Category Archives: Photographs and Photo Albums

“A Date Which Will Live in Infamy…” Today we Remember the United States’ Entrance into WWII

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By Margueritte Peterson

Bookstores and businesses in the antiquarian book world are numerous enough that no matter what you are looking for, you can be sure to find it somewhere. On sites like Biblio.com and abaa.org, you can search for booksellers based on what genre of books you are looking for. One genre we would like to salute on this December 7th, an important day of remembrance and respect in United States history, are antiquarian books with a WWII military basis. 

A picture taken from a Japanese fighter jet (where did they find the time?!) as one of the first torpedoes hit the USS West Virginia at Pearl Harbor.

A picture taken from a Japanese fighter jet (where did they find the time?!) as one of the first torpedoes hit the USS West Virginia at Pearl Harbor.

On the morning of December 7th, 1941, 353 Japanese fighter planes attacked the United States military base at Pearl Harbor, Oahu, Hawaii. The lack of any warning for this attack led the president, Franklin Delano Roosevelt to label it “a date which will live in infamy” – primarily based on the lack of a declaration of war (a formal pronouncement) or any true notice of its happening. The Naval base suffered devastating loses, with four of the eight Naval battleships sunk and all severely damaged. This attack, the likes of which many American citizens had never seen up close on our nation’s soil, shocked the nation into joining World War II. 

Prior to the attack on Pearl Harbor, the United States had skirted around the edges of the looming World War II. However, on December 8th, the day after the attack on Pearl Harbor, President Roosevelt delivered a speech asking Congress for a formal declaration of war on Japan. Less than an hour after the speech, Congress consented. Due to a previous agreement between Germany, Italy and the Empire of Japan, United States was suddenly (or at least beginning on December 11th) at war with all three nations, all with the objective of restricting the United States’ ability to help any of their other opposition throughout the war. 

Now, all of this is frightfully interesting (not making fun, just stating such with the knowledge that these things have all been heard before, especially today), but what does this have to do with antiquarian bookselling? Well, good thing you ask. Tavistock Books, among other antiquarian booksellers in the United States and abroad, boasts a small collection of WWII items – books, ephemera, memorabilia… even WWII posters printed on linen – all are things we have been lucky enough to have in stock over the years. On this anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor, we’d like to highlight some of our most interesting World War II items currently on our shelves. 

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See this interesting book here>

This uncommon military book details the XIII Bomber Command – a WWII command and control organization for the Thirteenth Air Force, activated in January of 1943. This organization was created in order to provide authority of Army Air Force bombardments within the 13th Air Force Area of Responsibility during the war. What is striking about this book is that it was created entirely within the Combat Area of the Bomber Command – its handmade nature evident – and provides extensive documentation of the Command’s activities in the Pacific Theater during the year and a half that it chronicles. 

See this Fine poster here>

See this Fine poster here>

Another WWII item we currently have in stock and would like to bring attention to is this 1945 1st edition broadside/poster (linen-backed) by the Women’s Army Corps. As stated a bit earlier, we often try to carry unusual memorabilia relating to WWII. This poster propagandizes the Female Medical Technician campaign – an organization that came about after 5,000 of the U.S. Army Medical Department’s combat-ready men were forced to transfer to the infantry in early 1944. The department suddenly began a major push to recruit women to fill the positions left open, and created departments like this Female Medical Technician campaign (which, by the way, was hugely successful). By the end of the war, the WACs (Women’s Army Corps) Medical Department employed around 20,000 trained, skilled and determined young women.

Again, on this December 7th we honor and remember members of the military that have, so often, given their lives and their time to protecting citizens of the United States. (We have mentioned before that our very own Vic Zoschak was a Lieutenant Commander in the United States Coast Guard before turning his talents toward a career in the antiquarian book trade, right?) We salute all.

