The best woodcut graphic novels

George A. Walker Author Of Graphic Witness: Five Wordless Graphic Novels
By George A. Walker

Who am I?

I am a printmaker and book artist and author who is interested in visual narratives. I wrote a book about how to make woodcuts, linocut and engravings titled The Woodcut Artists’ Handbook. My hand-printed limited edition books and art can be found in many collections from the Fisher Rare Book Library, University of Toronto, The Morgan Library & Museum, New York City, and The Museum of Modern Art (MoMa), New York City. I am an Associate Professor of book arts and printmaking at OCAD University in Toronto, Canada.

I edited...

Graphic Witness: Five Wordless Graphic Novels

By Frans Masereel, Lynd Ward, Laurence Hyde, Giacomo Patri, Erich Glas

Book cover of Graphic Witness: Five Wordless Graphic Novels

What is the book about?

Graphic Witness features rare wordless novels by five great twentieth-century woodcut artists from Europe and North America. The stories they tell reflect the political and social issues of their times as well as the broader issues that are still relevant today. This newly expanded edition of Graphic Witness, which features an afterword by cartoonist Seth, will appeal to readers interested in social issues, printmaking, art history, and contemporary culture.

Shepherd is reader supported. When you buy books, we may earn an affiliate commission.

The books I picked & why

Die Idee 83 Holzschnitte

By Frans Masereel,

Book cover of Die Idee 83 Holzschnitte

Why did I love this book?

I think Die Idee is essential reading for anyone interested in understanding the power of the graphic narrative as an extension of the written word. The painter and graphic artist Frans Masereel was born in the Belgian Blankenberghe in 1889. He studied art at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts where he learned to make wood engravings. His first wordless graphic novel was made in 1918 titled Images de la Passion d’un Homme (The Passion of a Man). The success of this book and those that followed influenced three generations of artists, writers, musicians, and filmmakers all over the world.

By Frans Masereel,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Die Idee 83 Holzschnitte as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Text in German. A "book without words" where the illustrations by the author substitute for printed text. Introduction by Hermann Hesse. 83 woodcut illustrations by Masereel. Dust jacket torn at spine and worn at edges. Tanning on boards and endpapers. unpaginated. paper-covered boards, dust jacket. 16mo.

Book cover of Wordless Books: The Original Graphic Novels

Why did I love this book?

David Beronä was a friend and fellow collector whose interest in this form of graphic storytelling was our shared passion. In his book Beronä examines the history of and art of pioneers of this form of narrative. The works of Frans Masereel, Lynd Ward, Otto Nückel, William Gropper, Milt Gross, Giacomo Patri Laurence Hyde, and lesser known artists like Helena Bochořáková-Dittrichová and István Szegedi Szüts. The woodcut images in these works are powerful and as relevant today as they were when they were first produced.

By David A. Beronä,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Wordless Books as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"Wordless books" were stories from the early part of the twentieth century told in black and white woodcuts, imaginatively authored without any text. Although woodcut novels have their roots spreading back through the history of graphic arts, including block books and playing cards, it was not until the early part of the twentieth century that they were conceived and published. Despite its short-lived popularity, the woodcut novel had an important impact on the development of comic art, particularly contemporary graphic novels with a focus on adult themes.Scholar David A. Berona examines the history of these books and the art and…

Book cover of Lynd Ward: Six Novels in Woodcuts

Why did I love this book?

I first met Art Spiegelman in a show we were in together at the Morgan Library and Museum in 2014. We became fast friends with our shared love of the work of Ward and Masereel (examples of their work were in the same exhibition) we have since sent each other copies of books we thought the other would enjoy. I recommend Art’s collection of the six wordless novels of Frans Masereel as a great way to get copies of these rare books in a nicely designed box set with an excellent introductory essay by Art titled "Reading Pictures."

By Lynd Ward,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Lynd Ward as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

From the eve of the Great Depression to the start of World War II, Lynd Ward (1905-1985) observed the troubled American scene through the double lens of a politically committed storyteller and a visionary graphic artist. His medium-the wordless "novel in woodcuts"-was his alone, and he quickly brought it from bold iconographic infancy to subtle and still unrivalled mastery.

Gods' Man (1929), the audaciously ambitious work that made Ward's reputation, is a modern morality play, an allegory of the deadly bargain a striving young artist often makes with life. Madman's Drum (1930), a multigenerational saga worthy of Faulkner, traces the…


By Otto Nückel,

Book cover of Destin

Why did I love this book?

This is a new edition of Otto Nückel’s wordless novel that was originally published in 1930 with the title Destiny by Farrar & Rinehart. Although this edition is in French with an introduction by Seth Tobocman and an afterword by yours truly, it is a nicely produced hardcover with new information about the life of this mysterious German artist. I would be happy to provide an English translation of my postface for anyone who wishes to email me a request. The book is very readable and demonstrates Nückel’s unique skill of engraving a very poignant visual narrative (on lead blocks).

By Otto Nückel,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Destin as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Aux côtés de Frans Masereel et Lynd Ward, Otto Nückel compte parmi les auteurs classiques du roman graphique sans paroles, un genre créé dans les années 1930 et qui doit tout autant au cinéma muet qu'à l'expressionisme allemand. Dans Destin, un ouvrage époustouflant de maîtrise graphique et narrative, Otto Nückel signe sans aucun doute son chef-d'oeuvre. En 190 gravures sur plomb, l'artiste donne vie à la destinée tragique d'une femme née dans la misère - et ce à quoi aucune tentative ne parviendra de l'en délivrer.

  • Coming soon!
  • Coming soon!

1 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in folklore, New York City, and Chicago?

9,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about folklore, New York City, and Chicago.

Folklore Explore 318 books about folklore
New York City Explore 924 books about New York City
Chicago Explore 341 books about Chicago