February 28, 2008

New Orleans 1867

A bit off-topic but I felt it worthy of mention because it appears to be such a beautiful book of important old photos taken of a key Confederate city. According to the publisher, This book brings together all the surviving photographs – 126 of the original 150 – from the remarkable series La Nouvelle Orléans et ses environs, taken in 1867 by the New Orleans photographer Theodore Lilienthal (1829–1894). Comprising the first official photographic survey of any American city, the images – featuring every aspect of the city, from mansions and churches to factories and asylums – were exhibited at the Paris World Exposition of 1867 before being presented to Napoléon III, emperor of France (reigned 1852–70). Gary A. Van Zante discusses Lilienthal’s techniques and places each work in the context of a city embarking on reconstruction. Extensive biographical and bibliographical information is also provided. This detailed and evocative pictorial and historical survey of Civil War-era New Orleans will appeal to anyone interested in American history, the history of photography or the development of the modern city.

This article gives in an depth perspective of the book and the images' history. According to Gary Van Zante, the book's editior,"I quickly saw that there were many stories to tell about the Lilienthal photographs, many stories about the Civil War and Reconstruction era, and about city building before the war," he said, speaking from his office in Cambridge. "There were clearly also important stories about the failures of Reconstruction and the war's legacy.

For those interested, Gary Van Zante will discuss and sign New Orleans 1867: Photographs by Theodore Lilienthal on Wednesday, March 5, at 6:30 p.m. at Octavia Books and again Thursday, March 6, 5 to 7 p.m., at Garden District Book Shop.

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