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Who cares that Gold was found near Sacramento? Check out these Gems we Mined at the Sacramento Antiquarian Book Fair…

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Circa 1869, this pamphlet titled “God is Love. A Sermon” was authored by George Storrs – one of the leaders of the Second Advent movement, affiliated with William Miller and Joshua V. Himes. After a fair amount of study, Storrs preached to some Adventists on the condition and prospects… for the dead. OCLC records no copies of this pamphlet, nor is it found in the NUC! See more on it here>

 

 

 

Screen Shot 2016-03-28 at 6.38.53 PMThis set of 5 Nursing Student journals were written between 1923 and 1926 by one Mildred Godwin, a class of ’26 nursing student at Crozer Hospital, Chester, Pennsylvania. Within these journals the young lady records diverse class notes beginning in September of 1923 from lectures by her professors – Dr. Crowther, Miss Burkhard, Dr. Gray, etc. The subject of her entries range widely across the medical spectrum, from items such as Social Service to “Why Cases are Referred.” A very interesting archive of post WWI nursing education! Check it out here>

 

Screen Shot 2016-04-01 at 10.05.56 AMThis is no ordinary promotional photograph album or scrapbook… at least, not in terms of subject! The Alaska Blue Fox Company seem to have produced this interesting documentary album, providing an invaluable historical look at a very successful fox farming venture (yes, you read that correctly. No, there’s nothing I can do about it) on Bushy Island, in the Southeast Alaska Islands. After WWI there was a rise in fur prices, giving some eccentric entrepreneurs an opportunity to lease the island in the Tongass National Forest off the coast of Alaska and stock it with some 20 breeding pairs of foxes – all for your wearing pleasure. Be unnerved here>

 

Screen Shot 2016-04-01 at 10.06.36 AMThis 1929 Promotional Project Photograph Album details the Western Maryland Railway – a (primarily) coal & freight hauling operation – with images of the diverse aspects & views of the port facilities & docks, of the ‘up-to-date’ buildings & even some freight moving mechanisms (spiral chutes & cranes, etc). An outstanding, possibly unique album documenting local pre-depression Baltimore history, as well as the capital improvement efforts of one of Maryland’s major transportation firms! Love automotive and locomotive history? This is the album for you…

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On Identifying Photographic Prints and the History of Early Photography

 Photographic Prints in an Antiquarian Bookshop

Without a doubt, every antique store and flea market from California to New York somewhere has a box of photographs – black and white, early Kodaks, or even tintypes… often warped, mirrored, faded – if you are reading this blog it is assumed that at some point or another your interest in antiquarian books and materials has drawn you to such an establishment, and you have at least fingered through a box of photographs labeled “.10 each or 15 for $1.00”. Why is it, then, that those photographs are (seemingly) worthless, while there are photograph albums offered by booksellers with the same types of prints for thousands of dollars? As with all things antiquarian – provenance, condition and interest levels dictate the differences between a bin full of late 19th century silver-gelatin prints and an album full of un-faded, unaltered albumen photographs.

 

Photography in the Early 19th Century

William Henry Fox Talbot in 1864

William Henry Fox Talbot in 1864 by Moffat.

The name William Henry Fox Talbot is known throughout the world as a British inventor, author and photographer of great significance. Talbot claimed experiments in photography as early as 1834, and in 1841 announced his invention of the calotype (also called the Talbotype) process, a process that reflected the work of many of Talbot’s predecessors, such as John Herschel and Thomas Wedgwood. One of Talbot’s main contributions to this fledgling art included creating a photographic image through the use of a negative from which a positive print could be made (though those terms were previously coined by Herschel, Talbot demonstrated the technique with ease). Talbot’s early discoveries culminated in his pioneer finding that silver chloride was the silver compound “most suitable for photographic printing, and to discover how to use it most effectively” (O’Reilly, p. 1). Talbot’s negative to positive printing could also be said to be one of the most important inventions in the field of photography as it allowed the photographer to create numerous prints off of a single negative, simply by exposing more paper to the image. As you will see later, other early forms of photography (such as the popular Daguerreotype process), were not able to form several images from a single exposure.

Now, the art of photography has developed significantly since Talbot began his experiments in rural England. If this blog were to describe every type of photographic print process and the differences and nuances between them all, we would quickly lose the followers we have so far gained. Suffice to say, the history of photographic prints is as diverse and intricate as any popular invention might be. Unfortunately, identifying photographic prints is particularly difficult for the untrained eye as even the slightest changes in the process (and in the final product) can be difficult to observe if you are not sure what to look for.

 

Identifying Photographic Prints in the Late 19th and Early 20th Centuries

Photography in this time falls into two distinct categories, True Photographs and Photomechanical Prints. Photomechanical Prints are images not formed directly from exposure to light or from a negative, and are rather more often “mass-produced.” These mechanical techniques include Halftone Illustrations (which some may recognize by their dotted appearance when viewed with a scope) and Photogravure, among others. These prints, while still able to be artistic and popular in their own right, are not usually as desirable as True Photographs when it comes to collectors and institutions. True Photographs encompass many other types.

