Book Worm


One thing that is great about working in old photographic processes (or at least one thing that I like) is that you cant find out everything just by searching Google . It takes some effort and investigation to track down the information needed.  Sure there are many places offing basic information to get a person going quickly making images. There is  also help with troubleshooting for the most common bumps that come about.  The deeper and more involved you get the more you find that not all the answers are on that forum you might have joined.  Well, you will be happy to know that there are still some vintage photography books floating about in that weird used bookstore that you have seen but never gone into that just might have the answers you seek.


Lucky for me I love old books so when I do happen to find one on photography it is a double win.  Of course many that I find do not have anything of value for what I do because of the time it was published the the photographic processes popular at that time.  But from time to time I do fine something that is interesting if just from a reference standpoint like the books shown above.  The dark one is from 1927 and was found in Vermont last summer and is the first edition of Photography : Its Principles and Practice by C. B. Neblette.  Neblette was the Director of the photography division of Pennsylvania State College.  The red book is a new accusision made this week for $6.00.  It is The Science & Practice of Photography by John R. Roebuck published in 1920.  Roebuck was an assistant professor of physics at the University of Wisconsin.


The Neblette book was purchased because of all of the great images and diagrams of apparatus no longer commercially available for photographic work.  Many vintage text will reference an item such as a plate drying box (see above) but will give no description of its physical form as it was commonplace at the time of publication and clarification was not needed.  To build one today you are left to your own devices to create the design.  So to find a book loaded with diagrams to enrich the text was exciting and worth the price to have in my library.


The book by Roebuck is very interesting because it is an actually college level course book with a lab section in the back.  The Part II which is the lab section contains instructions to the students on evaluation requirements, required supplies, and darkroom setup for the included 24 “Experiments” which range from basic chemical mixing, to lantern slide creation and carbon printing.  I was very interested in the extensive gelatin dry plate sections (see above) and the fact that one of the experiments in the lab section was the making of wet collodion plates.  Because of the discovery of this book I am now interested in investigating at what time did the teaching of wet plate image making fall out of favor in the college environment.

So the point is this, great knowledge is still availible out there for the rapidly dissapearing historical photographic processes.  Even so there is no dount that it is indeed gettng harder to find as these great old books dissappear.  Be on the look out!  You never know where you might find that $6 treaure trove of historic information…..but I am pretty positive it will  not be on your Kindle.


~ by Phil Nesmith on May 29, 2009.

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