Nineteenth-century Canadian Photographically Illustrated Books

Books

Book records provide details about the publication in which photographs appear.

Photographs

Photograph records give information about individual photographs found in publications.

Search

Creator records describe photographers, authors, publishers, printers and owners associated with the books.

This is a digital collection of photographically illustrated books published in Canada in the nineteenth century which are still found in Canadian libraries and archives today. 

The photographically illustrated book is a type of publication in which original photographs are used as illustrations. The photographs are often pasted directly onto the pages of the text, sometimes with letterpress, lithographed, or handwritten captions and decorative borders. These publications first appeared in the 1840s, shortly after the invention of photography itself, though it would not be until the 1850s that they began to be produced in North America. In 1858, the first issue of Samuel McLaughlin’s monthly periodical The Photographic Portfolio: A Monthly View of Canadian Scenes and Scenery (Quebec: S. McLaughlin, 1858-1860) marked the beginning of photographic illustration in Canada.

Original photographic prints fell out of favour with publishers at the end of the nineteenth century as halftones and other forms of photomechanical printing became more affordable, viable, and attractive options, leaving these relics of early photography to languish, forgotten, in the stacks of libraries and bookstores. It would not be until there were serious recovery projects undertaken in the late twentieth century that the photographically illustrated book was acknowledged within the history of photography, and only recently that its role in the development of nineteenth-century media culture has begun to be re-assessed.


This research was supported by grants from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, the Canadian Centre for Architecture (Montreal), and the Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec (Montreal).