.

Our possible confusion is doubled by Jacques Helloch's new dilemma. From early on, Helloch has felt drawn to Jean and the tragic tale of his missing father. His friend Paterne has remarked more than once that Helloch seems more interested in the boy than in his scientific work, and Helloch agrees, complaining that he can't understand why he finds Jean so… compelling. Moments before he leaps into the river to rescue Jean, Helloch hears Martial call his nephew by "un nom… oui!… un autre nom… et ce n’était pas celui de Jean…" ["a name… yes!… another name… and it was not Jean's…"] (SO I.xiv). The game then has moved to a new stage at the moment of Jean's fall (Figure 5): in his terror, Martial has let slip the phoneme he has long tried to repress and we have perhaps tried to read.

We hardly have time to puzzle over this curious omission, because Helloch's restlessness becomes the focus of the next few chapters – unnaturally "pensive" and "taciturn," he avoids the boy and his uncle, grumbling to Paterne that "there are things that you can't understand": "auxquelles tu ne peut rien entendre" (SO I.xv) – there are things you can't have heard. Neither of course has the reader, but she as least has read that something was heard, and that it has to do with… a name, or rather, not a name: "… Et ce n’était pas celui de Jean…" The name was "not Jean's" and "not Jean" – the negative possessive of the French is more ambiguous than in English, and the final ellipsis is both the sign of further narratorial discretion and an explicit truncation: the name Martial cried out was Jean…ne. Verne is especially careful in these passages, and Roux, with equal prudence, offers no visual explanation of Helloch's confusion beyond the ambiguous contours of the boy's face shown in Figure 6. We can assume that Helloch must have felt that all was not as it seemed as he pulled the boy from the water, but this datum – which is never textually marked and can't be visually figured – remains the purest conjecture after the fact.

In the final paragraphs of Book I, Helloch fills in the blank. He confronts Jean and Martial and pries from them the truth. His relief is… palpable. Long before she tumbles into the river, it is not hard to see that Helloch has fallen in love with Jeanne. Her change of sex is a happy solution to a growing tension in the text that, for all of Verne's obvious delight in such ambiguities, can only be resolved in this way if the novel is to remain the family fare that it purports to be. How many readers, surprised by the disclosure of something that was nearly obvious all along, will now turn back to look at the illustrations to confirm the quality of the deception? More, I suspect, than will turn back to the first textual depictions of Jeanne dressed as a boy. Therein lies a sign of the importance of the dialogue of images and text and of what each is able to relate and pretend.

After a chapter-long flashback that explains Jeanne's origins, the journey resumes. She returns to her disguise, keeping it up for all but the final three chapters of the novel. But Roux's illustrations dispense with every pretext that she is a boy – she remains in masculine garb, but lets down her hair a bit and jettisons the extravagantly phallic hat that she wore for nearly all of Book I (Figure 7).

Figure 7. "‘Là… là…’ répondit le jeune Indien…" Gomo shows Jea(ne) and Jacques Helloch the direction of the Mission de Santa-Juana (SO II.x). Engraving by G. Roux (1898).

In contrast, textual markers of her gender in Book II are mixed: she is most often referred to as "Jean," but when she is alone with someone who knows her secret, she is called "Jeanne." This alternating dilation and truncation of her name is almost unremarked by the narrator, who tells us only once in passing that she will keep her boyish name "when the circumstances demand it" (SO II.i). This is almost the reverse of the discretionary procedure of the earlier chapters, because we are now in on the charade, and reminded of it each time that Jean and Jeanne switch places in name only. The sexual tension of the first half of the novel is not discharged by this, only displaced: since she remains always in costume – since she always appears the same to those around her – Jeanne is free to perform both roles, and her comrades will be kept on their toes knowing which she is now.

Readers of Verne are familiar with such systems of doubling and role-reversal; they are in one form or another among the most common dramatic devices of his fiction (Compère 1979, Unwin 2005). Timothy Unwin has stressed their dramatic character: Verne's absurdist intrigues, doublings and reversals, he proposes, provide templates for building and releasing narrative tensions in ways that are more typical of stage melodrama and vaudeville than of narrative prose. Moreover, Verne's reliance on these devices invites the reader's attention to his programs with a directness that is consonant with his enthusiasm for popular dramatic conventions. His earliest writing was for the stage; he wrote or co-wrote several successful theatrical versions of his novels (Margot 2005).

The theatre remains a constant presence throughout Verne's writing: not just in its gusto and pacy crescendos, its dramatic confrontations, its reversals and surprises, its complicated but neat solutions and its happy dénouements; but also in its contrived virtuosity and stagey artificiality; its humour and word-play, its colorful dialogues and eccentric characters, its ludic convolutions, and its rhythms of disguise, revelation and reconciliation. The sheer theatrical self-consciousness of Verne's writing in the Voyages extraordinaires often takes it right out of the so-called "realist" mode and back into the simulated, factitious world of the vaudeville (Unwin 2005, 96).

Verne's applications of these forms in his fictions signals something more than his delight in exuberances of the stage; it indicates also a theory of fiction sustaining the whole of his oeuvre. Showing and telling in Verne are not juxtaposed or serial modes of representation. They are rather entangled such that description is overdetermined and often undone by the most contrived wordplay, and wordplay given cover by description. Simone Vierne calls this trait of his writing the play of trompe l’oeil (illusion, lit. trick of the eye) and clin d’oeil (wink of an eye): in their crossings, seemingly realist narrative elements are subverted by a knowing glance to the reader, who discovers a posteriori that she can take nothing at face value (Vierne 1979). The mutual engagement of textual and visual programs of the illustrated Voyages can only be fully appreciated in this context.

Roux's illustrations are cannily drawn into this system.[23] In Book II, they play almost the inverse of their former role: rather than helping to keep a secret the text is straining to hide, they protect the reader from possible vertigo induced by the extended burlesque. Like Clark Kent's glasses or The Lone Ranger's mask, the crux of Jeanne's costume is the more unconvincing the longer she wears it; our pleasure in the adventure is extended by our pleasure in being in on the joke.

The illustrations play the role of a foil to the divagations of the text up until the closing chapter, when the game of alternating names is dropped once and for all and Jeanne dons "the garments of her sex" (Figure 8).

Figure 8. "Charmante en garçon… charmante en fille!" At the close of the adventure, "le jeune fille revêtit… les vêtements de son sexe" ["the young woman put on again the garments of her sex"] (SO II.xiii). Chromotypograph hor-texte by G. Roux (1898).

"Charmante en garçon… charmante en fille!" Germain Paterne declares, "Il est vrai… je n’y entends rien!" – "charming as a boy… charming as a girl! It's true… I don't understand anything" (SO II.xiii). Stylistically, if not comically, this is the vaudevillian climax of the novel, when the word games and the picture games collide and the missing parts – letters and image – find their proper place. As readers, we are able to parse the significance of this moment because we remember that we've seen this pretty girl before, in the novel's frontispiece (Figure 2).[24] Paterne's witty aside has the form of a syllogism, but its proximity – metatextually, its response – to the repetition of that initial image enables us to understand that it's really a compact tautology whose circuit was forecast from the very start (Figure 9).[25]

Figure 9. Figures 3, 4, and 7 in series: the two Jean(ne)s, the hinge of the chubasco.

