Decoding the History of Photography Redux: E-Books and online sources

My post of March 11, 2014 on Decoding the History of Photography, is now four years old and has needed updating for awhile. This new [2018] post will point you to books and other publications not found in that 2014 post, in other words, this is an addition. I will leave the original post online, and I have removed and replaced non-functioning links; in one place I have added an important message.

As I noted in that 2014 post, I have divided the books into categories: Classic Texts; Processes, Formats, and Styles; Researching Photographers; and Looking at Photographs. What I wrote at that time was, “If you haven’t looked for them yet, and you like having a list in one place, here you are,” is still true, although now “here” means two places.


Chicken Feathers, Nevil Story Maskelyne (British, 1823–1911), Salted paper print, ca. 1840; courtesy Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Rubel Collection, Purchase, Lila Acheson Wallace and Anonymous Gifts, 1997; accession no. 1997.382.5.

Classic Texts:

Robert Hunt’s A Manual of Photography (London : J. J. Griffin and co., 1853), was reissued in 1854 with “numerous engravings.” Online access is granted to the 1853 volume via HathiTrust who have used those in the collections of the University of Michigan and New York Public Library. Access to the 1854 illustrated volume is available at from the collection of Ryerson University, Toronto.

Photography : A new treatise, theoretical and practical of the processes and manipulations on paper, dried and wet: glass, collodion and albumen (New York:  Heath & Brother, 1855), is available in several formats via The original is in The Photography Incunabula Collection at the Getty Research Institute, and you may want to peruse that Getty collection for other items of interest to you.

A Dictionary of Photography by Thomas Sutton (London: S. Low, Son, and Co., 1858) can be viewed and downloaded via HathiTrust. The original book is found at the Getty Research Institute, the University of Michigan, and Harvard University.

Just released is John Werge’s The Evolution of Photography: with a chronological record of discoveries, inventions, etc., contributions to photographic literature, and personal reminiscences extending over forty years (London: Piper & Carter and J. Werge, 1890). It is available to download  on Project Gutenberg, in various formats. Images of the pages are found on The book is made available via the collection of Ryerson University, Toronto.

Processes, Formats, and Styles:

Stieglitz palladium

Alfred Stieglitz, palladium print of Hodge Kirnon, elevator operator at gallery “291”, 1917; courtesy Metropolitan Museum of Art, Alfred Stieglitz Collection, 1949, accession no. 49.55.38

Thomas Sutton, listed above, is also the author of books on processes. One of those is The Calotype Process: a Hand Book to Photography on Paper (London: Joseph Cundall and Samson, Low and Son, 1855). The original is held by the Getty Research Institute, and it can be read at HathiTrust.

A wonderful website constructed by Gary W. Ewer, The Daguerreotype: An Archive of Source Texts, Graphics, and Ephemera, was brought back to life in 2016, and not included in my 2014 post. Mr. Ewer has added an abundance of sources on the history of the Daguerreotype, including newspaper articles, journals, magazines, and references to items in archival collections. These contain reminiscences, obituaries, process and gallery descriptions, advertisements, and even fiction and poetry, dating from 1839 (with a few pre-1839) to the mid-20th century.

The second edition, 1890, of P. H. Emerson’s book, Naturalistic Photography for Students of the Art (New York: E. & F. Spon, 1889) can be read online, or downloaded via Project Guttenburg. In the text, Emerson covers all the intricacies of optics, light, cameras, the studio, etc., as well as a chapter on the photographic library.  He includes his paper on “Science and Art” read at the Camera Club Conference on March 26, 1889. The book is also full of interesting advertising.

Another online publication now available through the extreme kindness of Mike Ware is A Technical Account of Photographic Printing in Platinum and Palladium (2017). The book grew out of a report Dr. Ware did for the National Gallery of Art, in Washington, D.C. It covers the evolution of the process in the nineteenth and the twentieth centuries, noting its use by Alfred Stieglitz, Edward Steichen, Paul Strand, Irving Penn, and others. He states that “This is a compilation of the history, practices, and underlying chemistry of the photographic printing processes in platinum and palladium metals.” A list of patents is included.

The online Library of photo conservator Gawain Weaver is full of useful links, including Process ID and nomenclature, a Study of Kodak Color Prints, 1942-2008, an illustrated guide to how gelatin silver printing papers were made at Kodak, and more. A free process ID chart is available in both English and Spanish.

