Viewbooks : Window into America

Views Abroad

These three souvenir albums, along with a handful of others in Avery's collection, show that viewbooks were not limited to American locales. The same economic impetus drove the publication of these foreign viewbooks and many were commonly marketed as souvenirs to Western tourists. As such, they also provide a window into contemporary Western views of so-called exotic cultures and landscapes.


A cidade do Rio de Janeiro.  Cover.

A cidade do Rio de Janeiro. [Rio de Janeiro, Brazil?], [192-?].

AA857 R4 C48

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Like many of other viewbooks in this exhibition, A cidade do Rio de Janeiro makes use of the collotype process, a common turn of the century technique for reproducing photographs. Collotypes were most commonly used in reproducing images on postcards, and are notable for the amount of detail they were capable of transmitting.

Ricordo di Venezia. Cover.

Ricordo di Venezia. Venezia, [1890-1899?].

AA1114 V5 R42

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All of the images in this viewbook are captioned in both Italian and French, suggesting that this souvenir was marketed towards French tourists. The lithographed image on the cover makes creative use of negative space, allowing the yellow paper of the cover to show through as the moon’s light reflected off of Venice’s famed lagoon.

One hundred best views of Ceylon : from photographs taken by the publishers.

Plâté & Co. One hundred best views of Ceylon: from photographs taken by the publishers. Ceylon, [1895?].

AA1505 H89

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Ceylon – now Sri Lanka – is one of the furthest-flung places represented in Avery’s viewbook collection. While the American viewbooks focus almost exclusively on local buildings and products, One hundred best views of Ceylon includes many images of people, with an emphasis on illustrating local dress and custom. The images that do feature buildings are interesting for the contrast they draw between colonial structures – the Grand Oriental Hotel, the General Post Office, the Queen’s House – and “native” ones, such as the “typical jungle village” depicted in this scene. Not just a souvenir, this viewbook also doubles as the publisher’s advertisement of their photographic work. A note on the verso of the title page reads, “To tourists who prefer Real Photographs, or pictures of subjects other than these we have reproduced, we recommend a perusal of our compete Catalogue or a visit to one of our various establishments, where full collections of Views in all sizes, Character Studies, Stereoscopic Views, Lantern Slides, etc., may be seen.” This note helps put viewbooks in the context of other popular souvenirs of the day, all based on new and cheap techniques for printing images based on photographs.

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