Jean(ne)'s place in this circuit is structurally consistent from start to finish: in a word, she has always been charmante. What has varied over the course of the journey is what we imagine the circuit to represent, on the basis of textual and graphic cues that in this special but important sense are distinct from the fiction of the journey.[26]

For the narrative type in this case is conventional to the point of cliché. The Telemachiad is a recurring pattern of Verne's family dramas, though he had grown disenchanted with it by the late 1890s and the Orénoque is the last of this kind.[27] The specific modification of the convention in this case, however, indicates that it has some life left in it if it is reconceived as the alibi for a formal scheme that is the fundamental motive of the work. The novel could have been a story a boy's search for his father or a girl's search for her father; the perils and rewards of the voyage would apply equally well to both. The disclosure of Jeanne's true gender adds little more than a few conspiratorial scenes involving the "boy" and his "uncle" and the girl's romance with Jacques Helloch. Verne was after something else, I think, in introducing a turnabout structure in a pattern that he had applied with success several times before. The conceit of androgeny – it is only ever that – and the curiosity and desire it invokes are in a way incidental; their significance is realized on other registers of reading.[28]

This eccentricity of the program of the intrigue with regard to the plot that is its support and channel is, in the end, a hallmark of the most accomplished practitioners of textual and verbal arts. In the Orénoque, Roux deserves at least some of the credit that Vernians have been inclined to give over to their favorite son. Author and illustrator – together, in dialog and in opposition – have articulated a fictional imaginary that reveals to us: how we see and how we do not see, and how effects of fiction depend on our doing each in its proper moment and place.

We read in the wink of an eye between.[29]

"Qui n’est pas son fils... mais sa fille... !"[30] - Other Jean(ne)s, after Roux

The skill with which Roux handled his part in the masquerades of the Orénoque is evident if we compare his efforts to the work of other artists who have illustrated the novel. In the final section of this essay I examine representative examples of post-Hetzel illustrated editions and adaptations of the novel.

It has never been one of Verne's popular works. As of June 2006, only one French edition is in print; most translations appear to be out of print and difficult to obtain. For this study, I have been able to review, or others have provided me with descriptions of nineteen illustrated editions, translations, and adaptations of the novel in Czech, Dutch, English, French (post-Hetzel), German, Hebrew, Russian, and Spanish.[31]

Figure 10. Covers of Post-Hetzel editions of SO, illustrating typical approaches to the cover design. Left: Na vlnách Orinoka (Nakladatelství Návrat, 1997) – the design reprises elements of the Hetzel cartonnages (exotic landscapes and vehicles, etc.) without repeating them directly. This design introduces a new element: the explorer in his pith helmet – he might be Jean de Kermor as much as the reader's double – overlooking the spectacle. Middle: The Mighty Orinoco (Wesleyan University Press, 2003) – a Roux image is adapted to patterns of the series in which the novel is published; the motif of river travel is foregrounded. Right: El soberbio Orinoco (Orbis, 1987) – a pivotal Roux illustration (see Figure 5) is reworked: color and a new background are added, certain features of the characters are emphasized.

Cover art of these editions, we may assume, is subject to material and marketing constraints different from those applying to the grands octavos. Especially as we move later into the twentieth and the beginning of the twenty-first centuries, the methods by which these works are designed, produced, and presented to prospective readers will have changed considerably. Grand sizes will, in general, be supplanted by smaller (pocket) sizes, elaborate cartonnages by paper jackets and color softcover formats. But the graphic legacy of the Hetzel series remains clear. The covers of many later editions evoke their precursors by citing traits of the cartonnages, or by incorporating Roux's illustrations into the cover art (Figure 10).

This citation scheme is more pronounced between covers. Most illustrated translations and re-editions of the Orénoque after 1898 reprise at least a subset of Roux's illustrations. For example, the only Dutch translation (1900) includes twenty-seven of the illustrations.[32] Czech translations of the 1906, 1925, and 1997 revisions of that text include forty-seven images, probably the same selection, and the map of the Hetzel grand 8vo (Figure 2).[33] A two-volume Spanish edition (1987) and the only English translation (2003) include all seventy-two illustrations and the map.[34]

The quality of images in these editions varies widely. Mass-market paperbacks are usually printed on inferior paper stock in small sizes; unsurprisingly, subtle details are often lost on these surfaces. But in most post-Hetzel editions that reprise the Roux images, they are sufficiently legible to sustain minimal engagements with the text.[35] If that initial condition is met, then the interplay of textual and graphic programs characteristic of the 1898 8vo may be repeated in these later editions, if two additional conditions have been addressed. First, the text must be complete; an abridgement is bound to strip out elements of the textual program. If it is a translation, then it must be faithful to at least general contours of the program. No translation can reproduce every textual relay of the original – and Verne can be a particularly difficult case in this regard, given his enthusiasm for puns and anagrams – but an approximation of the decisive relays is possible, if the two languages are generally comparable with respect to their alphabets, phonemic and syntactic operations.

Second, the selection of the illustrations and their positions in the sequence of the reading must conform generally to the model of the 1898 edition. When a later edition reproduces all of his images in the sequence in which they originally occurred, we may assume that their part of the work's careful charade has been repeated. When only a subset of the images is included, the selection of images will be decisive. On the one hand, the exclusion of any of the images shown in Figure 9 would fracture the fundamental circuit they represent. On the other hand, other illustrations more closely associated with the "color" of the landscape and the adventure might be excised without disturbing this circuit. The effects of exclusions must be determined on a case-by-case basis.[36]

These constraints on the selection and position of the images are set aside for editions in which Roux's images are replaced by those of another artist. Then, the new artist – whether or not she is aware of it or chooses to act on it – carries a certain responsibility with regard to the novel's requirement of a graphic program keyed to its textual programs. My survey of such editions suggests that few artists, even some with considerable talent, have given careful attention to this aspect of their contribution.

In 1997, newly-illustrated Spanish and French editions of the novel were issued in Venezuela in commemoration of the 100th anniversary of its first publication.[37]

Figure 11. Left: Pancho Quilici's frontispiece for El Soberbio Orinoco (Fundación Julio Verne de Venezuela, 1997). Right: Quilici's illustration for SO I.xiv, "El Chubasco."
Figure 12. Left: Daniel Maja's frontispiece for Le Superbe Orénoque (Fundación Julio Verne de Venezuela ,1997). Right: Maja's illustration for SO I.xiv, "Le Chubasco."

