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Rodolphe Töpffer

  Self-portrait ca.1844


"Vous avez créé le genre et vous n'avez pas encore vu le dernier de vos imitateurs."

("You have created the genre and you haven't yet seen the last of your imitators.")

Letter from J.-J. Dubochet to Rodolphe Töpffer, July 1, 1845



The concept of modern comics emerged and evolved in the mind and pen of Swiss teacher and part-time artist and writer Rodolphe Töpffer (1799-1846).


In the following pages you’ll find the complete original manuscript version of his very first picture-story, drawn in 1827 under the title Histoire de Mr. Vieux Bois, in 30 pages with 158 panels. It was only published ten years later, completely redrawn in one single row and expanded to 88 pages, i.e. 198 drawings. By that time two more of Töpffer’s stories had already seen print.



(click to read the complete story)

Histoire de Mr. Vieux Bois, 1827 (click on image to read the complete story)


Details about the extraordinarily confusing chronology of Rodolphe Töpffer’s picture-stories can be followed in my Synopsis.


The second edition of the published version of Vieux Bois appeared in 1839, now with 92 numbered pages and 220 drawings for the story itself (plus the frontispiece), and is at present available in album format from both Éditions du Seuil and Éditions Pierre Horay in France, together with other stories by Töpffer.


This 1839 edition of Vieux Bois can also be seen complete at the Michigan State University, together with another Töpffer story, the rare 1842 British Beau Ogleby, in color.


Michigan State University (click on image)


Part of yet that same 1839 second edition of Vieux Bois can also be seen at the surprising website Early Comics, together with extracts from the Aubert pirate copy and the complete unpublished Monsieur Trictrac.


Other elements on Töpffer are also to be found on the web, namely at the following recommended sites: Coconino Classics,, Pressibus.


Rodolphe Töpffer is of course one of the recurring topics on the specialized e-mail discussion list, PlatinumAgeComics, which focuses on comics before the 1930s.



Finally, I have to recommend at least the following print publications:


The Early Comic Strip vol. 2: The Nineteenth Century

David Kunzle; University of California Press, Berkeley, Los Angeles, Oxford, 1994.


Töpffer: L’Invention de la Bande Dessinée

Thierry Groensteen and Benoît Peeters; Hermann, éditeur des sciences et des arts, Paris, 1994.


The Adventures of Obadiah Oldbuck: The First American Comic Book

Alfredo Castelli, intro by Robert Beerbohm; Napoli Comicon, March 2003.

(English-Italian bilingual edition completely reprinting the 1842 American Obadiah Oldbuck, and including also a Martin Mystère story and a reprint of the New York World Sunday supplement for May 5, 1895, with the first appearance of the Yellow Kid)


The Victorian Age (The American Comic Book: 1795-1899)

Doug Wheeler, Robert Beerbohm and Richard D. Olson, in The Official Overstreet Comic Book Price Guide, 33rd edition, Gemstone Publishing, 2003.

(updated and revised article from previous editions of the catalog)


Töpffer in America

Doug Wheeler, Robert L. Beerbohm and Leonardo De Sá, magazine Comic Art #3, Summer 2003.

(updated and much revised article from the first version by Beerbohm & Wheeler in magazine 9e Art #6, January 2001, published by the Musée de la Bande Dessinée, Angoulême, France)



The editor of these pages can be contacted at click here

My deep thanks to Michel Kempeneers and Mike Kidson, who revised the whole site.

I received some very good feedback regarding both my Töpffer Comics Synopsis and this site.



 © Copyright 2003-05 Leonardo De Sá
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