Category: prints

Salted Paper Prints from Special Collections

Here you see the wide range in tonality and richness in colors. Indeed, monochrome can be very colorful. We are so glad that many of these salt prints have remained in good condition, such that the facial expressions and details of clothing and accessories for each sitter are still astonishingly clear.

In collaboration with the American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works, and Houghton Library, Harvard Library’s Weissman Preservation Center (WPC) is hosting a symposium on the Salted Paper Prints from the Harvard Fine Arts Library’s historic photographs collection on September 14th and 15th. During the two-day symposium, a hands-on workshop hosted by the Northeast Document Conservation Center will allow participants to explore the chemistry and artistic nuance of creating salted paper prints. A brief lecture will acquaint the participants with the basic chemistry and variations of the process and discuss preservation concerns.

The salted paper print was an early negative/positive printing process developed by William Henry Fox Talbot in England in the 1830s. Many beautiful examples of this process were created in the 19th century and can be found in a variety of photograph collections.

Read more about the symposium and how to register.

Read the previous post about the Salted Paper Prints Symposium.

Salted Paper Prints Symposium

Salted paper print at the Fine Arts Library

Salted Paper Prints: Process and Purpose
A Collaborative Workshop in Photograph Conservation

In collaboration with the Foundation for the American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic WorksHarvard Art Museums, and Houghton Library, Harvard Weissman Preservation Center (WPC) is hosting a symposium on salted paper prints on September 14th and 15th. Registered participants will be able to attend a special viewing of salted paper prints from the Harvard Fine Arts Library‘s historic photographs collection on September 13th.

A salted paper print, or simply salt print, is a photographic printing process whereby paper is coated with salt solution and then a silver nitrate solution to capture images. It was a popular photographic printing technique between 1839 and approximately 1860.[1]

WPC has undertaken a university-wide project, the Salt Print Initiative, to preserve and enhance access to salt prints across campus, including inventorying the salt prints held by individual repositories, including the Fine Arts Library.

This symposium will present a multi-disciplinary, two-day program that focuses on the preservation, characterization, use, and interpretation of the salt print process, now over 175 years old. Read more about the symposium and how to register.


Staff from Harvard Weissman Preservation Center selected some salted paper prints from our collection for the initial presentation at the Fine Arts Library in December, 2016.

Stay tuned for more images from the historic photographs collection.



Highlighting Artists’ Books

Take a break from studying and liven up your imagination by taking a peek at some artists’ books.  Here are a couple of highlights to get you started!


The Book of Warnings by Daniella Deeg

2001 Women’s Studio Workshop

This screen-printed artist book is stunning at first glance, tucked in a box with orange hazard ribbon, with more red warnings blazoned behind.  The pages have lively visuals of odd caution symbols and text, layered in reds and oranges, highlighted with crisp black and silver inks.  The novelty of the imagery and colors is soon coupled with more layered ideas of the reasoning behind taking precautions or taking risks.  The introduction explains the significance of “the human ability to anticipate the future” and how it enables “individuals can plan ahead and prepare themselves for things to come.”

The day-to-day warnings that go with a wet floor or with changing a light bulb are layered side by side with simple imagery of men fist-fighting, or with ideas about relationships.  “People might even try to use this foresight to turn the course of events to their liking” the introduction continues, adding a more active and perhaps devious twist to this idea of warning and anticipation.  Deeg’s work, initially perceived as a simple, vibrant accordion-folded book, suggests that we might need similar orange hazard warnings against something like falling in love or the more abstract risks of living.

How to Talk About Art by Miriam Shenitzer

1994 Women’s Studio Workshop

Looking to expand your vocabulary when talking about art?  Shenitzer’s tongue-in-cheek tutorial shows you how!  Black and white drawings of her adorable rat characters, coupled with pop-up book elements, take you through innovative ways to sound like you know what you are talking about.

This book mocks the language of art terminology as presented in some high-minded art criticism.  Short and sweet, this item is bound to make you smile, both reminding you of childhood pop-up books and make you laugh at the absurdities possible in talking about art.

This is just a taste of the enlightening and entertaining artists’ book collection at the Harvard Fine Arts Library.  Stop in and we would be glad to show you more!

Thanks to Alexandra Winzeler for compiling this entry and for all of her useful contributions this semester!

Take a Trip Around America… at the Harvard Fine Arts Library

A grey, Boston winter is soon upon us, we could all use a sunny postcard or two to brighten the day.  Luckily, the Harvard Fine Arts Library has an enormous postcard collection ready for your viewing pleasure.

