Journey to Niagara of Old

Niagra Falls Tour Book, 1893Books are beautiful! So often we think of them as perfect objects with spectacular “concept” covers (à la Chip Kidd!) on the shelves of Barnes & Noble, but the old and imperfect have their charm. Recently I came across a small travel guide to Niagara Falls I purchased a few years back. Published in 1893 by the printing concern Knight, Leonard & Co. of Chicago, it has a lot of travel advertising, scenic views, and info on possible vacation spots, but doesn’t give us information about things as they are today.

But to leaf through its pages is to travel back to another time. The ornate typography of the cover with its generous swirling curves and strong knife-like verticals is not something you’ll find in a WordPress theme (no offense–I love WordPress!).

The printing isn’t great, and even the most basic self-published book today is technically superior. But it adds to these images, which seem rendered in a painterly, almost pointillist style.

Niagra_Book_Falls_Moonlight_2595The color isn’t full-scale, but it’s so pretty! So very green! Even the crumbling binding adds a layer of texture. I wonder if a company like Blurb or My Publisher should offer an “antiquing” option. There might be demand.

Niagra_Book_Rushing_Falls_2594Have you ever seen such a classy ad for toilet paper?! A dollar for a 5-pack? Sounds pretty good, even by modern Costco standards.

Niagra Falls Tour Book, 1893 Talk about not knowing the future… Krupp was the major armaments supplier for Nazi Germany. But in 1893, that dark chapter of history lay ahead.

Niagra Falls Tour Book, 1893So this tiny book that doesn’t have informational value today was able, through typography, images, and ads, to take us back to an earlier time. Would we have gotten the same from an e-reader? Probably not. The message is also in the medium, and the medium here is physical print, paper and cloth, which continue to enlighten and endure.

– Catherine Kirkpatrick