First American Novel Illustrated with Photographs

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Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882),
Hyperion: a Romance; Illustrated with Twenty-Four Photographs of the Rhine,
Switzerland, and the Tyrol by Francis Frith (London: A. W. Bennett, 1865).
Graphic Arts Collection GAX NE910. G7 F91 1865 c.1, c.2. Gifts of Frank Jewett Mather, Jr.

The first American novel illustrated with photographs was Longfellow’s Hyperion. Originally published in 1839, the narrative follows Paul Flemming as he travels through Germany and Switzerland, just as Longfellow had also done.

It’s hard to know if Frith was following Longfellow or Flemming when he made his own trip along the Rhine River over twenty years later. His photographs were first published in a travelogue called The Gossiping Photographer on the Rhine (ca.1864). Graphic Arts Collection (GAX) Oversize 2005-0604Q.

With the negatives left over, Frith matched cityscapes and landscapes with particular moments in Longfellow’s narrative, illustrating what Flemming might have seen at various tourist sites along the way. Frith and his staff were casual about the negatives they printed. Slightly different views of the same scene appear in various books. It is possible the photographs were initially shot to form stereo views but were instead needed to fill-up the Hyperion volumes.

Princeton is fortunate is have several copies of the novel, allowing us to compare Frith’s prints. Look in particular at the far sides to see the changes from one copy to the other.

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