"Many of the most graphic and memorable Civil War images that have come down to us"
Alexander Gardner. Gardner's Photographic Sketch Book
of the War. Washington, D.C.: Philp and Solomons,
[1865-66]. Two oblong folio volumes. Approximately 12 x 16 inches.
Complete with 100 albumen prints (approximately 7 x 9 inches)
mounted on larger sheets with lithographed frames and captions.
Fine lithographed title-pages of camp scenes. Two versions were
issued, both in 1866 according to the latest scholarship. The first
of these states "Incidents of War" on each caption; the second, as
in the present copy, omits the phrase and adds plate numbers.
Original publisher's full dark brown (Volume I) and black (Volume
II) morocco. The first volume is lettered in gilt on the front
board with the name of the original owner: "H. McCallum 1866".
Covers triple-ruled in gilt, spines ruled and lettered in gilt in
compartments, five raised bands, gilt board edges and turn-ins,
marbled endleaves Minor restoration to binding, including color
correction and boards being skilfully rehinged. Descriptive text
page of plate 23 in Volume I is loose but present. Two small
private library ink stamps on the first text leaf and on a text
leaf in Volume II, several text leaves with tears in Volume II,
some light spotting to leaves, mostly not affecting photographs.
Still, a near fine set. With five loose duplicate photos. All
housed in a large, custom-made half morocco clamshell case.
The most celebrated collection of Civil War photographs, Gardner's Photographic Sketch Book of the War contains "many of the most graphic and memorable Civil War images that have come down to us" (ICP). The photographs cover the entire conflict from Manassas in 1862 to the dedication of the monument at Bull Run in June 1865. They include images from Harper's Ferry, Manassas, Antietam, Fredericksburg, Petersburg, Cold Harbor, Gettysburg, and Appomattox. Most famous among these are President Lincoln on Battle-field of Antietam (1862), Harvest of Death and Home of a Rebel Sharpshooter (both Gettysburg, 1863). Gardner presents the photographs, each accompanied by his descriptive text, as "mementoes of the fearful struggle," recording war as it had never been recorded before. Alexander Gardner joined Mathew Brady's studio in the 1850s and introduced the new wet-plate collodion process there. This process was employed in the photographs of the Sketch Book. When Brady's sight deteriorated in the 1850s, Gardner became the studio's chief photographer. Working with the Army of the Potomac as a civilian photographer, Gardner happened to be present during the Battle of Antietam. Carrying his heavy equipment over the battlefield in the immediate aftermath of this bloodiest of battles, he captured a series of beautiful and shocking images. Within a month of publication they were exhibited at Brady's New York gallery, where crowds waited in line for hours to view them. When Brady accepted credit for the images, as he was wont to do, the outraged Gardner resigned and set up his own studio, bringing the leading Brady photographers with him. These men, including George Barnard, David Knox, Timothy O'Sullivan, and William Pywell, contributed to the immense Photographic Sketch Book project, and they are scrupulously credited in its captions. Perhaps 200 copies of this lavishly produced book were published at $150, a staggering price that doomed the project to financial failure. In the past 140 years many copies have been broken up for their individual photographs, and this trend will undoubtedly continue, with the result that complete sets will become ever more difficult to obtain.
ICP Encyclopedia of Photography 221. The Truthful Lens 68.
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