Library of Congress Prints and Photographs: An Illustrated Guide
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The pictorial collections of the Library of Congress represent an immense fund of human experience, knowledge, and achievement. Works in these collections touch upon almost every realm of human endeavor: science, art, invention, government and political struggle, and the recording of history.

In these realms, the arts of drawing, printmaking, and photography have served a multitude of purposes over the years. They have been the bearers of information, vehicles of commentary and persuasion, tools in the creative process, and media of artistic expression. All of these roles are represented in the drawings, prints, and photographs in the Library's collections.

These works' value as historical documents is informed and enriched by the circumstances of their creation. As bearers of information, the arts of drawing and printmaking have a long history. Since prehistoric times drawing has been a universal language, used by people to record and, in the process, interpret their surroundings. Printmaking, a much younger art than drawing, has provided a means of disseminating drawings and the information they contain. The birth of printmaking in the West six centuries ago coincided with the revival of science and classical humanism in late medieval Europe. Prints and drawings were indispensable to the communication of the new scientific information gathered during the era of exploration that followed. The artist John White, who accompanied Sir Walter Raleigh's expeditions to the Carolina coast in the 1580s, created a vivid visual record of everyday life in the native societies there. After White's return from America his drawings were engraved to illustrate a series of volumes on New World voyages published in Germany.

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Rubens Smith's "Mill on the Brandywine, Deleware"John Rubens Smith. Mill on the Brandywine, Deleware. Watercolor on laid paper, circa 1830.
Reproduction #: LC-USZC4-3670 (color transparency)

As time went on, drawings and prints were produced to mark important milestones in the transformation of the American landscape through settlement, urbanization, and industrialization and to display the wonders of its unspoiled regions. In the early years of the nineteenth century artists like John Rubens Smith traveled throughout the United States, recording in pencil and watercolor the cities and towns, the mills, the bridges, and the suburban estates that dotted the countryside during that dynamic age. (John Rubens Smith Collection. Gift of the Madison Council and Mrs. Joseph Carson)

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Shepard's "Abraham Lincoln"Attributed to Nicholas H. Shepherd. Abraham Lincoln. Quarter-plate daguerreotype, circa 1846.
Reproduction #: LC-USZC4-2439 (color transparency); LC-USZ6-2095 (b&w film copy neg.)

Photography, first introduced in the nineteenth century, eventually superceded the other graphic arts as a medium of historical record. Initially it was hailed as a paragon of factuality. Its images materializing through the action of sunlight on a sensitized plate, the medium supposedly eliminated from the recording process the subjective element of human mediation. As a result, people embraced photography as a way of preserving important moments in the course of their lives. The thirty-seven-year old Abraham Lincoln, soon after winning his first seat in the House of Representatives, sat for a local daguerreotypist at Springfield, Illinois. The portrait, as straightforward as its plainspoken subject, is the earliest known photograph of the Great Emancipator, taken when he had yet to cast his first vote in the Congress. (Gift of Mary Lincoln Isham)

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Julia Margaret Cameron's "Portrait of Alfred, Lord Tennyson"Julia Margaret Cameron. Portrait of Alfred, Lord Tennyson. Albumen silver print, 1876.
Reproduction #: LC-USZC4-3873 (color transparency); LC-USZ62-52448 (b&w film copy neg.)

Despite its fidelity to appearances, photography actually allows considerable room for subjectivity. Any number of creative decisions made by the photographer in the process of making a photograph, such as the choice of subject, perspective, equipment, and the moment of exposure, all introduce a measure of interpretation. In her portraits of a number of the luminaries of her age, the British photographer Julia Margaret Cameron used the technical variables of the medium to express, as she put it, "the greatness of the inner as well as the features of the outer man." In her portrait of Alfred Lord Tennyson, one of several intimate studies included in a Cameron album owned by the Library, the photographer exploits the optical peculiarities of her camera lens and the physical properties of the albumen printing process to convey the brooding genius of the Victorian poet.

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Timothy O'Sullivan's "Ancient Ruins in the Cañon de Chelle, New Mexico"Timothy O'Sullivan. Ancient Ruins in the Cañon de Chelle, New Mexico. Albumen silver print, 1873.
Reproduction #: LC-USZC4-3874 (color transparency); LC-USZ62-50848 (b&w film copy neg.)

It was photography's literal rather than evocative qualities that have endeared the medium to scientists, explorers, historians, and others with a vested interest in fidelity to observed detail. In the decades following the American Civil War photographers were employed to accompany a succession of congressionally funded exploring expeditions and geological surveys of the American West and Southwest. Expedition commanders often published reports of their surveys illustrated with large albumen print photographs of peculiar and magnificent features of the wilderness terrain. Photographs like Timothy O'Sullivan's view of New Mexico's Cañon de Chelle, produced on the George M. Wheeler Expedition, were intended both to inform and dazzle the public--as well as the expedition's federal sponsors--back East.

