View Books - Souvenirs of Summer Travel

Submitted by Christine Edmonson on

The lithographic photograph, developed in Germany by Louis Glaser of Leipzig and Charles Frey of Frankfurt, launched the popularity of the American view book. By 1870, these pocket-sized, flat covers containing accordion-folded ‘indelible photographs’ of North American cities and landscapes were being distributed by three publishers: Chisholm Brothers of Portland, Maine, Ward Brothers of Columbus, Ohio, and Adolph Wittemann of New York City. The lithographic photographs were printed on a narrow strip of paper, varnished in a final coating to create depth, and fan-folded into the cloth or paper covered boards.

The simplicity of these tiny books with beautifully tooled covers, sold in stations, trains and ferries, appealed to the modern traveler. Intricate views of city monuments and buildings prepared the visitor for the excitement of the city and scenic views of rivers and mountains. Some books contain a panoramic view of the entire city, literally unfolding in the hands. Our Statue of Liberty, Liberty Enlightening the World includes a printed history and dimensions of the monument (Index Finger 6 ft. 6 in.). The Ingalls Library and Archives' small collection also has Views of the Hudson River RouteViews of BostonNew York, Halifax, Views of Salt Lake City, and a gold embossed Paris et Versailles 54 Vues -- an 1889 Exposition Universelle edition. But it is this small collection of New York views that is especially interesting on this Independance Day weekend. 

Wittman included endpapers advertising other places and series, with prices: Lumbering in MichiganBabies (Series I, II, III), and the Thousand Islands. Best of all, he included newspaper reviews printed around the listings: “Being especially cheap, light and readily mailed, they should be sent to friends,” or “Beautiful and entertaining productions.” It isn’t often that side by side views of the ‘N.Y. State Insane Asylum, Near Yonkers’ and ‘Prison Works at Sing Sing’ are considered either of those!