The Art of the Book

Join curators Adam Silvia and Sara Duke as they highlight photographically illustrated books as well as graphic illustrations for books in the Prints & Photographs Division collections in two upcoming virtual presentations. Read on for a preview of some of the images and volumes they will share.

Photographically illustrated books, some dating all the way back to the 1840s, contain actual photographic prints mounted to the pages. Hand-crafted and rare, they explore a wide variety of subjects,

In the 1886 volume Life and Landscape on the Norfolk Broads, photos such as this one, Quanting the Marsh Hay, Norfolk, England, show residents at work, moving hay down the waterway. A quant is the long pole used to propel the boats.

Quanting the marsh hay, Norfolk Broads, England. Photo by P.H. Emerson, 1886. //

Jack Delano, photographer for the Farm Security Administration, compiled a selection of his photos of coal miners and their communities in Pennsylvania into a two volume set, including this spread below of a mine and a miner.

WPA-Federal Art Project photographs of Pennsylvania coal miners and coal mining communities. Photo spread from volume 1, by Jack Delano, 1938 or 1939. //

With the invention of color photomechanical processes in the 1880s, it became desirable for publishers to incorporate paintings and drawings, often richly illustrated, into their books, leading to the Golden Age of American Illustration that lasted until 1930.

This 1889 ink drawing by Daniel Carter Beard was on the frontispiece for the book A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court by Samuel Clemens, better known as Mark Twain.

[Knight in armor tilting at man in tree onto which a man in modern dress has climbed for refuge]. Drawing by Daniel Carter Beard, 1889. //

A 1919 book entitled Friendly Fairies from author and illustrator Johnny Gruelle included this charming ink and watercolor drawing of two orphans visiting Sally Migrundy.

[The two orphans visiting Sally Migrundy]. Ink and watercolor drawing by Johnny Gruelle, 1919. //

Register for either session at the links below and learn much more about the different types of illustrations for books within the collections of the Prints & Photographs Division.

Learn More:

  • Register for the September 13 session from 12:00-1:00 EDT of Finding Pictures: The Art of the Book here. The event will recur on September 21 from 3:00-4:00 EDT; register for that session here.
  • Explore both fully digitized volumes of the WPA-Federal Art Project photographs of Pennsylvania coal miners and coal mining communities by Jack Delano.
  • The Cabinet of American Illustration contains more than four thousand original drawings by American book, magazine, and newspaper illustrators, made primarily between 1880 and 1910. Explore these images online through the Prints & Photographs Online Catalog.

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