Evidence of Silver Mirroring is seen in the darker portions of this image (IPI).

Evidence of Silver Mirroring is seen in the darker portions of this image (IPI).

True Photographs include, as stated, many other processes. Some of their results may sound familiar, some not so much. Salted Paper Prints, Cyanotypes, Platinotypes, Albumen Prints, Gelatin and Collodion Printing-Out Papers, Gelatin Developing-Out Papers… all of these, despite their somewhat extreme differences, are examples of True Photographs. They are placed into categories depending on characteristics such as the appearance of their paper fibers, their hues, and, most interestingly, their condition. Signs of fading, mirroring (the slight silvery hue to the darker areas of the photograph due to silver oxidation), warping and cracking can all contribute to telling the difference between the many types of “true” photography.

 

Curious about an image you have? Try http://www.graphicsatlas.org/ to help you identify your items.

 

Photography as a Popular Pastime
A typical Albumen Cabinet Card

A typical 19th century Albumen Carte-de-Visite.

The Daguerreotype studio boomed early in the photographic print age in the mid 1800s. Other early photographic processes included the Salted Paper Print and the Albumen Print. Albumen Prints were quite possibly the most popular type of photographic process, as they are the most widely found today. Around the 1860s and 1870s a certain type of photographic style emerged, a Carte de Visite (quite literally, a Visiting Card) that was traded between friends and family, and most notably took the place of the general “Calling Card” that social guests would deliver to households they stopped in to see. Along with these Cartes de Visite and their cousins “Cabinet Cards”, photography moved into an age of cabinet cards and other studio portraits. Silver gelatin and Matte Collodion Printing-Out Papers and Developing-Out Papers (whose main differences lie in the process by which the image appears – DOP images appear during chemical development, whereas POP images appear on their exposure to sunlight) were quite popular as forms of portraiture, and were also some of the most popular forms of photography for the average civilian to produce at home.

 

Photography in Books

The first book ever to be illustrated through the photographic process was produced by none other than William Henry Fox Talbot, with his book The Pencil of Nature, published in 1844 with his own calotypes pasted into the book. The text within the book details Talbot’s calotype process used for each individual photograph. Each photograph within Talbot’s work were laid in and pasted by hand, not to mention taken and developed by the inventor as well. Though the book was less popular than Talbot expected, it paved the way for an idea that (eventually) became a bit of a phenomenon – illustrating books with photographic prints. Despite the fact that many “jumped on the bandwagon” and illustrated works with photography in mid-to-late 19th C, “in many traditional libraries the illustrations to a book, and its illustrator, were often placed in a role secondary to the author – even in situations when the illustrations were the dominant concern of that work” (Johnson, Nineteenth-Century Photography). This is no longer so. The book trade often sees works collected solely for the photographer or the images represented within a work, the text often being of little to no concern to such a collector.

One of the photos included in Talbot's "Pencil of Nature", published in 1844

One of the photos included in Talbot’s “Pencil of     Nature”, published in 1844.

Photograph albums, on the other hand, can be a different story. Eugenia Parry Janis writes “A love of subject matter leads the bookseller to photographs. He is satisfied to present photographic discoveries which have engaged his attention as they act in collaboration with needs of descriptive science, exploration, documentation or poetic evocation. It is a special quality of photographs to be able to enter into reciprocal relationships with words… The most discriminating private collections of photographs today owe much to booksellers’ at times obsessive, and even indiscriminate salvaging and rescuing of photographs destined for the incinerator. Photographs were not saved because they necessarily conformed to prevailing standards of beauty; they were saved for the richness of what they presented.” (Charles B. Wood III, Catalogue 37). Therefore, when looking through photographic albums, individual photographs, and books illustrated with photographs, it is a great find when the photos are in impeccable condition. However, more often than not, photographs are collected for what they represent – a moment in history, a fashion style, an area of the world, a political event – rather than because of their condition and artistic beauty.

In a catalogue later this month we will offer examples of all of the above – individual photographs, photo albums, and books illustrated with true photographs. Featuring a wide range of subjects, from military bases to train catalogues to family vacations, there is certain to be something of interest to everyone.

*The only reason we at Tavistock Books know any of this information on Photographic Prints is from taking James M. Reilly and Ryan Boatright’s course on these processes at University of Virginia’s Rare Book School. A fair warning – this has been a highly condensed and extremely terse outline in comparison to their course, a course officially endorsed by Tavistock Books!

