First Edition Illustrations

Stowe said she felt anxious about whether anyone would read Uncle Tom's Cabin in book form, but her publisher, John Jewett, had enough confidence in the book's appeal to take the unusual step, for the early 1850s, of having six fullpage illustrations drawn and engraved for the first printing. Although not given credit in the text, the illustrator was Hammatt Billings, who also drew the representation of Tom returning to his family and the cabin that was used for the titlepage of both volumes. Like Jewett, Billings seems to have had marked abolitionist sympathies (he designed a masthead, for example, for Garrison's Liberator). It's not known whether he, Jewett or Stowe herself decided which scenes to illustrate, but there is no doubt that Billings' representations were very successful with the American public. Many other visualizations of the story drew directly from his images, and in the 1850s, the picture of Eva and Tom reading the Bible by Lake Pontchartrain became probably the most frequently reproduced image from the novel.
You can see Billings' illustrations by clicking on any of the icons at left.
Uncle Tom's Cabin; or, Life Among the Lowly, two volumes. By Harriet Beecher Stowe. (Boston: John P. Jewett and Company, 1852)