Once again, I’m preoccupied with Mequon history—thinking, writing, and editing—but nothing’s quite ready for publication.
[Editor], daguerreotype with added color highlights c.1855 (slightly cropped, and color adjusted), Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of Charles Isaacs, (link), Creative Commons CC0 license. Click to open larger image in new window.
The archivist’s title for this photograph, “Editor,” is based on several characteristic editor’s tools present in the image. Along with the expected quill pen, pen rest, and ink pot, our editor is equipped with reference books, long sheets of manuscript text or printer’s proofs, scissors to his left and, on his right, what looks like a glue pot and brush. (After all, in this pre-digital era, when an author or editor needed to “cut and paste” the draft, he would actually cut the paper text and glue it back together as desired.)
On a technical note, today’s photo is an accurate copy of how the original daguerreotype looks to the viewer. But this image, like all daguerreotypes, has two curious features, both deriving from the way the photograph is made, namely:
• The image is on a mirror-like silver surface, normally kept under glass, and will appear either positive or negative, depending on the angle at which it is viewed, how it is lit and whether a light or dark background is being reflected in the metal, and
• Daguerreotypes are normally laterally reversed—mirror images—because they are necessarily viewed from the side that originally faced the camera lens. Although a daguerreotypist could attach a mirror or reflective prism in front of the lens to obtain a right-reading result, in practice this was rarely done
This is why the titles on the two books appear mirror-image. I was wondering what our 1850s editor was reading, so I clipped the portion of the image, flipped it horizontally, and:
[Editor], daguerreotype with added color highlights c.1855 (detail, slightly cropped, and color adjusted, image flipped horizontally), Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of Charles Isaacs, (link), Creative Commons CC0 license. Click to open larger image in new window.
The book titles are a bit blurry, and not all parts of all the words show up in the image, but the bottom book looks like Webster’s Dictionary. The title on the spine of the book on top of Webster’s appears to read: Thirty Years / in the / U. S. Senate / By / Thomas H. Benton / Vol. 1.
I could not find this exact title at WorldCat.org, but it may be a working title—or a shorter, paraphrased title invented by the bookbinder—for Benton’s memoirs, published in 1854 as Thirty years’ view : or a history of the working of the American government for thirty years, from 1820 to 1850, Chiefly Taken From the Congress Debates, The Private Papers of General Jackson.[etc] With Historical Notes. [etc] By a Senator of thirty years [Thomas H. Benton], in two volumes, New York, 1854. If you’re interested, you can read or download a pdf of volume 1 for free, via GoogleBooks.
Time for me to get back to my scissors and glue pot.
More Clark House—and Alfred Bonniwell—history coming soon. Be well.