The SF Encyclopedia Picture Gallery needs little explanation. Whenever visited or refreshed, the Gallery page shows a randomly selected image from our archives – most typically a book jacket. The Lucky Dip button brings up another such image as often as you care to click it. Clicking on any displayed image on the main Gallery page shows the full-size version if available (normally 600 pixels wide), in a contrast-enhancing "lightbox". The What's New button lists the 500 most recent additions to the Gallery, with the latest appearing first; Slideshow provides an ever-changing succession of images, again randomly selected (see below for non-random slide show alternatives). While a slide show is running an extra button appears, the self-explanatory Stop Slides. Below Slideshow is Sampler, which produces a list of 50 image captions or thumbnails randomly selected from the Gallery. About Gallery simply shows the page you are now reading.
The first three of these Gallery buttons are duplicated in the panel on the right of the present page.
When any SF Encyclopedia entry link in the caption of the currently displayed image – author or authors, cover artist, and so on – is duplicated elsewhere in the Gallery, the Current Picture information box at the right expands to include the option "See all Gallery appearances of ..." followed by a list of such linked items, typically the author's and artist's surnames. Thus an Isaac Asimov book with a Bruce Pennington cover offers immediate links to listings of all Asimov or all Pennington appearances in our picture archive.
Once we have even a single image representing a particular artist or author, we add a Picture Gallery link to the links section at the bottom of that artist's SF Encyclopedia entry, as for Richard Powers, H G Wells and thousands of others. When we started, the criterion for adding an end-of-entry link was ten or more relevant Gallery images, but we lowered this bar a little at a time, until now only one is required.
If you spot an error in a Gallery caption, please tell us via the SF Encyclopedia email contact form.
Please note that the Gallery page uses browser cookies, not for any nefarious purpose but simply to record recently shown images and prevent the random selector from repeating its choices too soon, which would frustrate our craving for variety. Also saved in cookie form are any changes to the maximum image display width that you may have requested via the Less or More buttons, and your preference for text captions or image thumbnails in Search Now and What's New listings – see next section.
There is a simple Search Now button facility that scans for specified text in image captions. For book jackets the caption normally consists of the author's or editor's name followed by the book's full description in the Checklist of the relevant SF Encyclopedia entry. As with Google, you can request exact-match searching by putting the search phrase in quotes, e.g. "isaac asimov" for Isaac Asimov. When the "Show list of captions ..." checkbox under the search box is ticked (as it normally is) and there are multiple finds, the Gallery page will list all the matching image captions or thumbnails in pages of up to 50 items, with Show buttons in caption lists and click-on-image options in thumbnail displays allowing you to choose which image to view at full size. When applicable for navigation of multi-page lists, an appropriate selection from the First, Next, Previous and Last buttons also appears. For further button options, see Lists as Thumbnails and Lists as Slide Shows below.
When the above-mentioned "Show list of captions ..." checkbox is not ticked, a random selection from the images matching the search phrase will appear (along with a new button labelled Another, to show another random image with the same search criteria if there's more than one match). If a search is unsuccessful, the usual random image is shown, with a "no matches to [search text]" report after "Showing image ..."
For more sophisticated searching, use the minus sign to mark words or phrases that are not wanted. For example, the search text "terry pratchett" -discworld will find images whose captions feature Terry Pratchett but not Discworld: that is, his non-Discworld titles plus books about him. Prefacing a search term with link: will restrict searches to SF Encyclopedia entry links (the last part of the URL as displayed on the site), so link:smith_e_e shows only captions which reference E E Smith with a link to his entry, while link:mars gives captions which actually link to the Mars entry rather than just mentioning the planet in (say) a book title.
A further special search term is year: followed by a year number or partial year number. This is best illustrated by example. brunner year:1965 shows all John Brunner cover images whose captions include the boldfaced date 1965, i.e. all the books he published that year which have Gallery images. brunner year:198 will similarly show all his books throughout the 1980s (incidentally including a 1991 chapbook reprinted from a 1980s anthology whose listed date is duly boldfaced). year:18 shows everything from the nineteenth century, or at least from 1800 to 1899.