Pancho Quilici's sepia watercolors for the Spanish-language volume are quite beautiful (Figure 11), but are too abstract to support the calculated scheme of disguise and disclosure that Roux's more realist style sustains. Daniel Maja's illustrations for the French-language volume are less abstract than Quilici's, but still too nonobjective to activate textual programs of the novel (Figure 12). Despite their subtlety and grace, images by both artists are less engaged with operations of those programs than are Roux's (technically less accomplished) illustrations: these are impressions of narrative action, rather than doubles or counters of Verne's textual feints.

Most editions of the Orénoque illustrated by artists other than Roux are abridgements and/or translations. As I have already observed, strict fidelity to textual programs is impossible in such a format. Moreover, fidelity to graphic programs (or an homology of textual and graphic programs) is often not a concern of illustrators of these works. They begin their project with an sharply constrained foundation, making complex engagements of image and text unlikely if not impossible. Or they are tasked with boosting the book's shelf appeal, which usually means sensationalism and melodrama at the cost of narrative and stylistic accuracy. For example, the cover and frontispiece of a 1995 Russian translation of the novel (Figure 13) recast it in hackneyed conventions of the boy's adventure tale – exotic locales and menacing fauna, treacherous natives, intrepid explorers and their well-armed derring-do.

Figure 13. Left: S.B. Taranik's cover design for Velikolepnoe Orinoko (Sovietskaya Kuban, 1995). Right: Taranik's frontispiece.

With some modifications, these elements are present in the original, but they figure there a kind of window-dressing for the fundamental circuits of the work. Here, Jean(ne) has simply gone missing – she is shown in none of the illustrations – and there is no hint of a Telemachiad or its gendered turnabout. In their place: a comic (?) encounter with an unlikely reptile (an iguana? a small dinosaur?) and a thwarted ambush are elevated to the status of iconic episodes. Verne's text includes no mention of this reptile. A failed ambush by Quiva Indians is a minor incident; it occurs in any case on the open river (SO I.x), and not as shown here.[38]

The novel was published twice in Hachette's "Bibliothèque verte" (BV) collection, small-format abridgements for young French-speaking readers.[39] The 1947 edition includes eight illustrations by Henri Faivre, an unexceptional artist from the Hachette syndicate. The 1973 edition replaces Faivre's images with twelve of Roux's original engravings, crudely reproduced on the book's very poor stock.[40] In both cases, the selection of scenes illustrated is slapdash, and contrasts and ambiguities of the 1898 edition are truncated or simply absent. Faivre's frontispiece shows a banal river scene (Figure 14). Jean is depicted as frankly girlish from the start. He is not shown falling into the river during the chubasco, and seems little changed after being rescued (Figure 14). Jeanne is never shown in "the garments of her sex."

Figure 14. Left: Frontispiece of the 1947 Bibliothèque verte edition of SO, illustrated by Henri Faivre. Middle and Right: Martial and Jean walking in the jungle, Helloch's rescue of Jean from the river, from the same edition.

The 1973 BV edition includes the Roux illustrations shown in Figure 6 and Figure 7. None of the images of Jean in masculine dress is included. Roux's frontispiece (Figure 2) is used for the book's jacket but the companion illustration of Jeanne "charmante en fille" (Figure 8) is omitted, thus requiring the reader to resolve the puzzle of her first appearance as a woman without its double at the adventure's end. In both editions, the illustrations have been (re)fitted to an (at best) accessory relation to the text – which is to say, they are "illustrations" in a trivial, uninteresting sense of that term, leaving little room for more complex engagements.

A 1960 abridgement of the novel in Hebrew multiplies infelicities of the earlier BV edition. It reprises four of Faivre's illustrations (uncredited, they include two full-page images shown in Figure 14). These are augmented with two modern-day photographs of forests of the Orinoco region – supplied, the colophon notes, by the Shell Oil Corporation (!) – and a third photograph of a modern building in Caracas that I have been unable to identify. The final image of the book – roughly in the position where Jeanne is shown in the 1898 edition in a full dress (Figure 8) – shows three men establishing a riverbank camp at the edge of a forest. The drawing is labeled, in English, "Lewis River." The topography, flora, and the men's clothing suggest that this is an image of an early twentieth-century scene on the Lewis River, a tributary of Columbia River in southwest Washington state, or the Snake River of Wyoming, formerly known as the Lewis River. It is not a South American scene.[41]

Figure 15. Far left: Cover of Der stoltze Orinoko, illustrated by Rüdiger Stoyer (1969). Middle left: Stoyer's frontispiece. Middle right: Martial, apparently alone in the palm grove, from the same edition. Far right: Roux's illustration of Martial and Jean walking in the palm grove (SO I.iv, 1898).

A 1969 German-language abridgment of the novel illustrated by Rüdiger Stoye appears at first to have taken a comparably direct and unsubtle approach to technical problems posed by Jeanne's transvestitism, by eliminating her from visual registers of the work (Figure 15).[42] Stoye's cartoonish drawings have a certain charm; like Quilici's and Maja's illustrations, they are more often impressions of the novel's events than engagements of its textual systems. Most of his images are of natural landscapes or distant views of an episode in which the adventurers appear as tiny, near-stick figures. Jeanne is never shown dressed as a young woman, even at the novel's end. The few close-up images of people are all of bearded men – Martial, Helloch, Colonel de Kermor, etc. – who can't be the obviously clean-shaven Jean.

But the boy is not only missing from the illustrations; he seems to be missing in a calculated way. He is notably absent from scenes in which other illustrators – including Roux – have placed him at the center, and where the text indicates explicitly that he should be present. The illustration shown in Figure 15 (middle right), for example, corresponds to a passage early in the novel (I.iv), in which Jean and Martial explore a palm grove during a brief layover of their steamboat. Roux's illustration (Figure 15, far right) shows the two of them in conversation. Martial is shown in profile and Jean's back is to the reader.[43] The 1947 BV edition include a similar image by Faivre (Figure 14). In Stoye's version of this scene, however, Jean is not present and Martial looks directly (quizzically?) out of the foliage. He can't be looking thus at Jean – the boy is not the narrating consciousness of this passage; in practical terms, the image can't be focalized through him. Martial must be looking, then, at the reader. This is, in fact, a recurring trait of Stoye's illustrations, several of which include a person or an animal staring out from the page. (The most striking examples of these are the two figures of the frontispiece and the half-submerged crocodiles of the book's jacket [Figure 15].) Stoye has found thus an interesting solution to the illustrator's thorniest problem: he simply removes Jean(ne) from the visual planes of the book, but he does it in a way that structurally marks this absence. The boy is, after all, a principal character of the adventure: what is his secret, where is she? The eyes looking out from the illustrations displace the locus of these questions and the riddle of the boy's identity away from the surface of the page and into the field of the reader's gaze. The effect is not as interesting as it might have been were the translation more correct – Martial is reported to cry out "Jeanne, mein Kind!" during the chubasco (102), speaking thus the phoneme that Verne excluded in the French – but Stoye has with this modest strategy redistributed points of intersection of the work's textual and graphic programs with notable control and subtlety.