Atlantic City

Hotel Traymore and Boardwalk, Atlantic City, N.J.

This collection mainly created in the early 20th century focuses on landscapes, architecture, and historical buildings and sculptures, stretching the world over.  Most heavily collected are cards from France, Italy, Germany and Spain, but a substantial number representing Canada, South and Central America, and the United States have recently been sorted and highlighted within the collection.

Lower New York

Lower New York, by Victoria Hutson

Some postcards are classic, colorized landmarks like the boardwalk at Atlantic City, and others have more stylized architecture like artist Victoria Huntson’s rendering of lower New York City.  Others still are wild shots of nature, like the spitting volcano of Kilauea in Hawaii.

Kilauea Volcano

Volcano of Kilauea, Hawaii

The collection is not without humor, and includes goofier cards such as the highly amusing “Busy Person’s Correspondence Card,” in which the sender checks off phrases to assemble a message:

“This burg is   (  )hot as h***   (  )out of sight!    (  )dead   ( X )a swell joint

(  )off the map   (  )classy”

A Busy Person's Correspondence Card

A Busy Person’s Correspondence Card

A few are even more unique, like this one from Ottawa.  When held up to the light, the cut-outs of the windows, moon, streetlamps, and reflections “glow” with sunset colors.

Chateau Laurier-Ottawa

Chateau Laurier-Ottawa. Grand Trunk Railway System

Whether for historical research, artistic inspiration, or just for fun, take a trip to the postcard collection at the Harvard Fine Arts Library.

Don’t forget to write!

Thanks to Alexandra Winzeler for compiling this entry and helping to sort through the American postcards!

Sporting Portraits Collection

Nicknames and Stylish Hair: all a day in the life of a bare-knuckle boxer.

Take a moment to explore images from the Sporting Portraits collection.  This collection contains over 350 photographs, prints, broadsides, clippings, and hand-drawn illustrations from the mid-18th to the 20th centuries.  These portraits captured the likeness of more than 100 American, British, and Irish boxers.

John L. Sullivan

John L. Sullivan

The nicknames and facial hair alone are worth a look through this collection.  Who can resist the classic masculinity of handlebar mustaches?  Peter Maher and John C. Heenan wear them well.

Mustaches aside, a few tough women held their own in this rough sport, one such notable being Bertha Frances.

Bertha Frances

What good is a boxer without an equally intimidating nickname?

  • John C. Heenan “The Benicia Boy”
  • John L. Sullivan  “The Boston Strong Boy”
  • Valentine Braunheim “Knockout Brown”
  • Johnny Murphy “Birmingham Sparrow” (later a boxing instructor at Harvard College)
  • James J. Jeffries “The Boilermaker”
James Jeffires "The Boilermaker"
James Jeffries “The Boilermaker”
John L. Sullivan embroidery

John L. Sullivan “The Boston Strong Boy” in a “Stevengraph” silk embroidery

While only a few images from this extensive collection are available online, the rest are on their way to being digitized.  The collection includes examples of excellent craftsmanship– such as the silk embroidered portrait (known as a “Stevengraph”) of John L. Sullivan– and striking imagery, like Thomas Worth’s illustration of the Peter Maher and Robert Fitzsimmons fight.  The print is visually compelling even to the most peaceful observer.

Maher Fitzsimmons fight

Peter Maher and Robert Fitzsimmons fight, depicted by Thomas Worth

Thanks to Alexandra Winzeler for compiling this entry and cataloging the sporting portraits!

Occuprint Portfolio 2012 Acquired

The Fine Arts Library recently acquired a portfolio of 31 prints selected to represent the global Occupy movement.  The works were selected from among hundreds submitted by Occupy groups worldwide and exhibited online by a group called Occuprint; the project supports their educational outreach program. The non-profit Booklyn Artists Alliance helped select the posters to be included, supported the printing and is distributing these works.  This group of posters joins several other graphic portfolios added to the collection in recent years including two from the Justseeds Artists’ Collaborative Migration now and Resourced.

Listen, listen : a new artist’s book

The Fine Arts Library has just purchased a copy of the limited edition Listen, listen : Adadam Agofomma : honoring the legacy of Koo Nimo produced by the book artist Mary Hark as a tribute to a Ghanaian musician. Listen, listen is a visual interpretation of  Nimo’s ‘palmwine music’. Hark uses native materials such as maize, plantain leaves, and papyrus to make the paper which is printed in a letterpress studio in Minnesota and finally bound in her own studio in Madison, Wisconsin.  The book incorporates recordings as well as prints by Ghanaian artist Atta Kwami.

