The Bread Book
Out of the 20,000 books held in the Dubois Library, there are more than a few treasures; books that illustrate and document early photographic processes and subjects, or were created by seminal photographers who have left their indelible mark on our visual history. These books are incredible to see and touch and hold. They provide true connection to a medium and a past that is quickly changing and evolving.
And then, there are other books that surprise and inspire, not because of the historical context they provide or their technological significance, but because of their oddball uniqueness.
The Bread Book, by Owen Simmons, is just one of these items. Published in 1903, The Bread Book contains 12 color photographs, 27 black and white photographs, and 2 silver gelatin prints, all documenting the manufacture of bread. Yes, bread. Slices and slices of bread. The images are all full size, and as the author notes, “However critical readers may be, they will be forced to admit that never before have they seen such a complete collection of prize loaves illustrated in such an excellent manner.”
After spending time with this immense catalog of baking terms, experiments, and chemistry, it becomes clear just how passionate Simmons was for the subject matter, and how compelled he was to represent each crumb to perfection. The desire to document and catalog was the impetus for many 19th century photographic books, however this unique and unusual use of the medium to illustrate a subject matter so intensely and beautifully is quite a treasure to see.