Carlos Freixas Baleitó's El Soberbio Orinoco (1975) appears to be the only comic book adaptation of the novel.[44] The illustrator of popular comic adaptations works within narrative constraints that are far more severe than those faced by illustrators of an abridgement. The comic format often requires drastic alterations of storyline; substantial liberties may be taken in this regard to heighten dramatic action or delete material presumed to be of no interest to the target audience, usually young readers. Crude halftoning techniques, inconsistent color registration, and poor paper quality limit the complexity and subtlety of images and push the artist's contributions toward simpler forms, brighter colors, and sharper contrasts. Though fragments of description and dialogue may be preserved, it is more common that the author's textual programs are subjected almost entirely to systems of the graphic image and the unforgiving spatial constraints of the panel.[45] As a result, the point of contact between graphic and textual elements is shifted away from the serial rhythm of the text-image-text sequence typical of the illustrated novel to the simultaneity of the speech balloon and its field, the panel. Baleitó's recasting of the Orénoque illustrates the effects of textual-structural abstractions and reductions visited on narrative fiction by comic adaptation. Conversely, it demonstrates that the comic artist, in order to sustain narrative tensions, is obliged to rely on programs that an illustrator such as Roux might trust to his author.

Figure 16. Left: Juan shows Marcial his costume. Right: In the final frame of the comic, Juana remains in drag as she declares her love for Helloch, who utters the penultimate word. El Soberbio Orinoco (Editorial Bruguera). Images by Carlos Freixas Baleitó (1975).

In Baleitó's text, Juana (Jeanne) begins the adventure credibly disguised as Juan (Jean) (Figure 16, left). Her exchanges with Marcial (Martial) in these early panels suggest that there is a secret between them, but there is no sign that her clothing hides it. Juana, in fact, never changes out of these clothes, though at the comic's conclusion she can't be mistaken for a young man (Figure 16, right). The frankness of her femininity in the closing panels provides the justification for a crucial punctuation marked in the dialogue: Helloch's affirmative "¡Juana!" shifts the second term of Paterne's "charmante en garçon… charmante en fille," to this moment. With his final exclamation, Helloch insists on the textual supplement by which young Juan has become Juana – the visual proof of which the reader may easily discern in the girl's profile, clearest in this panel than in any proceeding it.

In the comic, the structure corresponding to Paterne's tautology – a complex linguistic object that had to be sustained as much textually as graphically in the Hetzel edition – has been split and redistributed. The last term – "charmante en fille" – corresponds to the dialogue of the final frame. The first term – "charmante en garçon" – is displaced to the crisis that reveals the connection between Juan and Juana, a moment that Verne and Roux marked each with his own form of ellipsis. In the comic, Juan's fall into the river during the chubasco is, as it was in the original, the event that sets apart the boy of Book I from the young woman of Book II (Figure 17). We may observe, however, that instead of crying out the name that is not Juan, Marcial here remembers to keep the secret.

Figure 17. Juan falls from the falca during the chubasco. Marcial forgets the telltale phoneme. El Soberbio Orinoco (Editorial Bruguera). Image by Carlos Freixas Baleitó (1975).

Juan is shown with his head above water – a practical consideration, perhaps: if he had fallen in headfirst as in Roux's illustration (Figure 5), the speech balloon would have had to bubble up through the crashing waves. But this alignment of his speech and body has another effect: he is still Juan in this moment, as we can plainly see. If Marcial were to call out a young woman's name at this moment, this would effect a break in the mimetic logic of the comic frame, which depends on the conceit that events are shown to us in the sequence and the manner in which they occur. Verne, in contrast, is more free to multiply structures of ambiguity and deferral in this moment, because he has already put in place textual feints and safeguards that have no correlate in the comic medium.[46]

Figure 18. Jeanne is rescued by Helloch: "¿Como? ¡Juan no es un muchacho…! ¡Es una mujer!" El Soberbio Orinoco (Editorial Bruguera). Images by Carlos Freixas Baleitó (1975).

Because visual registers of the fiction are given a greater priority here, it makes little sense that Marcial should tell us Juan's real name, and thus gender. It is more fitting that we be shown these data. In the following panels, we are able to see traits that in the novel we can only assume Helloch must have felt, but neither Verne nor Roux could represent. Juana's femininity is visually signified: her long hair, her slim waist and the hint of full hips and breasts are recognized by Helloch as he swims toward her (Figure 18). Optical conditions for this revelation are extremely unlikely – Juan has fallen into a storm-tossed river; Helloch could never see so far or so clearly beneath the surface – but the medial system of the print comic requires a sequence of this kind if the reader is to understand Helloch's confusion and barely-disguised relief. [47] Though more compact, this sequence of panels marks an epistemic shift in the comic narrative that is analogous to the one figured by the images shown in Figure 9. In early panels of the comic, external signs of Juana's anatomy are subdued, if not missing altogether (Figure 16, left; Figure 17). By the end, those signs are unambiguous and as marked as a child-oriented comic book will allow (Figure 16, right).

The example of his (her) visual transformation suggests an important difference between graphic programs of the comic artist and the book illustrator. Generally speaking, the illustrator is compelled to adapt her images to narrative sequences and, more rarely, to textual programs of the work she illustrates. (This doesn't mean, however, that she may not extend them in new directions, or even subvert them in certain respects. One thinks here of William Blake's designs for Edward Young's Night Thoughts or Ralph Steadman's illustrations for Alice in Wonderland.) In contrast, the artist of a comic adaptation is freed from many of the obligations imposed by textual systems of the original. The reductive imperative of adaptation and the unforgiving constraints of the comic book format tend to invert the relation of text and image characteristic of the book, pushing graphic programs to the foreground, and, often, stripping textual programs of most or all of their nuances. The resulting work as a whole is usually poorer for this inversion; it is not literary snobbery to observe that Verne and Roux's Le Superbe Orénoque is a richer object – textually and graphically – than Verne and Baleitó El Soberbio Orinoco. But Baleitó is, conversely, obliged by his freedom: he must, after all, show the young woman credibly disguised as a young man in every panel until the moment she is unmasked. His images must be the foundation of the intrigue; he cannot rely on subtle verbal systems to balance their evidence because there is not enough room in the panel to build much of textual basis for misleading the reader. Once the masquerade is revealed, it can't be credibly resumed; the mimetic pull of the image is too strong and the counter-pull of the speech balloon too weak. The most effective solution to this double bind is formal: Baleitó's adaptation of the novel's method is most successful in the panels shown in Figure 18, where the disclosure of Juan's true identity is mapped onto the locus described by the panels. Again, the reading surface can support effects beyond narrative sequence. As the reader's eye makes a tour of the page, Juana's body turns to show us what we've been looking for all along.

