Vintage Travel Photography From Bernard J. Shapero Rare Books
By Michael Stillman
Booksellers sell, of course, books. Nevertheless, many sellers have expanded into related, ephemeral items, allowing their clients to expand the depth of their collections. Here is such a catalogue, from Bernard J. Shapero Rare Books. It is titled Vintage Travel Photography, and for those who collect travel books, it is filled with exceptional opportunities to add to the visual side of your collection. It offers photographs of far away and mysterious lands (to Europeans) from the early days of photography, primarily the second half of the 18th century. Included are books of photographs, albums, and individual prints.
It is hard to describe catalogues of photography. One can describe text with text, but text can hardly do justice to images. Nevertheless, we must try. So, here are some of the intriguing images of long ago that Bernard J. Shapero is offering us today.
Item 15 is a collection of 93 albumen prints circa 1880 from India compiled by Comte Florimonde de Basterot. The Count was a writer and traveler, and he has provided descriptive captions for his photographs. They were taken at numerous locations around India, and enable us to see the land as it was at the time. The photograph seen on the cover of this catalogue is from this collection. Priced at £5,500 (or approximately $10,745 in U.S. dollars).
Item 42 is a picture of two Burmese girls circa 1870, fashionably dressed, one holding a parasol. It was photographed by Philip Adolfe Klier. £1,750 (US $3,420). Item 43 is another photograph by Klier, this time of an elegantly dressed young Burmese lady. £1,750 (US $3,420). Looking at these beautiful photographs, one can't help but feel deep sadness over what has happened to Burma and its people.
Item 29 is a photograph of a tiger, attributed to Colonel Willoughby Wallace, lying still in the grass. The tiger is either sleeping or dead, most likely dead as I wouldn't want to get this close to a live one. £1,250 (US $2,444). Item 28 reveals the answer to the tiger's condition, as he lies next to a hunter, rifle in hand. These photos were taken around 1870. £1,500 (US $2,933).
Most of these photographs come from obviously warm climates, but item 12 contains 24 albumen prints taken in Astrakhan, near the Caspian Sea in Russia. Taken around 1900, many relate to the construction of the local railway and its bridge, along with opening celebrations. £3,500 (US $6,843).
Item 49 pictures seven young Chinese women from around 1870. Each sits in a chair, in front of a blank wall, demurely holding a fan in her lap. There is a story, perhaps of a school, but it is likely lost to time. £1,750 (US $3,422).