Both Search Now lists and the What's New list include a Thumbs Off or Thumbs On button which switches between alternative presentations of the results: as a patchwork of thumbnail images or as a list of captions with Show buttons. When thumbnail images are selected with Thumbs On, the image captions remain available as "tooltip" titles appearing when the cursor hovers over each thumbnail. Click on any thumbnail to show the image at larger size.
Both search results lists and the What's New list include a Slides button which presents a slide show of the entire current list, shown not randomly but in the normal order of presentation: alphabetically by author and title for search results, chronologically backward from the most recent addition in the case of What's New. When the end of the current image list is reached, the slide show starts again with the first item. Here by way of example is a slide show of all the infamous UK Badger Books titles in the Gallery. The Stop Slides button again appears and has its usual effect.
Since the book cover selections come from author Checklists, the Gallery features only books that meet our SF Encyclopedia Checklist criteria: first editions (of course), significantly retitled and/or revised editions, and first omnibus editions containing a particular selection of titles. Routine reprints are not included. As magazines are better covered elsewhere online – see the hundreds of "Galactic Central illustrated checklist" links at the ends of SF Encyclopedia magazine entries – magazine covers are not normally included. Nevertheless the Gallery includes a few surprises and eccentricities, such as rare fanzine covers, postage stamps and trading cards. Although our Checklists record only the hardback for simultaneous hardback and paperback releases, the Gallery includes a few such paperback first editions which have interesting cover designs where the hardback had none: these are marked "pb issue/" rather than the usual "pb/". In some instances, we show the hardback as the primary image, with the illustrated paperback cover given separately below the main caption. The instruction "See below caption for alternative view" covers these instances; it also applies to the large and increasing number of covers with wraparound illustrations, where the full illustration is treated as "an alternative view".
Unless an exception has been made and registered in the caption attached to the scan, we scan only the first edition of any text that meets the criteria laid down in the preceding paragraph. (First edition here means what some American book dealers describe as the first printing of the first edition of a text; dealers elsewhere tend to treat this distinction as otiose. We treat any book described as (for instance) "first edition, fifth printing" as a reprint, and ignore it.) Wherever possible, we scan the hardbound rather than the paperbound issue, even when both are simultaneous; but a paperbound issue that precedes a hardbound issue, being the first edition as we define the term, will be scanned without comment.
In exceedingly rare instances, where an authentic cover has proven unavailable, we may scan a facsimile dustwrapper to provide visual and textual information not otherwise available, an example being Philip George Chadwick's The Death Guard (1939). We do so under the following strict conditions:
- Any facsimile will be registered as such in the caption;
- A facsimile dustwrapper will be scanned only in conjunction with a copy of the book to which it belongs;
- If a genuine dustwrapper becomes available to us for scanning, we will immediately replace the scan of the facsimile dustwrapper with a scan of the original.
Since its inception the Gallery has grown steadily, though much remains to be done before the range of images presented is fully representative. Our main focus is on the creation of a Gallery whose individual images illustrate a basic assumption that underlies much of the syntax and explicit overall argument of the SF Encyclopedia: that to understand and describe sf as an essential part of Fantastika in general, we need to try to fix where and when and in what context a work originally appeared. Though our focus is predominantly on sf texts, we also include occasional nonfiction studies of the genre and of individual figures, as well as a selection of non-sf fiction by authors when these titles illuminate their work as a whole, plus a very few non-book sf whimsies. Though we include a substantial array of fantasy, we estimate that all the same that at least 85% of the fiction titles presented here are for sf proper. The displayed caption for each cover image contains at least one link to the author or editor, as well as to the cover illustrator when known (provided this artist has an entry); each image is therefore directly connected to the SF Encyclopedia as a whole. The book title itself links directly to the Affiliate Choice page for shopping purposes.
For many reasons, some of them shameful, a huge number of cover illustrations over the past century or so have never been credited to the artists responsible. With our readers' help and feedback, we hope to significantly increase the number of covers we can credit to their creators.