‘Listen, listen’ fits into the library’s mission to collect a variety of artists’ books. Our artists’ books collection features personal, cultural, and political statements made by international artists working in a book or book-like format. For more information on this collection, look here:

Listen, listen fits into the library’s mission to collect a variety of artists’ books. Our artists’ books collection features personal, cultural, and political statements made by international artists working in a book or book-like form.

A Boston merchant-adventurer and his illustrated souvenir of the Smyrna trade, ca. 1838

One of the Fine Arts Library’s most unusual recent acquisitions is a lovely little volume of hand-colored engravings and lithographs. The volume consists of 25 plates depicting people and places in Turkey, Greece and the Levant. Once we had the book in hand, we were faced with the problem of how to record this new addition in the library’s catalog.

The illustrations in the book are accompanied by captions in French, Ottoman Turkish and Greek. Each plate is signed by the engraver Eugenio Fulgenzi and the printer Raffaele Fulgenzi of Smyrna (now called Izmir, Turkey) and is dated, 1836 – 1838.  Pasted inside the front cover of the book is a label with the printer’s name and address: Lithographie & Taille douce Fulgenzi & fils, graveurs.

But the book lacks a title page. It’s sometimes possible to identify a book by means other than the title. However, a search of online library catalogs in North America and Europe turned up nothing that matched the date, subject and physical dimensions of our new acquisition, or the name Fulgenzi.

After a great deal of searching, a specialized bibliography in the Fine Arts Library’s reference collection, René Colas, Bibliographie générale du costume et de la mode… (Paris, 1933) supplied a title for our mystery volume: Collection de costumes civils et militaires, scènes populaires, et vues de l’Asie-Mineure. Further research has revealed a handful of references in the works of authors who evidently had seen and studied these engravings by the Fulgenzis. But it appears that our copy of this rare work is the only one recorded in any research library’s collection.

Lithography was introduced in the Ottoman Empire in 1831 and only a handful of works appeared in the first decade, which puts this little volume by Eugenio and Raffaele Fulgenzi of Smyrna among the earliest books illustrated with lithographs to be published in Turkey.

Immediately above the printer’s label on the inside cover of our copy of the book is the bold ex-libris signature of the book’s owner, Th. W. Langdon, and the number 27.  One can also make out the name Langdon faintly inscribed over the printer’s label.  That has made it possible to identify the book’s original owner and to make an educated guess as to how such a book might have made it to New England, where it turned up at a book fair 170 years later.

Thomas Walley Langdon (1783-1861) and his brother John were Boston merchants, who were among the first Americans to embark upon the profitable Smyrna trade.  In 1820, John Langdon sent his son Joseph to Smyrna to act as an agent for himself and his brother. The venture was a profitable one for both brothers. Coffee, sugar, indigo, rum, and furs from the New World were traded for dried fruits, spices, sponges, Turkish carpets, mohair yarn and Smyrna silk.

The owner of this book, Thomas Langdon remained actively engaged in the Smyrna trade for many years. He married late in life and had no children of his own. He may have brought this volume home to New England as a souvenir of his travels. Meanwhile his nephew Joseph settled in Smyrna and married a local girl. Joseph Langdon’s great-great-grandson, Tom Rees, tells the fascinating story of the Langdons of Boston and Smyrna in his book, Merchant Adventurers in the Levant : Two British Families of Privateers, Consuls and Traders 1700-1950 (Stawell, 2003).

Color lithographs of the Siege of Paris

La Tramblais, E. de. Les désastres de Paris en 1871.  Paris : E. de La Tramblais, [1871?]

All of the scenes depicted in Les désastres come from the final, desperate ‘May Days’ of the Commune, when many of the great landmarks of Paris were burned to the ground. The printer Badoureau established himself on the rue Sainte-Isaure in the 18th arrondisement, conveniently located just north of the Seine and at the heart of the battle. The fact that the artist Edouard de La Tramblais chose  to render the most famous buildings (the Palace of Justice, the Place de la Bastille, and the Place de la Concorde, for instance) and that the captions were given in both French and English suggest that this work was intended from the start as a war souvenir.

The most well-known image to come out of the Siege of Paris is the destruction and subsequent collapse of the Vendome Column. As a symbol of the hated Second Republic the column was one of the first targets of the Commune. After the crushing of the revolt it was rebuilt and became a symbol of the folly of the Communards – a prototype of the way visual symbols change meaning in our own time.