Photography grows so rapidly, and so continuously widens its usefulness, that an occasional lesson-book must be issued in order that the working votaries of the art may keep at least alongside. During an intimate connection with it for over twenty years, nearly eighteen of which have been expended in the very whirl of its progress, - indeed, with an earnest shoulder at the wheel,- I have preferred to assist my colleagues to do the business of book- making, rather than attempt it myself, owing to the very profound sense I have always had of the responsibility and of the magnitude of the undertaking. The time, it seems to me, has come, however. when I must speak out, and no longer neglect to take my share in this matter. What follows, then, is the result of my efforts. It is for those who read such productions to decide how satisfactorily (or otherwise) I have executed the work.
I have planned it after a scheme "different" from the usual one. It would have been easier for me to have gone on in one continuous strain from beginning to end. But so full am I of the imbibings of these twenty years, that were I to attempt such a course, the good and generous words of my co-laborers would ooze and flow out to that extent that in a little time I would be branded as the most shamefaced and intensest plagiarist. Therefore I agreed with myself in the begin ning that I would tell what I knew from experience in simple language - this (ci the benefit and instruction of the beginner - at the heads of the pages, in bold and honest type, and then in the smaller and more dignified letter following, elaborate with the extended ideas of those who have accelerated the advancement of our art by their discoveries, their practice, and the publication of their experience. As many of these are given a fair chance to agree or disagree with me as I could well work in. I am sorry I had to leave anybody out. I first wrote my own st and then I set me to the weariness - which was the hardest task of all through volumes of books and magazines, my long-used helpers. And after all, how little I have been able to use of the good which has been so freely given! You would tremble if you only knew how much larger this volume might have been made. And it is due to these helpers that I should say more, besides appending list of their distinguished names. I have drawn from them without regard to their rank or riches, except as to the richness of what they tell.
And to these noble men and women who have assisted me in all these years to hold up the photographic colors, pure black and white, while the "fine arts" fired at and besieged us with their sarcastic shot and shell - while the world-tide was grinding and beating against us, I give all honor and praise. While I tried to infuse enthusiasm into others, they encouraged me to cheer and lead. I have in every possible instance added their names also to their helpful words.
In studying Photographies, I would advise the beginner to read the coarser type continuously first. It will give him about all that he needs to begin work. As he progresses, he may appeal to the wide experience of my worthy co-workers for more light.
I disclaim all originality in this work. I do not remember to have ever made an "original discovery" in photography in my life except one, and that you will find in proper place in these pages. I have prepared my work on this peculiar plan because it struck me as the best, though through my life I had intensely hated books with foot-notes, until I read the following lines from Butler:
"Then why should those who pick and choose The best of all the best compose, And join it by Mosaic art In graceful order, part to part, To make the whole in beauty suit, Not merit as complete repute As those who, with less art and pain, Can do it with their native brain?"
Since then I have come to appreciate the work of the author who consults wiser heads than his own, and I come into his plan with due humility.
I have yielded to the touching request to accompany my work with my own portrait. I do it, and in sitting for it tried to look cheerful about it. I did it because the picture does credit to one of our most able and patient veterans, Mr. F. Gutekunst, of Philadelphia, and because it serves as an example of angular composition in illustration of Lesson A. The prints are by the phototype process, fully given in Lesson X. A better and a beautiful example of this class of work is also given further on, in a plate showing eleven positions of the graceful elocutionist, Miss Adelaide Detchon, which must serve as useful studies in the line which I so earnestly desire to see more followed by the enterprising and cultured band of men and women in whose hands and power photography and my Photo-graphics now rest for their future welfare. Nearly every other illustration in Photographics was made by a photographic process of engraving, and therefore is entitled to be considered as a "sun-picture."
My excellent printer and tasteful binder have done their best to help make our work a good example of the art of book-making.
May it all do much towards the advancement of blessed photography.
Edward L. Wilson. Philadelphia, May 1st, 1881