Old Marley

Having always loved the opening of Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, I chose to combine my illustration and typographic skills to depict this line from it. The illustration was done in an engraving style with the text’s font customized to compliment it.

The Design and Insights

I pictured Marley as an earthly miser whose expression has worn to sorrow and repentance from the seven years he’s spent in hell. As his ghost first appeared to Scrooge, Marley’s face replaces a door-knocker — a handkerchief tied around his head forming the “O” drop cap. Above it, Marley’s hair sweeps into his signature braid as if it were being agitated “by the hot vapour from an oven.”

Illustration of a Dickensian quote

engraving style illustration of a Dickensian quote

For the text, I chose the font Perpetua (designed by Eric Gill) which is representative of the transitional fonts used during Dickens’ time. With the help of Adobe Illustrator, I customized the larger text to have an engraved look.

Detail of text from Old Marley illustration

customized letters and fillets

The sentence ends as it began: with an image. This time I substituted the compound word “door-nail” with a compound illustration. (And yes, that’s a square nail — no wire nails in Dickensian times!)

Detail from Old Marley illustration

pictorial representation of "door-nail"

As a T-shirt

Below is the illustration applied to a t-shirt with the options of charcoal or red. It was up for scoring at Threadless.com.

T-shirt design of a Dickensian quote

the illustration shown on t-shirts

The Source Material

And here for good measure is the opening of A Christmas Carol (Dickens at his witty best).

“Marley was dead, to begin with, there is no doubt whatever about that. The register of his burial was signed by the clergyman, the clerk, the undertaker, and the chief mourner. Scrooge signed it. And Scrooge’s name was good upon ‘Change for anything he chose to put his hand to.

Old Marley was as dead as a door-nail.

Mind! I don’t mean to say that I know, of my own knowledge, what there is particularly dead about a door-nail. I might have been inclined, myself, to regard a coffin-nail as the deadest piece of ironmongery in the trade. But the wisdom of our ancestors is in the simile; and my unhallowed hands shall not disturb it, or the Country’s done for. You will therefore permit me to repeat, emphatically, that Marley was as dead as a door-nail….”

For the rest, you can download the entire book for free from Amazon.com.