LINCOLN, Edwin Hale (1848-1938)
The Orchids of New England and New York. Photographed from Life and Published by Edwin Hale Lincoln [manuscript title]
Pittsfield, Massachusetts: 1930. 3 volumes, folio. (14 x 11 inches). Manuscript title in each vol., manuscript preface in vol. 1), and manuscript lists of plates in each vol. with both Latin nomenclature and common names. 81 platinum photographs, each tipped to cream Japanese vellum and mounted to larger gray sheets, each image captioned in manuscript.
Contemporary red half morocco and red cloth covered boards, spines with raised bands in six compartment, lettered in the second and fourth, the others panelled in gilt
A unique photographically-illustrated work on the orchids of the eastern United States.
This remarkable collection of photographs reveals Lincoln's vision, his skill as a photographer using a large camera and his superb craftsmanship producing difficult and time-consuming platinum prints. Unsurprisingly, Lincoln developed strong connections with the American Arts & Crafts movement, and his work appeared in several issues of Gustave Stickley's The Craftsman. Lincoln was a pioneer and his photographs can be viewed as elegant examples of the modernist photographs produced in the 1920s and 1930s by Imogen Cunningham, Edward Weston, Ansel Adams, and other members of the loosely associated Group f/64.
A proto-conservationist, Lincoln was pains-taking in his attempts to photograph each specimen without further endangering the species: with this in mind he would carefully dig up the selected plant, wrap the roots in moss, and return to his studio. Here he replanted his finds, allowing them to continue to grow until they reached their peak. He then took the required photograph using only the natural light from a window in his studio, taking only a single exposure of each plant which was quickly developed and printed by hand on platinum paper. After the exposure was made, the plant was returned unharmed to the spot in the woods where he had found it. This care and attention to the individual plants well-being seems to have suffused the resulting images, which are true "portraits" of individual flowers and plants. The large negatives obviated the need for enlargements. Lincoln insisted upon platinum paper as the best medium to convey the subtleties of his delicate subjects.
"This series of plates includes, with one exception, a life-size print on platinum of every orchid known to grow in the United States east of the Mississippi and north of the parallel of Washington. The scientific nomenclature is that of Professor Oakes Ames, prepared in 1924 for the American Orchid Society. All plates are made to scale and each print is mounted on hand made cream Japanese vellum which in turn is mounted on a gray Japanese vellum of the same quality. This is the first publication comprising the full series" (Preface).
Edwin Hale Lincoln (1848-1938) was born in Westminster, Massachusetts. Following service in the Civil War as a drummer boy and work as a page in the Massachusetts House of Representatives, he entered the photographic profession in Brockton in 1876. His early work included photographing yachts under full sail and documenting large estates. He visited Lenox initially in 1883 and moved permanently to the Berkshire area ten years later. His move coincided with the height of the development of Berkshire's "Summer Cottages," and Lincoln photographed many of these grand structures in the following years. Also at the end of the 19th-century, Lincoln began what was to become his best known work: an extensive study of New England wild flowers, all photographed with a large-format view camera. Self-published between 1910 and 1914 in sixteen parts, the eight volumes of this magnificent work consisted of 400 platinum prints on individual mounts with printed captions, and titled Wild Flowers of New England Photographed from Nature.
The present 3-volume work, with manuscript titles dated 1930 and complete with 81 plates, would appear unique. In 1931, Hale would publish a similar 2-volume work containing 84 images and with printed lists of plates and titles, Orchids of the North Eastern United States . Only three examples of that work are known (Yale [formerly the Massachusetts Horticultural Society copy], University of Chicago, and the State Library of Massachusetts).
Cf. William B. Becker "Permanent Authentic Records: The Arts & Crafts Photographs of Edwin Hale Lincoln," in History of Photography: an International Quarterly, vol. 13, no. 1, January 1989; cf. Keith Davis An American Century of Photography: From Dry-Plate to Digital , second edition, (Kansas City, 1999), pp. 57-58; cf. Lisa Bush Hankin'No Record So True': The Wildflower Photographs of Edwin Hale Lincoln, 1848-1938, September 19-October 26, 20O2.(Richard York Gallery Exhibition Catalogue); cf. A Persistence of Vision: photographs by Edwin Hale Lincoln . (Lenox, Ma., 1981). (Lenox Library Association / Berkshire Museum Exhibition Catalogue).