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THOMSON, John, & Adolphe Smith Headingley.

Street Life in London. With permanent photographic illustrations taken from life expressly for this publication.

London: Samson Low, Marston, Searle & Rivington, [1877] Stock Code: 135678
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"One of the most significant and far-reaching photobooks in the medium's history"

First edition, book issue. A work which pioneered the genre of photojournalism. The photographer John Thomson (1837-1921), who had made his reputation with photographic records of his Far Eastern travels, joined forces with the radical journalist Adolphe Smith Headingley (fl. 1870-1920) to document the lives of ordinary Londoners, combining hard-hitting, albeit staged, street photography, with documentary-style prose. "Structurally, Street Life is a combination of street portraiture and interviews with the subjects. Thus it was the direct predecessor of the journalistic picture stories that would appear in illustrated magazines from that period onward" (Parr & Badger). There is however, a picture in particular which, according to Parr & Badger, "takes us straight into the twentieth century" which is that of The Crawler: a destitute old woman apparently unaware of (or indifferent to) her picture being taken. "Street Life would be important for this picture alone. As it is, in terms of the concept of the photographs, and the volume's aims and ambitions as a book, Street Life in London is one of the most significant and far-reaching photobooks in the medium's history" (Parr & Badger).

The work was first published in 12 monthly parts and then in book form, as here: the book form is genuinely rare, as well as a most attractive piece o f Victorian book production.

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Quarto. Publisher's green cloth on bevelled boards, elaborate pictorial blocking to front board in black and gilt, device and border to back board in blind, titles to spine in gilt, all edges gilt, yellow end papers. Housed in a custom black cloth box lined with brown velvet.


37 woodburytype photographs on 36 sheets (with tissue guards), all mounted on heavy stock paper and set within a red single-rule border with captions in red, the majority approximately 11 x 9 cm.


Bookseller's ticket of John & Arnold Slark, Fishergate, Preston to front pastedown. Light wear to extremities, a little rubbed, sometime rehinged, occasional light foxing; a remarkably bright and well preserved copy.


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