Gardner's Photographic Sketch Book of the War


Gardnerís Photographic Sketch Book of the War is a compilation of 100 photographs of the American Civil War (1861-1865), made by Alexander Gardner and other photographers in his employ.

The photographs depict the sites and aftermath of important battles, such as Bull Run, Antietam, and Gettysburg, as well as the forts, military structures, and scenes associated with the war. While some of the Sketch Bookís photographs of battle dead have been widely reproduced, such pictures account for only a small number of the photographs in Gardnerís publication.

Nearly half of the photographs in the Sketch Book (45) are credited to Timothy OíSullivan, with 16 credited to Alexander Gardner, and 10 to his brother James. Barnard & Gibson are credited with 8 photographs, 7 to John Reekie, 5 to Wood & Gibson, 4 to David Knox, 3 to William Pywell, (who in 1873 became OíSullivanís brother in law) and one each credited to D.B. Woodbury and Morris W. Smith.

The photographically illustrated Sketch Book was published in two editions, in 1865 and 1866. Both editions were published in two volumes, each containing 50 albumen photographs. It is estimated that no more than 200 copies of the Sketch Book were produced.

Photographic book illustration in the 1860s was a cumbersome undertaking. Lacking the ability to photomechanically reproduce photographs as ink on paper, photographic illustration required that original photographs be pasted onto boards that were then bound together with the text. These limitations help to account for the rather small number of copies of the Sketch Book that were produced and the high price of $150.

Each photograph in the publication is accompanied with a text, presumably written by Alexander Gardner. The Museumís copy is unbound, with the plates stored separately from the text. Study of these photographs is greatly enhanced by reading the text that accompanies each photograph. While this text is not part of the museumís catalog records, it is available in the Dover reprint, Gardnerís Photographic Sketch Book of the Civil War.

D. Wooters 11/2000