The Abbey Newsletter

Volume 21, Number 8


Making Albums for Photos and Paper Collectibles, by Richard W. Horton. Illustrated by Gary Frost. Westfield, MA: Richard W. Horton, 1997. $18 from Richard W. Horton, 46 Holland Avenue, Westfield, MA 01085-3733. Tel. 413/789-1981, e-mail <>.

Reviewed by Gary Saretzky

In 1985, Richard W. Horton surveyed 394 photo albums at the Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center at the University of Texas at Austin and found six different photo album structures, which he described in an informative journal article. ("Photo Album Structures, 1850-1960," Guild of Book Workers Journal, 32:1 [Spring 1994], 32-43.)

One of these album types, the carte-de-visite or cabinet card album, offered the most physical protection for photographs. In this typical nineteenth century family photo album, the photographs were inserted through a slit at the bottom of each thick stiff page into a mat. If the surface of the photographic artifact was flat, as was usually the case, it didn't touch the facing page of the album, protecting it from abrasion. (Exceptions include ferrotype cards with embossed or brass mats and cameo cards, in which the photograph protrudes out from the card, usually in an oval shape.) Since no adhesives were used to hold the photo in place in these albums, a common cause of contamination was avoided.

Unfortunately, there were several problems with most of these albums. The foremost was that the photographs were not protected from the fingers of viewers. In addition, the paper and board used to make the album pages usually was made from wood pulp; fading has been found where photographs have been in contact with these papers.

In Making Albums for Photos and Paper Collectibles, Richard W. Horton has taken the best features of the carte-de-visite album design and offers detailed instructions (with helpful diagrams) to create attractive, long lasting, archival quality photo albums, using paper, board, cloth, polyester, and PVA. The basic original idea of holding the photo inside a stiff leaf remains; each page in the album is a window mat. What is different is mainly the quality of the materials used and the way the photograph is held in the page.

To avoid the problem of fingers, Horton recommends that the photographs be inserted into the album page in a transparent polyester sleeve. The sleeve allows for the option of making the opening big enough for the item to float in the window (revealing the edges) or overlapping the edges as was done traditionally. Horton offers more than a half dozen variants for page structures, for example, inserting from the side or from the back, and different ways to hold the photo in place inside the mat.

Although the book will be of interest to anyone interested in photographic albums, it is written with the assumption that the reader is familiar with bookbinding terminology. In addition, following the directions closely will require access to bookbinding equipment. Creating a hand-crafted album of this kind clearly requires dedication, skill, and time.

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