Verne can rely on the machinery of realist language, grammar and punctuation to keep from giving it all away too quickly. Roux can pretend for awhile to show us what Verne pretends to describe, and then show us what we know is there as Verne continues the pretense when it is no longer credible. Artists working in formats in which strict fidelity to textual programs is impossible can, as we have seen, ignore engagements of image and text save those that serve the most basic patterns of the narrative. Even then, the images may figure only some strands of the narrative and neglect others; some textual programs become thus literally unrecognizable. More interesting are cases such as Stoyer's or Baleitó's illustrations, in which the artist has shifted the most important dependencies of image and text into the field of the reader's relation to the page. There, the lateral window is turned a little, but retains its indirection.


[1] On the importance of Hetzel's promotion of the decorated cartonnage, see Jauzac 2005. Emb 2000, Gondola della Riva 1977 and Jauzac 2005 survey dates of first publication and distinctive traits of their major categories. J.A. Marquis's WWW site, "Jules Verne et Hetzel – Cartonnages extraordinaires" is the most complete online source for this information. See Dehs, Margot and Har’El, "The Complete Bibliography;" Compère 1996; and Martin 1978, for comprehensive bibliographies of Verne's fiction and non-fiction, including serializations and reprints. On the "pré-originale" terminology used by Verne collectors and scholars, see Gondola della Riva 1977. Butcher 2006, Dumas 1988, and Martin 1978 describe the often antagonistic relations between Verne and his editors.

[2] Texts of the novels were often revised between éditions pré-originales and originales; in a few cases, the revisions were substantial. 18mo editions published after 1893 (including re-editions of older titles) include some of the pré-originales illustrations, but never as many as in corresponding grand 8vo editions (Gondolo della Riva 1977, xvii).

[3] Personal correspondence with Jean-Michel Margot, 7/14/06. "62 novels and two collections of short fiction": I ignore here the importance of Michel Verne's role in the redaction of his father's posthumous works published by Hetzel. These are now known to have been largely or entirely rewritten by Michel.

[4] This change was stipulated by Verne in a letter to Hetzel fils, March 4, 1898 (BNF f°327, cited in Chaffanjon 1978, 34-35.)

[5] Limit-case of the in-text illustration: in several of the novels, discussions of mathematical calculations important to the narrative include mathematical formulae.

[6] Compère 1983, Evans 1998. Chromolithography was used for color maps of the series beginning in the late 1880s. Chromotypographs were introduced to the series in 1891. In some re-editions of older works after that date, black-and-white illustrations are replaced by chromotypographs; in a few cases, these appear to be newly-commissioned or previously unpublished images by the original artists. The "chromos" are always hors-texte, unnumbered leaves printed only on the recto and inserted between signatures before binding. After 1899, most of the images in newly-released titles are watercolors and line drawings reproduced by photographic methods (Personal correspondence with Volker Dehs, 4/5/06).

[7] This was not always the case. Victorian-era translations of Verne, however grotesquely abbreviated and unrepresentative of his style, were often published in ornamented bindings that included illustrations from the first French editions. Some quickie unauthorized translations of the period included images redrawn from the pré-originaire releases, a kind of backhanded acknowledgement of their importance.

[8] Personal correspondence with William Butcher, 5/26/03.

[9] The silver and red elements were incorporated in the cover designs in the 1990s. The first LdP editions of the Voyages were published from 1966-1970 in the collection "Le Livre de poche Jules Verne." Covers of these editions combined elements from the Hetzel illustrations with modern color photographs. For example, the cover of the 1966 LdP edition of Vingt mille lieues sous les mers shows Aronnax, Conseil, and Ned Land in silhouette looking out a window of the Nautilus - the image is cropped from Alphonse de Neuville's original engraving - at a giant shark (an enlarged color photograph of a real shark) (Figure 3).

Chromotypographs in both the classic and modern LdP editions are reprinted in black and white. To my knowledge, no modern reprints of the Hetzel editions include the chromotypographs as they were presented in the originals, in color and hors-texte.

[10] For many readers, the illustrations must have been more memorable and accessible than Verne's words. Sebeok, for example, recalls that his father's library in Budapest was well-stocked with the Hetzel editions, and that their images had a powerful effect on him as a child, though he was not able to read French until years later (Sebeok 1982, 128). A cruel economic irony is marked in this elevation of the image in the published works during Verne's lifetime and, above all, at the Voyages' end: his notoriously bad contracts with Hetzel limited the author's royalties to sales of only unillustrated editions (Butcher 2006, Martin 1966). For the first two decades of their publication, illustrated editions of the Voyages far outsold unillustrated editions, and the profitability of the former was substantially greater on a per-copy basis. Sales of illustrated and unillustrated editions more nearly equalized in later years, but the illustrated editions were always the primary source of the series' profit. Hetzel père et fils made a fortune from the most popular author in their keep. Verne's financial successes were significant, but slender in comparison to those of his publishers, and always more insecure.

[11] Compère's source for this evocative term is Verne's La Maison à vapeur [The Steam-House, 1880], I.v, where the central salon of the Géant d’Acier - one of Verne's more fantastic vehicles, a steam-powered land train in the form of a giant elephant - is said to be illuminated by "two lateral windows." The importance in Verne of central living spaces, social and discursive centers of the shared adventure, is well-known: Nemo's library on-board the Nautilus, the Granite-House of L’Île mystérieuse [Mysterious Island], Fort Providence (Voyages et aventures du capitaine Hatteras [Voyages and Adventures of Captain Hatteras]), the interior of the Columbiad (De la Terre à la Lune and Autour de la lune [From the Earth to the Moon and Around the Moon]), the interior of the volcano to which the colonists of Gallia retreat during the comet's sidereal winter (Hector Servadac), etc. Thus the acuity of Compère's "lateral windows": the images open onto the social center of the Voyages, the virtual enclosure defined by the intersection of its textual and graphic imaginaries.

[12] The illustrations' expression of a more fundamental liminality – of the fictional imaginary itself – is marked indirectly by the framing effect of the page. There, the images appear as an opening into narrative realms that are paired with (in Compère's terms, lateral to) those conjured by the text. Paradoxically, the opacity of the page reminds us that this opening is at most a medially-bound conceit of the illustrated book. Cf. Gandelman's analysis of this threshold function in the images of doors and windows, 1991, 36-55.

[13] The frequent amputation of taxonomic and encyclopedia passages from popular editions of Verne is comparable to the omission of the images from modern editions and, paradoxically, the clearest signal of the importance of these elements with regard to the poetics of Verne's fiction (Buisine 1981). Streamlining the texts to safeguard the reader's flagging attention suppresses effects of saturation, distraction – even boredom – that the lists are meant to instill. One might as well strip Borges's fictions of their impertinent digressions.

[14] Cf. Aronnax's description of the shifting South Polar ice fields "qui changeaient le décor comme le paysage d’un diorama" ["changing the scenery like the setting of a diorama"] (Vingt mille lieues sous les mers II.xvi). As Miller observes (1976, 277), Verne's contemporary readers would have picked up immediately on this comparison of the polar landscape to then state-of-the-art techniques in theatrical special effects.

