A History of the Woodburytype
By Barret Oliver

2007, 224pp, 61 Plates, Hardback
ISBN 978-1-887694-28-5

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In 1864 Walter Bentley Woodbury introduced a process for mechanically reproducing photographs that changed forever the way the world looked at images. Aesthetically beautiful, permanent and infinitely reproducible, the Woodburytype was the first process used extensively to photographically illustrate books, journals, museum catalogues, magazines and even campaign materials. More than a century after its heyday the Woodburytype stands as a pinnacle of photographic achievement. This book traces the history of Woodbury's process from the early technology and experiments to its commercial success and domination of the illustration field, and further attempts to adapt it to industrialized methods, and finally, to its eventual disuse. Also covered is the story of how Woodbury overcame daunting personal odds to bestow this beautiful photographic process upon the world.

Review in Choice, November 2007, vol. 45, no. 3:
By the 1860s, it was recognized that a critical aspect of photography's future would be the ability to photomechanically reproduce images in books, journals, and newspapers on a mass scale. Numerous techniques were invented, but it was one--the Woodburytype--that superseded all for quantity and tonal quality. The key figure was Englishman Walter B. Woodbury (1834-85). By 1865 he had established a printing facility and had sold patent rights elsewhere, notably in Paris, such that by the 1870s, 100,000 prints a day were being produced in Britain and France. Though the process continued in use for several years, the key period of its popularity, especially in terms of later being replaced by the half-tone process, was the 25 years after 1870. The Woodburytype has been noted by curators and librarians for years, but very little has been published on it or about how to identify the prints. Oliver is an independent scholar, and this is the first in-depth study of this process and of Woodbury. Extensive notes, chronologies, and bibliography; excellent illustrations and diagrams. This book, beyond its technical aspects, broadens understanding of how photography became a truly modem medium of mass cultural import.
Summing Up: Highly recommended. General readers; upper-division undergraduates through professionals.
--P.C. Bunnell, emeritus. Princeton University

About the Author:

BARRET OLIVER lives in Los Angeles where he works as a photographer and printer and is known for his use of nineteenth century processes. His print work has been featured in gallery and museum exhibitions, publications and motion pictures. Oliver's research into the Woodburytype grew out of an extensive working knowledge of early photographic technology and his successful experiments in reproducing Woodburytype prints.

Published by: Carl Mautz Publishing, Nevada City, California

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