Information and discussion on all aspects of British photographic history
A major collection of rare photobooks has been given to the Bodleian Libraries, building on the Libraries’ world-class collection of photographic works and books. The donation includes works from some of the most renowned photographers from the 20th century, including Man Ray and Robert Capa, Henri Cartier-Bresson and Diane Arbus.
The collection of more than 2,300 printed photobooks published between 1887 and 2016 includes monographs, serials, exhibition catalogues, as well as artist and private press books. It features a huge variety of subjects and photographers, with particular strength in photobooks from France and Germany.
A collection of this size and breadth is particularly rare and its size makes this one of the largest donations to the Bodleian Libraries so far this century, and builds on its growing photographic resources; the Libraries already hold one of the earliest photobooks, The Pencil of Nature, produced by William Henry Fox Talbot between 1844-46.
A small selection of photobooks – by Brassai, Man Ray, Krull, and Cartier-Bresson – will feature in a one-day display in the Weston Library on 13 March 2020. See: http://visit.bodleian.ox.ac.uk
Photobooks are books designed to share the photographic work of individual photographers, groups, studios or collectives, sometimes with accompanying text, sometimes purely based on images. Images are often presented in a sequence to communicate a narrative, and innovative printing techniques are often used to reproduce the photographic image. Collaborations with writers and poets sometimes feature as part of the approach to making photobooks, but they could also reflect on the role of photography in advertising, propaganda, industry and public life. Many titles are produced in very small editions and are therefore very rare. Photobooks are vulnerable to light and damage caused by handling so photobooks in good condition are highly collectable.
The photobooks were given to the Bodleian Libraries by Sir Charles Chadwyck-Healey through the generosity of the Arts Council England’s Cultural Gifts Scheme. Chadwyck-Healey, founder of both the Chadwyck-Healey publishing group and Environmental Risk Information and Imaging Services, is also an Honorary Fellow of Trinity College, Oxford.
Richard Ovenden, Bodley’s Librarian said, “The Chadwyck-Healey collection of photobooks is a major acquisition for the Bodleian, immeasurably enriching our holdings through adding highly significant materials from European, Russian, Japanese and American photographers. This collection has great strengths including French Surrealist and avant-garde photography, the scarce work of the Russian constructivists, and the major American photographic movements. Photography is an area of growing scholarly importance, and it is vital that a great research library like the Bodleian is able to document in depth this crucial means of communicating visual ideas in the modern world.”
The photobooks donated to the Bodleian Libraries include:
Over 600 of the photobooks in the collection have been catalogued already and are available for library readers to access in http://solo.bodleian.ox.ac.uk. The remaining photobooks will be catalogued over the next year for completion in March 2021.
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