Rare Book Monthly

Book Catalogue Reviews - May - 2006 Issue

19th Century Photography from Charles Wood

Wens

Daniel Webster from the Gallery of Illustrious Americans, the 101-year-old Atkins from Old Age.


There aren't many things that spell freedom and adventure to the American psyche like trains. Everyone loves trains. Here is a book full of them. Item 10 is an 1881 catalogue from the Baldwin Locomotive Works of Philadelphia. It includes 18 photographs of locomotives, including one described as "inclosed" and "noiseless." Baldwin was formed in 1831, and by this time was one of if not the largest locomotive builder. It continued to maintain its strong position through the steam engine era, but lagged behind when the diesel arrived. By the 1950s, it was out of business, its plant now housing, ironically, a trucking company. $2,250.

Here is a collection of some of the earliest photographs of American statesmen: The Gallery of Illustrious Americans, Containing the Portraits and Biographical Sketches of Twenty-four of the Most Eminent Citizens of the American Republic since the Death of Washington. Edited by C. Edwards Lester, and taken from daguerreotypes by Mathew Brady, this book was published in 1850. But first, a warning - despite the title, there are only 12 portraits, not 24. Among the illustrious leaders whose images were preserved by this new process were Daniel Webster, Henry Clay, John C. Calhoun, Zachary Taylor, Millard Fillmore, General Winfield Scott, and John James Audubon (what's he doing in here with a bunch of politicians?). The quality of these portraits is outstanding. This is a real find for collectors of 19th century political Americana. Item 130. $7,500.

George Humphry produced a photographic essay of some of Britain's older citizens in 1889. The book is, Old Age. The Results of Information Received respecting Nearly 900 Persons who had Attained the Age of Eighty Years, including seventy-four Centenarians. The frontispiece (see image to the left) is of Benjamin Atkins and his wife, each aged 101. We don't know what happened to the Atkins, but if they are still around, they will be 218 this year. Happy birthday! Item 103. $500.

Item 114 is Payne Jennings' Sun Pictures of the Norfolk Broads. I know what you're thinking, and no, these are not pictures of Norfolk ladies at the beach. The Broads are a series of inland waterways and wetlands in Britain, a great place to vacation today, as it undoubtedly was circa 1892 when this book was published. $450.

Here is an ironic item: Souvenir of the Flood by Hunter Bros. This includes eight views of a flood that inundated Taunton, Massachusetts, in 1886, produced by an enterprising local photographer. What makes this piece timely today is just last fall, downtown Taunton was evacuated for several days when it was feared that a nearby dam might break and again flood the city. Item 106. $250.

For every subject, there is a collector. Item 196 is perfect for the person who collects septic systems. Well...maybe not literally, but books about septic systems. It is The Septic Tank System. Views of Installations, published in London circa 1902. It includes 11 large, glossy photos of septic systems in various English towns. $750.

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