Researching Photographers

Something I did not cover in my first post on this subject (2014) is photographic journals and magazines. Many of the first successful photographic journals in English were published in America, and several of these are found online. I use various online journals and magazines when I am researching a photographer, including a visiting photographer, who worked in Georgia. Don’t forget that the advertisements found in these journals are also a valuable resource.


“Past, Present and Future,” Daguerreotyped by Martin M. Lawrence, Crystalotyped by J. A. Whipple, 1854 salted paper print from The Photographic and Fine Art Journal, vol. 7; courtesy J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

In this post I am not citing any of the photographic journals published in the United Kingdom, but if your research leads you to them, as mine sometimes does, several are readily available online, and these valuable resources sometimes cover American photography and photographers. Here is a link to the HathiTrust Digital Libary’s Collection of 19th Century British Periodicals.

But as far as North America goes, you will be interested in The Canadian Journal, first titled The Canadian Journal: a repertory of industry, science, and art, and later called The Canadian journal of industry, science and art. Issues for 1852-1855 and 1856-1866, are available via HathiTrust.

The Daguerreian Journal Devoted to the Daguerreian and Photogenic Arts (1850-52), is available from several places, including and  It was renamed Humphrey’s Journal of the Daguerreotype and Photographic Arts (1852-62), some of which is viewable at HathiTrust . Google Books includes the same volumes as does HathiTrust, 7 (1855) and 13 (1861-1862), but these two have some live links in their index and table of contents, and are available for download. 

The Photographic and Fine Art Journal (1851-60), which included pasted-in photographic prints, was a monthly published by H. H. Snelling. You can view the January to June 1851 issues at HathiTrust and download an 1855 example at The Getty Museum has vol. 7 – 12.

Several volumes of the Philadelphia Photographer (1864-88), are available to view or download, courtesy the Boston Public Library, at . It was edited by Edward L. Wilson, and it was retitled Wilson’s Photographic Magazine in 1889. You can read all issues of Wilson’s (vol. 28-54) in HathiTrust Library or download the issues via . From 1915 – 1923 it was called The Photographic Journal of AmericaMany of those issues are downloadable from Google Books

Read this post and find out how you can download a PDF of a book commissioned in 1984 by the National Museum of Photography, Film and Television, called The Other Observers. Women in Photography in Britain 1900 to the PresentThis is “a celebration of women in the field of photography, including Christina Broom, Dorothy Wilding, Vanessa Bell and Julia Margaret Cameron.”

Looking at Photographs

Yes, looking is learning! A book I don’t recall seeing before in the Getty Museum’s Virtual Library, is Masterpieces of the J. Paul Getty Museum: Photographs (1999). The Getty has over one hundred thousand images, and this volume, which you can download, has a selection of fifty images described in detail.

Four years later, I notice that fewer of the publications listed in the Metropolitan Museum’s MetPublications are free to read in their entirety, and often only a Preview is available – but that may be all you need. It is understandable the Museum would rather you bought the book from them, and the Metropolitan Museum Bulletins remain free to download.

You can download a copy of the 1939 Metropolitan Museum of Art exhibition catalog The Hawes-Stokes Collection of American Daguerreotypes by Albert Sands Southworth and Josiah Johnson Hawes which is a very interesting, quite early discussion and exploration of that beautiful collection.

I was very surprised to see on this site a more recent, but out-of-print book available to read or download — the 2004 publication All the Mighty World: The Photographs of Roger Fenton, 1852–1860“In a career of a single decade, Fenton had done much to transform photography into a medium of powerful expression and visual delight.”

A final note — I have many more sources I could share with you, but instead, I will lead you to the George Mason University’s OER (Open Educational Resources) Metafinder, which they call  MOM, isn’t that great? With MOM you can more easily find the online books, etc. that you need. At the bottom of the home page you will see a list of all the sources it will search, with tick boxes; search using all, or narrow that list by unticking boxes.

Good luck to all you hunters and gatherers in your summertime photo research adventures!

© E. Lee Eltzroth and Hunting & Gathering, 2018. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material, without written permission from this blog’s author is prohibited. The piece can be re-blogged, and excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to E. Lee Eltzroth and Hunting & Gathering, with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.



  1. This list of resources is wonderful. I look forward to digging into several of them in the near future.

    1. Let me know what you find, good things are waiting for you!

  2. woodpainter · · Reply

    Continues to be wonderful

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