Saturday, March 22, 2008

The Pencil of Nature: The first reports of the invention of Photography in America

The invention and early development of photography are well documented in the periodicals of the time. The first mention of what was then known as "photogenic drawing" in America was in 1839 in an interesting magazine call The Corsair, which, in order to get the latest news from Europe, sent out a fast boat to meet the steamer from England in order to be the very first to report the most recent events from Europe.

This issue of The Corsair, for April 13, includes a lengthy article describing Henry Fox Talbot's "Pencil of Nature" with the rather negative spin that it would have a harmful effect on the world of art (to read the complete original text click here . A few months later in November, The Journal of the Franklin Institute was the first to publish Daguerre's process in detail. By 1850 photography had become firmly established and the first periodical exclusively devoted to it, The Daguerrian Journal, was begun.

Photography as an art was later pioneered by Alfred Steiglitz, using a series of journals to publish his and others original gravures. Steiglitz' first publication was Camera Notes, followed by the monumental Camera Work, whose issues are highly sought and quite valuable.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Oscar and the Movies

My Collection contains a vast amount of rare movie magazines but an acquisition made today is a quintessential example of the wonder of magazine collecting and how it advances our knowledge of all aspects of American popular culture.

The magazine seen below was published in October, 1927 by the Motion Picture Academy of Arts and Sciences. The Academy was founded only a few months earlier. The editors were filmwriter Carey Wilson (1889-1962), screenwriter Waldemar Young (1878-1938) and art director Cedric Gibbons (1893-1960).

Another of Gibbons' claims to fame was as designer of the statuette, now known as Oscar, given as the award of achievement every year by the academy. The first academy awards were in 1929 but, as can be seen on the cover of this important and rare periodical, the design was conceived somewhat earlier. While Oscar's elbows on the statuette are not flexed as on the magazine, other than the base of a can of film, the sword-holding image by Gibbons is obviously an early incarnation of the iconic image so revered by members of the entertainment industry, perhaps the first time it ever publicly appeared.