Moses King was a prolific publisher of guide and viewbooks. While still a student, King published his first guide, Harvard and its surroundings, celebrating his alma mater. He quickly found publishing success with guidebooks like the one shown here, King’s how to see Boston, which King framed as “a practical guide and an artistic souvenir.” Like most of King’s guidebooks, this one includes a short section on local history, small neighborhood maps, many illustrations from photographs and plenty of references to local businesses. The appeal of producing a slimmer, cheaper souvenir is self-evident, and publishers like King began leaving out text, doing away with hardcover book bindings and reducing the number of views in order to produce a new type of souvenir – the viewbook.
Viewbooks typically took one of two forms – the standard booklet format or the accordion foldout. The two viewbooks shown here make creative use of the novelty format, designed to serve less as guides or advertisements and more as souvenirs. From Liberty, New York, what first looks like a postcard has a tab that pulls down to reveal a fan of six photomechanical prints. The back of the case is laid out like the address section of a postcard, suggesting that this viewbook was meant to be mailed to friends or family.
Another example of the novelty format, this tiny octagonal viewbook from Saint Augustine, Florida folds out and up into a standing lotus flower, which serves as a beautiful frame for sixteen lithographic views of the city.
Adolph and Herman Wittemann founded the Wittemann Bros. Publishing Company in 1879 in Brooklyn. Later called the Albertype Company, the Wittemann brothers were major players in the viewbook publishing industry. Souvenir of Baltimore is typical of the style that the Wittemann Brothers pioneered – one strip of paper folded, accordion-style, into a small cloth-covered binding, usually red with the title and decorative frame stamped in black. The Wittemann brothers were early adopters of the collotype technique. Also known as albertype, the collotype process was an inexpensive way to mechanically reproduce photographs from glass, and later aluminum, plates. While collotypes are generally noted for their faithful recreation of photographic detail, the images in these small and cheap titles are often quite simple and plain.