Los Angeles: C.C. Parker, 1912. Coburn, Alvin Langdon. First edition. Quarto, 9 1/2 x 13 inches.  p. (on double leaves),  leaves of plates. Number 21 of a planned but never completed edition of 60 copies, signed by Coburn. The book contains six tipped-in original 7 x 5 inch platinum prints, printed by Coburn himself. With the prospectus (split on its fold) laid in. Text printed in brown ink on french-folded sheets of Strathmore Japan paper. Original canvas backed boards, paper label on front cover. Ends of spine worn, boards scuffed and soiled, the prints are in excellent condition. The only book of Coburn's illustrated with original prints. OCLC locates only five copies. Goldschmidt, The Truthful Lens, 148. Item #24065
Coburn arranged for publication of this book by the veteran Los Angeles bookseller, at the time of his exhibition of 50 California photographs at the adjacent Blanchard Gallery. Coburn was an acknowledged master of the gum-platinum print technique, of which he wrote "In the gum-platinum process the first step was to make a platinum print, which could be either in the normal silver grey colour, or toned to a rich brown by the addition of mercury to the developer. The finished print was then coated with a thin layer of gum-bichromate containing pigment of the desired colour. I found Vandyke brown especially suitable owing to its transparency, and by having the underlying platinum print in the grey, a very pleasant two-colour effect was produced. The bichromated print was replaced behind the original negative, great care being taken to get it accurately in register. It was then re-exposed and developed in the usual way. It was in the nature of platinum prints that the shadows were somewhat weak; by superimposing a gum image they were intensified. The whole process added a lustre to the platinum base comparable to the application of varnish, at the same time preserving the delicacy of the highlights in the platinum print.” Coburn, p. 18. Of this book Coburn wrote "The patterns of moving clouds and water are never the same from now to all eternity, and these patterns are ever moving to our continual delight. I have made hundreds of photographs of clouds and never tire of them. Once I made a little book illustrating Shelley's Ode 'The Cloud' with six original platinum prints. Only sixty copies were to be printed and even all these were not made. I only know of one surviving copy in addition to my own, so this is doubtless my rarest book!" Alvin Langdon Coburn Photographer. An Autobiography (Dover, 1978), p. 46. John Szarkowski wrote in "Looking at Photographs: 100 Pictures from the Collection of the Museum of Modern Art" (New York: Museum of Modern Art, 1973) "Clouds were a particularly good subject for an artist like Coburn who sought the broad poetic view of things. Granted that no two clouds are the same; nevertheless, their meanings (except to farmers and meteorologists) were sufficiently imprecise and generalized to allow Coburn to use them as abstract visual elements. Coburn used the skies as children and poets use them, and as Leonardo used stained old walls: as an analogue model of imaginary worlds"