[15] Unless otherwise noted, all translations from natural languages are mine.

[16] Hereafter SO.

[17] Evans 1998, Sichel 1955. Roux (1850?-1929?) was one of J. Hetzel & Cie's most prolific illustrators. From the mid 1880s until about 1913, he illustrated 22 of the Voyages, and nearly three dozen Hetzel editions of works by André Laurie, Jacques Lermont, Pierre Perrault, Robert Louis Stevenson, Leo Tolstoy, and others (Embs 2000, 274-75). Seven of his illustrations for SO are near plagiarisms of illustrations by Edouard Riou for Jean Chaffanjon's 1889 Voyage aux sources de l’Orénoque (Chaffanjon 1978, Dumas 1998). Chaffanjon's book was Verne's primary source for information about the Orinoco region, and the novel's principal character, Jean de Kermor, reads and repeatedly cites the book during the first two-thirds of the journey (see, for example, Figure 4). If, as I propose below, Verne and Roux must have had discussions about the function of illustrations in the novel, Chaffanjon's book probably served as an important intertext between author and artist. On a more speculative note: Olivier Dumas has recently proposed (2006) that Roux may have been a woman who undertook to pass as a man, signing her first illustrations for Hetzel's Magasin and novels of the Petite Bibliothèque blanche with the unambiguously masculine "Georges Roux" and later illustrations – including those for the Voyages – with a more tentative "G. Roux." The relevance (thematic, orthographic, etc.) of such a subterfuge to the case of SO is obvious, but Dumas's theory remains unproven. In this essay, I follow conventions of Vernian criticism in assuming that Roux was a man.

[18] Surprisingly, the only in-print French edition of SO includes no illustrations (Serpent à plumes, 2005). The previous integral publication of the novel in French, a 1984 double volume containing SO and Sans dessus dessous [Topsy-Turvy] published by Hachette in the series "Les Intégrales Jules Verne," included all of the Roux illustrations. (The "Intégrales" [1977-88] reprinted texts and illustrations of the grands octavos in a smaller 8vo format with a cover resembling the "Mappemonde dorée" cartonnage of the late 1890s (Figure 1). Only a handful of the most popular works in the series remain in print.) Thus, as I write this in July 2006, no French-language edition of SO in print includes in-text illustrations, whether by Roux or another artist. Perhaps the novel's reputation as a minor work by Verne has contributed to its being treated with less diligence? Other of the less-celebrated novels have also been republished in French without illustrations; the general rule of respect for the integrity of the illustrated works I described above is not without regrettable exceptions. Yet, even in these cases the images tend to return – one is made aware that they constitute a tacit framework for Verne's institutionalization in French popular culture. For example, the illustration of the front and back covers of the Serpent à plumes edition show a portion of one of Roux's illustrations for SO II.xi – Helloch, Paterne, and an Indian guide – framed by elaborate scrollwork resembling that of the modern LdP covers. The illustration is credited to three artists, none of whom is Roux.

[19] The Orinoco's source is located near the southern borders of present-day Venezuela and Brazil, from which the river flows north along the border with Columbia and then to the east, bisecting Venezuela on its way to the Atlantic. Its vast basin extends over 1,000,000 square kilometers and comprises over 200 tributaries. In addition to important 18th and 19th century explorations of the river basin mentioned by Verne (SO I.i), the Orinoco held special significance for the colonial literary imagination. In Chapter 15 of Defoe's Robinson Crusoe, Crusoe learns from Friday that their island is located near the mouth of the river. Walter Ralegh's ill-fated 1595 expedition in search of El Dorado followed the lower Orinoco and ended near the mouth of the Caroni River, about 150 kilometers downstream of Ciudad Bolívar, where SO begins (SO I.i, I.iii; Nicholl 1995; Miller's note to Verne 2003, 373n9). In the late 1890s, Bolívar was the only substantial port on this stretch of the Orinoco, and the only point from which Verne's characters might resume Ralegh's journey. Christopher Columbus, SO's narrator reminds us, believed that the river's source lay in the Garden of Eden (SO I.iii), which he imagined as a prominence on the earth's surface in the form of a nipple on a planetary breast (Sale 1991, 175-76). SO, exemplary voyage to an interior terrain, thus begins beyond Robinson's island and proceeds in the direction of the prototypical mythic kingdom of the Americas and beyond, to the feminine center of terrestrial Creation.

[20] Another early textual sign of Jean/ne's identity is the narrator's mention of the Mission of Santa-Juana in the novel's first chapter. "Juana" is the feminine form of the name "Juan;" the pair correspond to the French names "Jeanne" and "Jean." Later in the novel we learn that, following the shipwreck that killed her mother, Jeanne was briefly adopted by a family in Havana, and that they called her "Juana" (SO II.i) See Krauth 1987 regarding the biographical significance of the name Jean/ne in Verne's later fiction.

[21]Typical of these is the exchange in which Helloch first intimates a special feeling for Jean:

– Mon cher Jean, dit alors Jacques Helloch –si vous me permettez de vous appeler ainsi…»
Le jeune garçon rougit légèrement, et le sergent Martial se leva comme s’il eut été projeté par un ressort.
«Qu’avez-vous, sergent…? Demanda M. Miguel.
– Rien!» répondit le vieux soldat en se rasseyant.
Jacques Helloch reprit donc:
«Mon cher Jean…» (SO I.x)
["My dear Jean," said Jacques Helloch, "if you permit me to address you thus…"
The young man blushed slightly and Sergeant Martial stood up as if he had been jolted by a spring.
"What's the matter, Sergeant?" asked M. Miguel.
"Nothing!" said the old soldier as he sat down.
Jacques Helloch began again, "My dear Jean…"] (SO I.x)

[22] Statistical proofs are hazardous in such cases, but it is noteworthy that Jean is described 119 times as a "jeune garçon" and only six times as a "garçon." Four of those are in the speech or thoughts of a character unaware of the boy's true sex. Nearly all of the descriptions of Jean as a jeune garçon are attributable to the narrator, who thus – in a typically Vernian way – insists on a formula that (barely) conceals a fundamental ruse of the fiction.

[23] The obvious question here: did Roux and Verne correspond or otherwise exchange information regarding the need for such engagements of text and illustrations? Apart from a few cases in which the Hetzels served as mediators between them, almost nothing is known of Verne's contacts with his illustrators. The example of SO suggests that at least for some of the novels there must have been discussions of these matters; it seems unlikely that Roux would have undertaken so scrupulous a graphic program entirely on his own initiative. This is an area of Verne studies in which important basic research remains to be done.

[24] Comparable instances of a Roux frontispiece for one of the Voyages in which a decisive moment of the adventure is forecast: 1) Aventures mirifiques de Maître Antifer [The Wonderful Adventures of Captain Antifer] (1894), which shows Enogate tracing Antifer's journeys on a globe, thus revealing the location of the fourth island he will seek (Harpold 2005, 37n23). 2) Le Sphinx des glaces [The Sphinx of the Ices] (1897), which includes the silhouette of the enormous Sphinx-shaped lodestone discovered by the polar explorers in the closing chapters.