Photo-WHFTalbot

 

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Preserving Antiquarian Photographs and Photo Albums

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Collectors of rare and antiquarian books are well aware that they must take specific measures to preserve and protect their collections. Condition directly impacts value, but perhaps more importantly, condition dictates how intimately you can experience the items in your collection; items that have deteriorated cannot be handled and studied with the same freedom as items that have been better protected.

Death_Valley_Floyd_EvansCommon enemies of antiquarian books include direct sunlight, humidity, and vermin, along with substances like adhesives–and even other paper. The same holds true for antiquarian photographs and photo albums. But due to their more complex composition, these items often require even more specialized care.

First and foremost, it’s important to store photographs and photo albums only in archival quality containers. These are made from chemically stable materials, so they won’t contaminate your collection. The picture frames available at most retail shops generally contain high-acid wood pulp, along with polyvinyl chloride. Both of these trigger deterioration, so it’s best to stick with metal frames when possible.

Individual Photographs

If you’re not planning to display your loose photographs, you can store them in polypropylene or polyester sleeves (the most common brand is Mylar), which are considered stable enough for long-term use. For smaller photographs such as cartes de visite, stereo views, or cabinet cards, it’s relatively easy to find the right size sleeves. The photographs should then be placed in an archival quality box.

Detroit_Aircraft_Development_Corporation_Trade_CatalogueLarger photographs can be placed into individual polyethylene bags. If you’d prefer to display them, the best approach is to attach each photograph (and the original mounting board, if present) to 100% rag acid-free mat board with a window-mat of the same material hinged to fold over it. You can use acid-free linen tape to hinge the two mats together. This way, the photograph won’t come in contact with the frame’s glass, and you’ll hide the imperfections of the original mat.

Some collectors prefer to place their antique photographs into period photo albums. While this will protect the photos from dust and fingerprints, it won’t protect them from deterioration. Furthermore, most such albums are relatively fragile in their own right, so they won’t stand up to frequent handling.

Gathering_Photographs_Orr_IslandAlbumen prints are a special case. They tend to curl when removed from deteriorating albums. To combat curling, you have a few different options. A number of institutions embrace the practice of hinging albumen prints on all four corners, and this is a perfectly viable option. But the American Photographic Museum uses a different approach: they slip each print into its own clear polyester envelope and attach the envelope to a mat board with a hinged over-mat. Treated this way, the photos can then be framed if desired. This technique can be used with virtually any fragile item, not only photographs but also prints, maps, and ephemera.

Daguerrotypes, ambrotypes, and tin types also necessitate special consideration. These kinds of photos were usually sold originally in folding cases, with glass to protect the delicate surface of the image. But even a seemingly impervious material like glass can succumb to age; it may crack, get dirty, or become cloudy. If you’re tempted to replace the glass, consult a professional! This process requires extreme care; one stray touch can permanently ruin the image. You may also want to think about the impact of replacing the glass on the photograph’s value; many collectors prefer that daguerrotypes have their original seal intact, so replacing the glass could decrease your photograph’s value to potential buyers.

Caring for Antique Photo Albums

While caring for individual photographs is relatively straightforward, preserving antique photo albums can be a bit more complicated. This is because the various materials used to assemble the album can interact and trigger deterioration. Often antique photo albums will already show signs of damage, but it isn’t always due to these chemical interactions. In fact, damage is more often than not caused by other factors, such as humidity, improper handling, or poor processing.

Therefore, removing individual photographs from an album for preservation should be your absolute last resort, as dismantling the album often means losing the inscriptions, order, and presentation of the album. And you may damage the photographs in your attempt to remove them from the album. Conservators often recommend interleaving photo albums, that is, placing leaves of acid-free paper or plastic sheets between the album’s pages to protect them from each other. The pitfall of interleaving, however, is that it can strain the album’s binding.

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If an expert recommends that you go ahead and disassemble an album to protect the photographs, you can take color photocopies of individual pages to record the album’s order, layout, inscriptions, and captions. In most cases, an experienced conservator should perform the task of removing the photos. With old self-stick albums or those with plastic cover sheets, the adhesive dries up over time, so photographs may fall out on their own.

As with any attempt at conservation or preservation, it’s best to consult an expert before attempting anything on your own. Although the field of photograph conservation is relatively new, there are numerous consummate professionals who will be happy to consult you on the best approach for an item in your collection.

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