Friday, December 7, 2007

Booksellers and Stereoviews

Scouring the world for bookseller ephemera for the American Book Trade Index, I've discovered stereoviews. I love 'em. Stereoviews are taken with a special camera which will produce two very similar images, when placed side by side in a special viewer, create a 3-D experience for the viewer. I really like ones featuring print shop interiors. Apparently these were very popular, beginning in the years following the Civil War until well in to the 20th Century. That's a guess, as there are millions of these things still in every antique shop from here to anywhere, and private stashes are still being rediscovered. I remember going to an estate sale, I got some very nice WWII related books and stuff, and there were tens of thousands of stereoviews and an huge viewer thingy. I wish I could have bought them, but I was a broke and ignorant grad student at the time. She only wanted $300 by the time I got to the sale. Kinda like the time I passed on a hefty box of matchbooks. The newest ones were from the mid-1940s. Dumb. Back to the stereoviews at hand. It wasn't only photographers and lithography companies producing and selling these images. I've found that booksellers also, at a minimum, sold these little delightful images. Now, I've learned that stereoview aficionados collect these images by several methods. By method of photography, only original prints, and content of images. These can be broken into predictable categories like location, trains, cowboys, early racing, ships, military, ooh-la-la (this is a paraphrase), and to my delight: occupational. In occupational categories one can find printers, paper mill inspectors, and booksellers. Lots of crossover collecting going on here, I'm sure. A few brave souls even collect stereoviews according to the back stamp. The first two images have big crisp labels added to the backs, which suggest a regular trade in these views. One featuring a view of the local marina, the other a shot from Yosemite National Park, another hot collecting area. The third is different on several accounts. It is stamped at the back with an ink hand stamp one would see inside books sold by dealers from early on down to today. The first view is an overall shot of the back, the second of the stamp in detail. I close with an image at the front of this interesting piece, which is the establishment of A. Burt and Co. with the proprietor and the Co. standing proudly in front. The seller theorized it was made as a give-away novelty judging by the age (1870s) and the overall "feel". Oh, this image was like my earlier experiences... it got away from me too... Of course, larger images can be accessed by clicking any of these. Anyone know anything more concrete, or have other examples of booksellers selling stereoviews?

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