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Frances Benjamin Johnston's "West Martingham Outbuildings, St. Michael's, Talbot

County, Maryland" Frances Benjamin Johnston. West Martingham Outbuildings, St. Michael's, Talbot County, Maryland. Gelatin silver print, 1936.
Reproduction #: LC-USZC4-3875 (color transparency)

Photography has also been used extensively to record architecture and the built environment. One of architectural photography's acknowledged masters was Frances Benjamin Johnston. Possessed of a prescient interest in the humbler structures of American vernacular architecture, Johnston spent the latter part of her career documenting the vanishing buildings of the Old South. In her photograph of the whitewashed outbuildings of West Martingham in rural Talbot County, Maryland, Johnston has preserved some of the more rudimentary products of American architectural creativity. (Carnegie Survey of the Architecture of the South)


image of Joseph Pennell's "Building Miraflores Lock"Joseph Pennell. Building Miraflores Lock. Lithograph, 1912.
Reproduction #: LC-USZC4-3876 (color transparency); LC-USZ62-3523 (b&w film copy neg.)

In architecture as in portraiture the best records are not always the most literal ones. Drawing can often surpass photography in capturing the essence of architectural and engineering accomplishments, and in conveying a sense of the human experience of these works. By far the most ambitious engineering venture of its era, the construction of the Panama Canal surmounted enormous obstacles--environmental, political, and technical--before its completion in 1914. In his series of drawings and lithographs of the construction the influential American printmaker, illustrator, and critic Joseph Pennell captured the superhuman scale of this achievement.

Pennell's Panama Canal series, moreover, exudes an unabashed national pride in the American accomplishment of carving a waterway to link two great oceans. The canal was not only a marvel of American ingenuity but a symbol of the emergence of the United States as the major power in the Western Hemisphere. As an expression of that moment, Pennell's work is, more than a record, a commentary on the new international order of his day. (Gift of Joseph and Elizabeth Robins Pennell)

As Joseph Pennell recognized, images possess an innate advantage over text as vehicles of commentary and persuasion. Their immunity to the constraints of reasoned argument have made them valuable tools in politics and advertising. The Library's extensive collections of political prints and posters consist of works created to advance the goals of societies, governments, and movements and those which voiced the doubts of their critics.

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Francisco Goya y Lucientes' "Lealtad (A Man Mocked)"Francisco Goya y Lucientes. Lealtad (A M an Mocked). Etching and burnished aquatint on laid paper, 1816 or later.
Reproduction #: LC-USZC4-3877 (color transparency)

Among the most penetrating social commentaries ever created are the etchings of the Spanish artist Francisco Goya. Employed at the court of Charles IV, Goya witnessed from a privileged vantage point the corruption of a decadent regime, the foibles and superstitions of his own society, and the atrocities committed by Napoleon's occupying troops upon his countrymen. His prints present a deeply cynical picture of his times, as a dark age pervaded by human evil. (Caroline and Erwin Swann Memorial Fund Purchase)

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"The Tory Mill"Artist unknown. The Tory Mill. Woodcut and letterpress on green wove paper, circa 1834.
Reproduction #: LC-USZC4-3878 (color transparency); LC-USZ62-91391 (b&w film copy neg.)

The darkest days of American president Andrew Jackson's administration were a golden era for political cartoons in the United States. During Jackson's second term, thousands of caricatures were issued by opponents of his fiscal program and the corrupt spoils system of government patronage. Cartoons from the period, most of them issued anonymously, reflect the high pitch of public feeling on these issues. (Caroline and Erwin Swann Memorial Fund purchase)

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Joseph Morse's "Five Celebrated Clowns Attached to Sands, Nathan Company's

Circus"Joseph Morse. Five Celebrated Clowns Attached to Sands, Nathan Company's Circus. Woodcut printed in colors by Morse, M'Kenney & Company, 1856.
Reproduction #: LC-USZC4-922 (color transparency); LC-USZ62-14199 (b&w film copy neg.)

Optimism, not doubt, is the pervasive tone in the Library's holdings of advertising posters and prints. Since the early nineteenth century, commerce has used printmaking to present its objects of desire--be they soap, entertainment, or political candidates--in a favorable light. Posters (printed images executed on a bold, attention-grabbing scale) were pioneered by American circuses and political campaigns. Joseph Morse's tour de force of the genre, from the Library's rich collection of early American circus posters, is over eleven feet long. It was probably meant to be posted on the side of a building, to herald the arrival of a troupe of traveling circus performers. (Transfer, U.S. Copyright Office)

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Otis Shepard's "Wrigley's Double Mint Chewing Gum"Otis Shepard. Wrigley's Double Mint Chewing Gum. Color offset poster, 1938.
Reproduction #: LC-USZC4-1371 (color transparency); LC-USZC2-1792 (color slide); LC-USZ62-94260 (b&w film copy neg.)

In the twentieth century, with large-scale industrial development and the advent of an international consumer economy, advertising has become a virtual weapon of intense competition. The heat of this competition and a revolution in printing technology transformed graphic design from a craft into a highly sophisticated profession. Posters and other print advertising by modern manufacturing giants are often the products of corporate identity programs, demographically based marketing strategies, and motivational research. Chicago artist and art director Otis Shepard developed an advertising campaign for the Wrigley Corporation in the 1930s that continues to influence the look of the company's corporate advertising today.

