New York Antiquarian Book Fair. Part 1: Photo Albums.

This year marks the 52nd anniversary of the New York Antiquarian Book FairThe first American antiquarian book fair, that would evolve into the New York Antiquarian Book Fair, was held in New York in 1960. This year’s fair was sponsored by the Antiquarian Booksellers’ Association of America (ABAA) and the International League of Antiquarian Booksellers (ILAB) and took place at the Park Avenue Armory in New York City on April 12-15, 2012. The     show featured a record number of exhibitors – 212 dealers from 15 countries.
My initial interest in going to the Book Fair was to view old photobooks. But, I found myself looking at many different kind of books: photography memorabilia, diaries, albums, zines, artists books, and more. To differentiate I will divide my viewings into three categories:

  1. Photo albums of old photographs.
  2. Photobooks/Picture books.
  3. Artists’ books and unusual books with photography or without and other special items.

Part 1: Photo Albums

Old photographs, and antique photo albums in particular, are attractive objects for many collectors. Being interested in the photobook form, I find old photo albums incredibly interesting to look at. As a collection of photographs on one single subject, an old photo album can tell a story of a place or people in a very unique way. Types of photographs, paper and covers used for an album depend on the region and time the album was made. Albums either can be one of a kind objects or exist in a very limited number of copies. I find that old albums communicate with a viewer on a personal level, with a certain feeling  of intimacy. Here are some lovely photo albums I viewed at the New York Antiquarian Book Fair.

Caucasus Photo Album, 1870. Album of the views of the Georgian Military Road contains 20 mounted photographs by the Rudnevy Brothers’ Photography in Vladikavkaz. The seller describes it as a very rare album as no copies found in Worldcat nor in Russian National and Russian State Libraries.  @the Wayfarer’s Bookshop

Uganda Railway, 1893-1905. Photograph album of 48 original photographs of the Uganda Railway from Mombassa to Port florence on the Kavirondo Gulf with manuscript notes. Photographs by William D. Young, Mombasa mostly from the property of Harry Augustus Frederick Currie, who was appointed the Uganda Railway Manager in 1903.  @the Wayfarer’s Bookshop

Adolf Hitler by Heinrich Hoffmann, 1933. Hand-made album containing 60 photographs of Adolf Hitler and his inner circle. Produced by Hitler’s close friend and personal photographer Heinrich Hoffmann and presented to Hitler on his birthday April 20, 1933. @Lorne Bair Rare Books

UdSSR 1932. Original photograph album with approximately 153 numbered b&w  photographs and a small quantity of postcards. The album documents a study trip by the German organization ARPLAN, ‘Arbeitsgemeinschaft zum Studium der Sowjetischen Planwirtschaft or ‘Consortium for the Study of the Soviet Planned Economy’ a sort of travelling focus group on Stalin’s Russia, at the end of the First Five Year Plan, first hand. Priced $4500 @Maggs Bros.

Dunedin, New Zealand: Frank Coxhead, 1890. Album of New Zealand views contains album cards, each with a vintage albumen photograph mounted on recto and verso, for a total of twenty photographs. Coxhead was one of Dunedin’s best early photographers, active in Dunedin 1870-1893. Among the earliest attainable New Zealand photographic albums and exceedingly scarce.  Priced $22,500 @William Reese Company.

Having spent a part of my life on the Volga river, I coudn’t miss this item: In Memory of the Volga, 1889. Album of photographs from pre-Soviet Russia with 18 original mounted photographs by photographer Vasilieff bound in an accordion fold. Issued as a keepsake in Samara, Russia, a city situated at the confluence of the Volga and Samara rivers. Priced $2,000 @Between the Covers Rare Books

Asia – S.M.S. Vaterland, 1904-1914. Album of 289 photographs taking during the travels of the German military ship S.M.S. Vaterland (1904-1914) witch sailed up the Yangtze and particularly in Wuhan, China (1911-1914). Priced $5,360 @La Librairie Ancienne des Trois Islets.

A wonderful album I was really fond of: S.S.Manchuria – Photo Album of Manila, Rangoon, Penang, Singapore, Java, Seoul, Hawaii, California, and Arizona. Travelog of American transport ship S.S.Manchuria contains nearly 200 b&w photographs on black leaves. @Sanctuary Books 

Some portrait photographers produced their portfolios as photo albums with interesting structures. Here is an accordian-style portfolio with 22 mounted photographs, priced $125 @David Bergman.

19th century German photographer’s sample book. Consists of 18 cabinet cards, all portraits of women. Folds up into a 6,75 x 4,5 inch book. Priced $1500 @Kenneth Mallory.

Some trade catalogs were produced as photo albums. Here is Searchlight Trade Catalog: London Electric Firm – Modern Searchlights, 1930 with 23 mounted color photographs. The London Electric Firm was founded in 1904, based in South Croyden and was known for manufacturing some of the world’s largest searchlights. Priced $750 @David Bergman.

Diaries and notebooks with photographs are another type of photo albums – they come from more recent period of time when photography became more common  for everyday usage.  Manuscript ‘Log’ of Activities – England, 1943-44 contains 200 lined pages, about 40 of which are full of handwritten notes, drawings, and b&w photographs. A group effort to record the beginning of the ‘9th Burton Scouts’, or the Air Scouts Patrol, formed at Carlton St.Chapel in July 1943. Priced $600 @Maggs Bros.

Helen Sadowski – Dream Book and Journal. A dream book and journal kept by the artist Helen Sadowski. The artist has illustrated the cloth covers of the book and embellished the interior with many drawings, collages, photographs, poetry, accounts of her dreams, medical prescriptions, and calligraphy. Priced $ 6,500 @William Reese Company.

There are items that can’t be called photo albums but they still contain photographs attached: The Story of My Life by Clarence Darrow, 1932 with candid tipped-in photographs. Clarence Darrow was one of history’s most eminent attorneys, arguing such notable cases as the Leopold-Loeb murder case, and the Scopes ‘monkey’ trial. A portrait photograph of Ruby Darrow tipped-in to front pastedown, author inscription surrounded by four candid tipped-in snapshots of Darrow posing with a small child to front free endpaper, photograph of Helen Ward Pelouze taped to laid-in inscribed note card. @Robert H. Rubin Books

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  1. Great post about antique photo albums. Thank You! My name is Barbara Levine ( and I have written two books on subject, Snapshot Chronicles: Inventing The American Photo Album and Around The World: The Grand Tour in Photo Albums. Nice to meet you!

  1. New York Antiquarian Book Fair | International Center of Photography Library


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