Scenes in a Library: Reading the Photograph in the Book, 1843-1875

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Overview

Today we are so accustomed to seeing photographs wedded to text—whether in the family album or daily newspaper—that the verbal framing of the photograph has become invisible. The text is internalized within the image, and the meaning of the photograph becomes clear and self-evident, as if by the evidence of the photograph itself. In Scenes in a Library, Carol Armstrong explores the experimental moment, at the inception of the new medium, when the word came to haunt the photographic image, and the forty or so years—roughly from the 1840s to the 1880s—during which the photographic image alternately resisted and became assimilated to the printed page.

Armstrong's emphasis is on British books. Not only was it in an English book that the paper photograph was first described and published, but the range of subject matter of nineteenth-century British photographically illustrated books prior to the 1880s was as rich as it was peculiar and sometimes recalcitrant. Armstrong focuses on one book about photography (Talbot's The Pencil of Nature); one "scientific" book (Anna Atkins's Photographs of British Algae); two travel narratives, one factual and one fictional (Francis Frith's Egypt and Palestine Photographed and Observed and his illustrated edition of Longfellow's novel Hyperion: A Romance); and one book of poetry (Julia Margaret Cameron's Illustrations to Alfred Lord Tennyson's Idylls of the King); as well as some miscellaneous books from the 1870s. According to Armstrong, art history has tended to remove the historic photograph from its printed and published context. Moving back and forth between close looking and equally close reading, she reinserts the photograph into the book from which it was taken.

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What People Are Saying

Abigail Solomon-Godeau
Truly remarkable. . . unlike any other book on nineteenth-century photography I have ever encountered. Makes an important and original contribution not only to photographic history, but to Victorian studies, visual culture, and cultural studies.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780262011693
  • Publisher: MIT Press
  • Publication date: 11/6/1998
  • Series: October Books Series
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 535
  • Product dimensions: 7.00 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 1.60 (d)

Meet the Author

Carol Armstrong is Doris Stevens Professor of Women's Studies in the Department of Art and Archaeology at Princeton University. She is the author of Scenes in a Library: Reading the Photograph in the Book, 1843-1875 (MIT Press, 1998).
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Table of Contents

List of Figures
Acknowledgments
Introduction 1
1 Looking Forward to the 1870s: The Natural Method of Photographic Illustration 23
2 A Scene in a Library: The First Photographically Illustrated Book 107
3 Blueprints for (and against) Scientific Illustration: Anna Atkin's Botanical Albums 179
4 Photographed and Described: Traveling in the Footsteps of Francis Frith 277
5 Photographing Literature: Julia Margaret Cameron's Excerpts from Tennyson 361
Afterword 423
Notes 433
Photograph Sources 499
Index 505
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