[25] Paterne's declaration includes an agrammaticality that is impossible to convey in English: "Charmante en garçon" applies the feminine variant of the adjective charmant (charming) to the masculine noun garçon (boy). Literally, what Paterne says is something like, "As charming as a girl while a boy… charming while a girl" –it's as though the "e" dropped from Jeanne's name when she became "Jean" has returned at the end of the adjective applied to her appearance as a boy.

[26] See Butcher 1980 and 1988 on the importance of circular narrative form in Verne's fiction.

[27] In a July 28, 1898 letter to Hetzel fils he observes "Vous pouvez bien rire, mon cher Jules, j’en ai absolument fini avec les enfants qui cherchent leur père, les pères qui cherchent leurs enfants, les femmes qui cherchent leur mari, etc.… L’Orénoque aura été le dernier du genre" ["You may well laugh, my dear Jules – I'm completely done with children in search of their father, fathers in search of their children, wives in search of their husbands, etc.… The Orénoque will have been the last of the genre"] (BNF f°330, cited in Chaffanjon 1978, 35). Verne ends the novel with a gesture of farewell to the pattern: Simone Vierne observes that the Orénoque varies from the classic Telemachiad in that, after she is reunited with her father, Jeanne chooses to be separated from him again when she and Helloch set off to be married (1973, 113).

[28] Here I part company somewhat with Walter James Miller, who emphasizes Jean/ne's androgyny and credits Verne with "remarkable intuition" in his depiction of her (385n1). The play of gender in SO seems to me less an indication of Verne's protofeminism than of his enthusiasm for oppositions, the artifice of their crossings in fiction, and the conventions of romantic comedy.

[29] Shortly before this essay was to be published, Julia Mastro brought to my attention a remarkable verbal and graphic intertext of the Hetzel edition of SO. Les Grands Navigateurs du XVIIIe siècle [The Great Navigators of the Eighteenth Century, Hetzel , 1879], one of three nonfiction works Verne co-wrote with Gabriel Marcel, recounts a famous episode of Louis Antoine de Bougainville's voyage around the world (1766-69). In 1768, Bougainville's expedition was visiting Tahiti. While the crew was ashore collecting samples of the local flora and fauna, the assistant to the ship's naturalist, a young man named Jean Baré, was assailed by a band of Tahitians. They recognized what no one appears to have noticed before: Jean Baré was a woman dressed as a man. Rescued by her crew mates, Jeanne Baré confessed her masquerade to Bougainville, who allowed her to remain in the expedition to its end. She is believed to have been the first western woman ever to see and sail across the Pacific, and the first woman to circumnavigate the globe. (Bougainville's 1771 account of Baré's misadventure was reiterated by philosopher Denis Diderot in his Supplément au voyage de Bougainville [Supplement to the Voyage of Bougainville, 1772].) As significant as SO's echoes of motif and textual elements of Baré's story (voyage in a gendered disguise, Jean/Jeanne, etc. –Verne surely had these in mind while writing the 1898 novel) are echoes of illustrations of the two books. Elements of Paul Philippoteaux's illustration of Baré struggling with the Tahitians (Les Grands Navigateurs) are subtly but unmistakably repeated by Roux in his depiction of Jean falling from the falca (Figure 5).

We are presently collaborating on an article on this tangle of influences, which appears never to have been noted before.

[30] ("…Not his son… but his daughter!") Helloch's exclamation, also the final sentence of Book I and the first in the novel in which Jean(ne)'s secret is made textually plain.

[31] I exclude from this discussion –with one exception –unillustrated editions of the novel (I have discovered such editions in Czech, Chinese, French, and Spanish), and those belonging to modern multivolume series that integrally reprint the Hetzel texts and illustrations, such as those published by Éditions Rencontre, Hachette, Jean de Bonnot and Michel de l’Ormeraie.

As of July 2006, Garmt de Vries's survey of translations of the Voyages extraordinaires lists twenty-six variants of SO's title in eighteen languages, not including editions in French (see <>). How many of these are integral, illustrated, and/or still in print is difficult to determine. I have attempted without much success to acquire copies of the novel in languages other that those I discuss here, through the services of my university's inter-library loan system, and with the aid of members of the Jules Verne Forum <>, an international listserve comprising more than 200 Verne scholars and collectors. (Collectors of Verniana seem to have shown little interest in acquiring copies of the Orénoque in multiple languages, whereas this is common for the better-known novels.) Though I think it unlikely that further examples will demonstrate textual-graphic programs substantially different from from those I describe here, I welcome any information regarding editions of the novel in any language. This project remains a work in progress.

[32] Uitgeversmaatschappij "Vivat," 1900. Whether the map of the Hetzel edition is included is not clear. The Dutch title, De Korporaal en zijn Pleegkind, translates to English as The Corporal and His Foster-Child - reducing Martial's rank from Sergeant to Corporal and suggesting, strangely, that he is the novel's principal character. Garmt de Vries has observed that the title, however, signals the ambiguity of Jean's gender from the outset, referring to him as a Pleegkind and not a Pleegzoon ("foster-son"). Personal correspondence, 5/21/06.

[33] Jos. R. Vilímek, 1906, 1925; Nakladatelství Návrat, 1997 (a modernization of the earlier Vilímek translations). Two other early Czech translations (Edvard Beaufort, 1913 and 1922) are reported to have included between four and eight engravings by an unknown artist or artists other than Roux (personal correspondence with Jan Rychlík, 4/12/06 and 7/17/06.) I have not been able to review copies of these books. Titles in Návrat's Verne series reproduce a formal trait of the grands octavos typically suppressed in modern editions: illustrations that were originally hors-texte chromotypographs, printed only on the recto, are reproduced in the same format, although in black and white. However, the edition of SO in this series complicates problems of textual-graphic provenance by one curious addition to the work. Each chapter heading includes a vignette showing an explorer standing on a river's edge by his canoe. This image, uncredited, is not by Roux.

[34] Ediciones Orbis, 1987; Wesleyan University Press, 2003. Typical of translations of the novel, the captions of illustrations in the Wesleyan edition are translated into English but, unusually, the map is unchanged –i.e., legends and place names are in French.

[35] Images are reproduced with greater clarity and nuance and on better paper in scholarly and luxury collectors' editions (for example, those from Wesleyan University Press and Návrat). For the modern reader, these works generally present the best conditions in which to grasp relations of text and image in the work.

[36] For example, in the Návrat edition, all of the images shown in Figures 2, 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8 are included, with the exception of the frontispiece. Its exclusion, unfortunately, strips the later image of Jeanne "charmante en fille" of much of its visual resonance.