Our primary motives are to give aesthetic pleasure and to convey information; and we frequently modify our primary criteria to provide both. For hardback books published after World War Two, we very rarely provide scans of a title lacking its dustjacket (when issued). For hardback books between 1910 and around 1940, on the other hand, we compensate for the rarity of surviving dustjackets by providing images of boards alone when necessary, particularly when they are pictorial, and may provide the same image as the missing dustjacket. Before 1910, relatively few dustjackets have in fact survived, and until recent years – despite increasing accumulation of anecdotal evidence to the contrary – it was assumed that very few books were in fact supplied with a dustjacket. It is now amply clear that the habitual stripping of dustjackets by libraries of deposit like the British Library (which seems to have begun to vandalize its holdings in this fashion as early as 1850, and which continues to do so) led to false conclusions, both about the rarity of examples, and about the informational and aesthetic value of surviving examples. The truth is of course that many thousands of dustjackets, an unknown proportion of which were illustrated, did indeed exist, but were destroyed over the past 150 years by organizations whose intellectual and archival responsibility should have been to conserve them. Over and above the effects of this institutionalized scandal, the fragility of early dustjackets, and the tendency of many nineteenth century book owners to throw them out, has led to their virtual disappearance. Very few pre-1910 dustjackets appear here. Though it may be the case that early dustjackets often simply replicate the pictorial boards they covered, evidence is too scanty to take much comfort from this reassuring argument, which in any case scumbles over the inevitable loss of any written matter unique to a destroyed dustjacket, including biographical data and marketing signals, such as the presumed genre of a text in the year of its release. It goes without saying that we provide images of pre-1910 dustjackets whenever possible.
But our procedure throughout is opportunistic. We provide the best and most informative scan available to us in every instance, even if that scan is defective in some respect, and always on the understanding that we will replace an earlier image if a superior scan – one perhaps confirming the existence of a previously unregistered dustjacket – becomes available to us.
Paperback covers are relatively straightforward.
Some important Gallery pictures are smaller than we'd prefer. Ideally all portrait-format images should be 600 pixels wide, but those of the following first editions and of several others are only 350 pixels wide. We welcome larger scans of copies in good condition, and will of course give credit (both here and in the caption) to anyone who can provide one. New scans from your own or some willing friend's collection are preferred– not online images which may possibly be entangled in copyright issues.
- Anthony Burgess – A Clockwork Orange
- Arthur C Clarke – Childhood's End
- Carl H Claudy – A Thousand Years a Minute
- A Merritt – The Face in the Abyss
- James H Schmitz – The Witches of Karres
If you can help, or if you have some other rare first edition whose jacket has yet to be included in the Gallery or which is represented there by a poor or undersized image, please tell us via the SF Encyclopedia email contact form.
Scanning/photography and uploading has been chiefly carried out by John Clute, Judith Clute, David Langford (who wrote the Gallery's underlying scripts), Roger Robinson (who is responsible for the huge majority of image uploads and captions) and Konrad Walewski. Additionally, we grateful for the many images of rare editions supplied by or taken with permission from the collections and websites of Brian Ameringen, Graham Bates, the L W Currey dealer site, Robert Eldridge, Fanac.org (with thanks to Joe D Siclari), the Friardale Website (with thanks to administrator Stewart Clark), Ragged Claws Network (with thanks to Wallace Polsom) and Morgan Wallace. Acknowledgments, such as "From the collection of John Clute", appear below the picture caption on the Gallery page and in the Current Picture information box.
Others who have supplied needed images and are gratefully credited in this way are Brian Ameringen, Richard Chwedyk, Jonathan Clements, David Dyer-Bennet, Fanac.org, Doug Frizzle, David Haddock, William S Higgins, Steve Holland, Leroy Kettle, Ron Miller, Caroline Mullan, Mark Olson, Jim Pinkoski, David Redd, Yvonne Rousseau, Jared Shurin, Jérôme Serme, Tom Shippey, Andrew M Stephenson, Andrew Wells, Henry Wessells and Mark Wood.
Finally, our thanks to Lokesh Dakar for the free Lightbox2 script used on the Gallery page, and to Irfan Skiljan for the freeware Irfanview image-viewing software which we use to resize scans and photographs to our Gallery standards – though not to generate image thumbnails, which are automatically created by the Gallery script.