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Jan Tschichold's "Der Berufsphotograph" Jan Tschichold. Der Berufsphotograph. Color offset poster, 1938.
Reproduction #: LC-USZC4-3880 (color transparency)

In their work, twentieth-century graphic designers wield a vastly expanded vocabulary of typography, photography, and printing techniques. In his 1938 poster for an exhibition of commercial photography, Czech designer Jan Tschichold applied this vocabulary in the disciplined terms of Bauhaus design, where the forms themselves and the interrelationship of text and image become the subject of the work.


image of Benjamin Henry Latrobe's States Capitol.  Rendered Elevation for West

Front with Propylaeum"Benjamin Henry Latrobe. United States Capitol. Rendered Elevation for West Front with Propylaeum. Graphite, ink, and watercolor on laid paper, 1811.
Reproduction #: LC-USZC4-276 (color transparency); LC-USZC2-1254 (color slide) ; LC-USZ62-13241 (b&w film copy neg.)

Far from the political fray or the engines of commerce, the graphic arts have also played a role in the creative process, as tools in the shaping of the man-made world. Drawing in particular has been instrumental in the making of buildings, bridges, monuments, and other elements of the built environment. For architects and patrons, drawings have provided a means to conceptualize and develop schemes for architectural projects and to impart their schemes to those who constructed them. The U.S. Capitol in Washington evolved through a succession of design competitions and building campaigns, which can be traced in part through architects' drawings which survive in the Library's collections. In his 1811 elevation rendering, Benjamin Henry Latrobe presented a majestic scheme, though one ultimately discarded, for the West Front of the Capitol.

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Robert Fulton's "Section Rendering of Submarine or Plunging Boat"Robert Fulton. Section Rendering of Submarine or "Plunging Boat." Graphite, ink, and watercolor on paper, 1806.
Reproduction #: LC-USZC4-1104 (color transparency); LC-USZ62-110383 (b&w film copy neg.)

Robert Fulton, best known for his invention of the steamboat, elaborated in a series of drawings a number of schemes for submarines, torpedoes, and other underwater devices, anticipating by over a century the actual introduction of undersea navigation. Fulton actually built and tested his submarine, or "plunging boat," the Nautilus, for Napoleon in France in 1800.

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of John T. Daniels's "First flight, December 17, 1903. Distance, 120 feet. Time 12

seconds"John T. Daniels. First flight, December 17, 1903. Distance, 120 feet. Time 12 seconds. Orville Wright at controls. Modern gelatin silver print from glass negative.
Reproduction #: LC-W861-35 (b&w film neg.); LC-USZ62-6166A (b&w film copy neg.)

Other inventors have used photography to record works in progress, documenting the arduous, often lurching, progress of experimentation and discovery. Photographic "note-taking" by the Wright brothers, Alexander Graham Bell, and others has yielded today's researchers a detailed record of the triumphs and failures of these pioneers. The Wright brothers systematically photographed the prototypes and tests of their various flying machines. Their historic first powered flight at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, in December 1903 was one of a number of scenes documented in a collection of about 300 negatives acquired by the Library from the estate of Orville Wright. The camera, operated by an attendant from a nearby lifesaving station, captured their plane on the instant of takeoff. The craft soared to an altitude of 2 feet.

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Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn's "The Three Trees"Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn. The Three Trees. Etching, drypoint, and engraving on laid paper, 1643. (Gardiner Green Hubbard Collection)
Reproduction #: LC-USZC4-3883 (color transparency)

The less practical uses of the graphic arts prevail in the Library's holdings of fine prints and master photographs. For almost six centuries artists have found in printmaking a realm where technical process uniquely informs creativity, and have explored the expressive possibilities of the medium as a way of communicating deeper human matters of perception and meaning. Master painters like Rembrandt, Whistler, and more recently Susan Rothenberg have created substantial bodies of work in printmaking. Among the most masterful and enduring accomplishments in the art is Rembrandt's etching The Three Trees, an outstanding impression of which is owned by the Library. In this work Rembrandt uses line, thick and thin, richly overlayed and isolated, to both describe the forms in a landscape and suggest the surrounding space, light, and atmosphere.

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James McNeill Whistler's "Nocturne"James McNeill Whistler. Nocturne. Etching an d drypoint, printed in brown ink on laid paper. First state of five, circa 1879. (Joseph and Elizabeth Robins Pennell Collection)
Reproduction #: LC-USZC4-3884 (color transparency)

In a series of Venetian studies made in 1879 or 1880, Whistler used the same medium in a much different but equally remarkable manner. In Nocturne, the artist reserves his line to provide a shorthand description of a few recognizable objects, such as a ship, the church of Santa Maria della Salute, and the island of San Giorgio, allowing the manipulated inking on the surface of the plate to dominate the sheet and provide an

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