19 August 2020

Brentano's Great War

Category: Stereoviews   Tags: Brentano's / Louis Provot / WWI
Brentano's Great War - Black & White Photography and Stereoscopy Blog

The Brentano’s bookshop in Paris was a major producer of glass stereoviews with images of the war in 45 x 107mm and 6 x 13cm format. Most of what we know about their role as producer of stereoviews is through the research of the Boyd/Jordan collection.

Brentano’s was a chain of American bookstores. The first store opened in New York in 1853. In 1887 it opened its first foreign store on Avenue de l'Opéra in Paris. It was specialized in English-language publications.

During and after the war, Brentano’s in Paris was a wholesaler of stereoviews. The images they produced existed in different versions with different numbers and descriptions and different styles. They were sold by various retailers and presumably they also sold the stereoviews in their own bookshop. Together with La Stéréoscopie Universelle, they produced the majority of war stereoviews.

Brentano's cardboard box for 45x107mm glass stereoviews
Brentano's cardboard box for 45x107mm glass stereoviews

The link with the United States ensured that the stereoviews were also distributed there by the New York companies Over There Group and STERECO. The diversity of their images is great and it's the only producer that offerered a wide range of images of the American Expeditionary Forces in France.

The Paris store still exists today but they no longer have any records from the war, so the exact role they played will remain unknown.

I will illustrate Brentano's role as a wholesaler using an example. The following 45 x 107mm glass stereoview comes from a well known triptych that pops up frequently on online auction sites. The image in this post is the first of the triptych and shows soldiers taking cover with a tank visible in the background. I have four different versions of this image. They are all developed from the same glass plate negative but cropped and toned differently. From the extensive research of Boyd/Jordan we know that each producer had their own unique collection of negatives. If a stereoview can be linked to a producer, it applies to all versions of this stereoview.

Brentano's - Prise de Courcelles

The first (damaged) stereoview has a copper tone and a handwritten description “Prise de Courcelles 1918” (Capture of Courcelles). The handwritten descriptions are characteristic for Brentano's stereoviews.

Brentano's - Prise de Courcelles

The second image has a brown tone and is branded F. Meiller from Paris. This retailer sold Brentano's stereoviews under his own name, with a unique numbering scheme and descriptions.

Brentano's - Prise de Courcelles

The third image comes from a wooden box containing 100 stereoviews sold by Louis Provot from Paris. The name of this seller can be found on the box but not on the stereoviews. The slide has a different style of numbering and description.