[37] El Soberbio Orinoco and Le Superbe Orénoque (Fundación Julio Verne de Venezuela, 1997). I am indebted to Jean-Michel Margot for his assistance in acquiring images from these volumes.

[38] The dead Indian looks suspiciously North American. This ethnographic lapse would appear confirmed by the back cover of the book, which depicts another native wearing a feathered war bonnet more fitting an American Plains Indian than a native of the Orinoco Basin. The encounter with the lizard shown on the front cover represents no event in any Verne novel that I have been able to discern.

[39] Somewhat more than a third of the original text has been deleted in these abridgements. Paginations of the two editions differ slightly, but their texts are otherwise the same.

[40] Both editions reprise the map of the 1898 edition, slightly redrawn.

[41] ’Al gedot ha-Orinoko (A Zelkovits, 1960). I am indebted to Todd Hasak-Lowry for his assistance with this edition.

[42] Del stoltze Orinoko (Deutcher Bücherbund, 1969).

[43] Roux's placement of Jean in the image seems as studied as in his depiction of the boy's tumble from the falca (Figure 5). Jean is looking out on the forest. The only other position that he can take in the image that would still direct his gaze into the grove would be in profile, facing Martial. Roux is notably careful in illustrations of the early chapters of the novel not to show Jean in profile, as this might expose the telling outline of his (her) upper torso. See, in contrast, Baleitó's solution to this difficulty (Figure 16, Figure 18).

[44] Editorial Bruguera, 1975. The more than 270 titles in Editorial Bruguera's "Joyas Literarias Juveniles" (JLJ, 1970-84) series were loose comic book adaptations of popular American and European fiction, similar in format and production values to Albert Kanter's "Classic Comics" (aka "Classics Illustrated") series (1941-71). (Titles in the JLJ series should not be confused with translations of the same works also published by Bruguera in longer-format, usually unillustrated, series for young readers. SO was published by Bruguera at least once in one of these editions, in a 1985 volume of its "Historias seleccion" series. I have been unable to secure a copy of that book.) First published in Spanish, titles in the JLJ series were translated into a dozen other European languages and marketed internationally. (The JLJ SO appears to have been published only in Spanish.) Baleitó illustrated several of the comics in the series, which included 43 Verne titles, including 30 that did not appear in any other comic book series (Malan 1996). The author of the comic's dialogue is unknown. I am again indebted to Jean-Michel Margot for his assistance in acquiring images from this text.

[45] The most extreme instance of graphic abridgement possible: a single image that stands for the whole of the work, as in an advertisement or a commemorative object such as a postage stamp. Such objects can barely – if at all – engage the work's textual programs; they will be, moreover, overdetermined by commercial, national, philatelic, etc. conventions that require them to be more compact and utilitarian in their procedures than even the crudest comic adaptation. In this regard, however, they may stand as interesting limit-cases of graphemic reduction and efficiency. The SO was never among the Voyages featured prominently on Hetzel & Cie's celebrated posters (Gondolo della Riva 1986). However, it has been commemorated in two postage stamps.

A 1 Bolivar 1982 issue by Venezuela (above, left) featured a portrait of Verne superimposed on a body of water surmounted by the silhouette of an island or a shoreline. The image is a more properly a celebration of Verne the author than any of his fictions; only the subtitle of the stamp, "Julio Verne – El Soberbio Orinoco" indicates its relation to the novel. An 8 franc 1955 issue by Monaco (above, right, one of a series of eleven stamps commemorating Verne novels) is more interesting. Though the river scene shown does not repeat any one of Roux's illustrations, it does combine recurring elements of his images: a vault of thick vegetation framing a view of the river, a reclining jaguar, falcas moving against the current. No intrigue or peril is intimated here, and certainly no mystery of disguise and discovery. SO in this instance is a pure travel narrative.

[46] These observations are true, of course, only for comics in a realist tradition, in which effects of extraserial, extranarrative graphic programs (such as visual punning) are generally minimal.

[47] Other liberties have been taken. In this version of the story, Juan(a) is menaced by a crocodile that Helloch must battle before swimming to her rescue.


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Editions of Le Superbe Orénoque cited, listed by date of publication

(N.B.: Some editions indicated below as having been illustrated by G. Roux contain only subsets of Roux's 72 illustrations for the 1898 Hetzel edition. See my discussion of the post-Hetzel editions above.)

Le Superbe Orénoque. Illus. G. Roux. Paris: J. Hetzel, 1898.

De Korporaal en zijn Pleegkind. Illus. G. Roux. Amsterdam: Uitgeversmaatschappij "Vivat," 1900.

Na vlnách Orinoka. Trans. J.V. Sterzinger. Illus. G. Roux. Prague: Jos. R. Vilímek, 1906, 1925.

Nádherný Orinoko. Trans. Vítezslav Unzeitig. Illus. unknown. Prague: Edvard Beaufort, 1913, 1922.

Le Superbe Orénoque. Illus. Henri Faivre. Paris: Hachette (La Bibliothèque Verte, 1ère série), 1947.

’Al gedot ha-Orinoko. Trans. Y. Ravikov. Illus. Henri Faivre, et al. Tel Aviv: A. Zelkovits, 1960.

Der stolze Orinoko. Trans. Wilhelm P. Becker. Illus. Rüdiger Stoye. Stuttgart-Hamburg: Deutcher Bücherbund, 1969.

Le Superbe Orénoque. Illus. G. Roux. Paris: Hachette (La Bibliothèque Verte, 2ème série), 1973.

El Soberbio Orinoco. Illus. Carlos Freixas Baleitó. Barcelona-Caracas: Editorial Bruguera, 1975.

Le Superbe Orénoque / Sans dessus dessous. Illus. G. Roux. Paris: Hachette (Les Intégrales Jules Verne), 1984.

El Soberbio Orinoco. Trans. Pedro Heredia. Illus. G. Roux. 2 vols. Barcelona: Ediciones Orbis, S.A, 1987.

Velikolepnoe Orinoko / Prikliucheniia kitaitsa. Trans. unknown. Illus. S.B. Taranik. Krasnodar: Sovietskaya Kuban, 1995.

El Soberbio Orinoco. Eds. Denise Armitano and Luis Ángel Duque. Trans. Pedro R. de la Rosa. Illus. Pancho Quilici. Caracas, Venezuela: Fundación Julio Verne de Venezuela, 1997.

Le Superbe Orénoque. Eds. Denise Armitano and Luis Ángel Duque. Illus. Daniel Maja. Caracas, Venezuela: Fundación Julio Verne de Venezuela, 1997.

Na vlnách Orinoka. Trans. J.V. Sterzinger and Petr Dorňák. Illus. G. Roux. Brno: Nakladatelství Návrat, 1997.

The Mighty Orinoco. Trans. Stanford Luce. Illus. G. Roux. Eds. Arthur B. Evans and Walter James Miller. Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press, 2003.

Le Superbe Orénoque. Monaco: Éditions Alphée / Motifs / Le Serpent à plumes, 2005.

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