The Rowson Collection
Since Tristram Shandy was published in 1759, a number of editions have included illustrations by significant artists. William Hogarth created frontispieces for the second edition in 1760. George Cruikshank, John Austen, John Baldessari, John Lawrence have all interpreted Sterne’s novel in their own delightful way, but Martin Rowson’s Illustrated Tristram Shandy stands apart as the first attempt to make the book into a graphic novel. In 1996 the Lilliput Press published this new edition and it was immediately apparent that Rowson had taken the spirit of the book and given it a new interpretation: Tristram would present his own book to the reader at the same time as dragging James Joyce and Virginia Woolf by their respective noses through it.
When the book was published an exhibition of the original artwork was displayed in Rick Gekoski’s bookshop in Bleeding Heart Yard, London where Rowson’s exceptional talent could be more easily seen. These panels are miniature masterpieces.
A grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund enabled the Laurence Sterne Trust to purchase the collection of over a hundred drawings and they are now at Shandy Hall and will be available for students of cartoons and the graphic arts for years to come. A selection of the drawings can be viewed below.