Nineteenth-century Canadian Photographically Illustrated Books


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


Photograph records give information about individual photographs found in publications.


Search across records that describe photographs, 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 book 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. Despite the volume of production, and the arguably critical role that photographic illustration played in the development of the Canadian publishing market, these vital books faded from popular memory surprisingly quickly. Today, nineteenth-century Canadian photographically illustrated books are poorly documented and generally not well-known. This digital collection draws from the collections of Canadian memory institutions to bring more of these works to light, highlighting their importance in the development of nineteenth-century Canadian media culture.

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).