Issue #227  8/22/2016
Photo Book Review: Masters On Glass

By Leonard A. Walle

By John B. Cameron and Janice G. Schimmelman. The Collodion Press, 2016, ISBN 978-0-9829456-7-4. Includes 145 color illustrations with 127 full-size stereoviews, 238 pages, 8.25 x 9.75". The book's price is $98 in softcover, $115 hardcover (cloth with dust jacket) from http://www.blurb.com, (search using the author's name or see http://www.facebook.com/TheCollodionPress).

After a long wait, "The Glass Stereoviews of Ferrier & Soulier" is now finally published. Extensively illustrated and documented, it is a must-have reference for anyone who has an interest in stereo photography and photo history.

The late John B. Cameron, noted scholar of 19th-century French photography, spent many decades researching and collecting the glass stereoviews of Ferrier and Soulier. Thankfully his wife, Janice G. Schimmelman, who in her own right is a noted scholar of 19th-century American Art and photography, completed John's goal of producing a book based on his primary research. It is truly a tour de force consisting of 238 pages with 145 beautiful color illustrations of which 127 are full-size stereoviews reproduced from high quality, painstaking scans.

The first 86 pages chronicle the history of the company including the various photographers involved, identification signatures and labels, and an explanation of the numbering system used. In 1852 the French photographer Claude-Marie Ferrier, working for Paris optician Louis-Jules Duboscq, manufactured the first glass stereoview. As noted in this discussion, Duboscq's 1852 catalogue had glass stereoviews priced at 15 francs each, daguerreotype stereoviews priced at 10 francs and paper views at 8 francs. The superior clarity and brilliance of the glass views were obviously prized. Two years later Ferrier branched off on his own and built an inventory that expanded from sculptural subjects to scenes in France, Italy and along the Rhine. Then in 1859, with his son, he formed a partnership with Charles Soulier to establish a photography business that produced the finest stereoviews in the 19th century.

Ferrier & Soulier's secret process of manufacturing albumenized-on-glass stereoscopic positives from albumenized-on-glass stereoscopic negatives was unmatched by their competitors. Subsequently their highly regarded glass views were sold outside of France by firms such as the London Stereoscopic Company in England and the Langenheim Brothers in America. Over time their stereo inventory grew to include negatives made not only by Ferrier and Soulier, but also those purchased from Francis Frith, Auguste-Rosalie Bisson, Jules Couppier, Antoine Fauchery, E. & H. T. Anthony & Co. and J. J. Reilly. Ferrier & Soulier's successors, Leon & J. Levy et al continued to produce glass stereoviews until the early 20th century. However, as public interest in glass stereoviews declined, by 1874 production began to shift to glass magic-lantern slides and photographs printed on paper, eventually expanding to photolithographic postcards. Today, over half of the firm's 25,000 stereo negative archive is stored under the management of Parisiennee Photographie.

Of the 127 full-size stereoview illustrations, 109 make up a well documented, glass stereoview portfolio that is arranged by presentation in the order of their manufacture and production. Fortunately, as previously mentioned, the stereoviews are meticulously illustrated in full-size color so that they can be viewed in 3-D, as they were meant to be seen. The portfolio is followed by a listing of catalogues produced from 1852 to 1908, which is in turn is followed with 15 pages of detailed endnotes.

The photo history community owes a debt of gratitude to John Cameron for the passion he had for glass stereoviews and to Janice Schimmelman for completing his extensive research and writing this outstanding book. It is the seventh Collodion Press publication and forms a trilogy with Schimmelman's two previous books, "Brewster, Duboscq & the Early Printed Stereoview, 1851-53" and "The Early Paper Stereoviews of Claude-Marie Ferrier, 1852-1858." Let's hope there are more to come.

Collector and Past President of the Daguerreian Society. Currently a member of the board of the Daguerreian Society.