Buy Your Sweetheart A Book For Valentine’s Day

European Autochrome before 1900
Milksellers with Dogcart, Brussels, Belgium an Autochrome from 1890-1900, Library of Congress via Detroit Publishing Company

Here’s an old turn of the century(1900) autochrome from Belgium that features a dog-drawn cart and some milksellers. Dog-drawn carts are now against the law in most places, as is selling milk in this manner. The picture is  called an autochrome and it is a forerunner of the modern color photograph. The soft out-of-focus background makes the image appear like a painting, as does the dress of the three persons in the picture. All in all it is a remarkable glimpse of a bygone era and oh what a wonderful Valentine’s Day gift this picture would make.

This remarkable image also underscores why the printed page is not likely to disappear any time soon. And in my opinion the reason lies not in the printed word but with the printed images. A picture book with carefully chosen and displayed images, accompanied by good text, is not about to become a thing of the past. Like the intrinsic beauty and simplicity conveyed by this amazingly well-preserved photographic image, books with images have a lasting value. Even the high-tech visual wizardly that comes are way due to software programs such as Photoshop, Illustrator and Fireworks will not undue the paper-based image, in fact the new technology may enhance it.

ueen of Hearts
The Queen of Hearts from a 1901 edition of Mother Goose, source Library of Congress, picture William Wallace Denslow

This is no easily seen that with the growing acceptance of fine art prints made from designs and images created in pixels and then printed on archival paper with non-fading ink. It seems to me very ironic that some of the best compilations of computer-generated art can be found in the bookstore.

Still, images made from the past have a marvelous staying power, as seen in this wonderful rendition of the Queen of Hearts by William Wallace Denslow. It looks great on the internet, but make a calendar from a computer screen and hang it on your wall. (Well actually you can, but like the e-book, I don’t think the digital picture frames are going to replace the paper print anytime soon.)

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