Title: Two Victorian-Era Photocollage Books ...
Publisher: 1870s and 1898, England
Publication Date: 1870
Book Condition: Very Good+
Two volumes. (1) Ornately gilt-stamped vellum over boards, gold-tone metal initials "S. M." and corner covers affixed to front board; 4to; approx. pp. , illustrated throughout with collages of original b/w photographs and full-color artwork and calligraphy, on heavy stock. (2) Brown leather boards, metal clasp at fore-edge, a. e. g.; 4to; approx. pp. , illustrated throughout with collages of original b/w photographs and full-color artwork and calligraphy, on heavy stock. Inscribed on the verso of the FFEP, "Mary Sophia Hood / from her Grandmother / Miss Michell / Byrn Siriol / Nov 26, 1898. It also features what appears to be "SM 1898" and the signature of Archibald Robert Michell. During the Victorian era, aristocratic women engaged in a hobby that is generally attributed to the avant-garde artists of the 20th century: mixed media collage. Within expensive leather-bound scrapbooks -- often with locks -- these women combined colorful painted inventions with photographs of family, friends, and locations to create entirely unique and often quite elaborate compositions. These two wonderful scrapbooks are both connected to the wealthy and connected Michell family of Yorkshire, England, and in many ways act as a genealogical history of the clan from the middle to the late 1890s. The first (in white leather) appears to have been created and owned by Sophia Michell, the only daughter of John and Sophia Michell. Within the pages of her album are cut-out photos of her parents and her six brothers, as well as her grandparents (the Farquahrsons), in-laws (the Garretts), lesser royals, and assorted cousins and acquaintances, with most of the images enclosed within elaborately painted framing devices. These imaginative lay-outs are augmented by beautifully hand-painted varieties of flora and fauna (as well as the family crest and motto). A possible clue to Sophia's interest (and obvious talent) in painting is the inclusion of two images of the notable Swiss painter Angelica Kauffman, who resided in England for many years and was one of the founding members of the Royal Academy. The second album appears to be a gift from Sophia to her goddaughter, Mary Sophia Hope, sent from the town of Bryn Siriol, Wales, in late 1898 (Sophia remained unmarried). Many of the photos seen in her own album have been included here, such as the elder Mr. and Mrs. Michell (Sophia's parents), but she has updated others, such as those of her brothers. John Michell, who died in 1878, is placed on an intricately framed page of his own, while on the following page, Sophia has included new photos of her remaining brothers, with the exception of Lancelot (who died in 1890) and Algernon Percy (the owner of Forcett Hall, whose absence is unexplained); Sophia herself appears on the next page, her large photo surrounded by colorfully painted gingko leaves. Mary Garrett Michell, the widow of John, is lovingly presented on her own decorated page, and two photos of Crakehall, which was the home of Mary Garrett Michell and her father following the death of her husband, are also included, indicating perhaps a special link to this side of the family. Images from Torquay, in the southeastern county of Devon, cathedrals, celebrity performers, and foreign countries also appear. In both albums, there are several unfinished illustrations and open spaces for photos that have been unfilled. The artist's hand appears to be the same in both albums -- outside of the telltale technical signifiers, there are repeated motifs and compositions -- but it is unclear as to why Sophia left the painted images incomplete, especially in the later album. Perhaps her intention with the latter was to have her goddaughter complete them, in order to continue a family tradition, but as these albums were usually a continuous work-in-progress, she may have simply become involved in other pursuits and interests. Truly unique, highly personal, and beautiful pieces of both family and Victorian history. Bookseller Inventory # D4258
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