Brentano’s Paris


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Company profile

The American Brentano’s bookstore chain opened its first foreign branch in Paris in 1887. Brentano’s Paris was located on the Avenue de l’Opéra and sold stereoviews with war scenes after the war. The views were packed in labeled cardboard boxes and these boxes were also marketed in the United States by Over There Review and STERECO. The same images appeared with different numbers, descriptions and styles. Bob Boyd concluded that Brentano’s Paris might have been a publisher and wholesaler for other sellers[1].

New research yielded no new evidence that support this role of Brentano’s Paris. It seems more likely that the bookstore sold the images, but also distributed them in the United States because of their American roots. There is more evidence that the images were supplied by another major publisher or wholesaler, maybe Stéréo-Éditions F. Meiller.

Although it’s unlikely that Brentano’s Paris was a publisher and wholesaler, the linked war stereoviews are still categorised as “Brentano’s”.

War stereoview portfolio

Paper card stereoviews and glass stereoviews in the 45x107mm and 6x13cm formats. It offered a large number of images of the American Expeditionary Forces in France.

Estimated amount of war stereoviews

Estimation of 10,000 titles

Stereoview characteristics

A Brentano’s categorised stereoview can appear with different numbers, descriptions and styles:

Type I

Stereoviews of this type have wide, clear centers that were typical of the small format camera. The distinctive rectangular cutouts were artifacts from the camera, although medium format views often showed similar cutouts. Most views of this type also have narrow black bars at top and/or bottom that probably reflect the part of the plate that was not exposed through the lens. The varied positions of the bars and sizes of cutouts indicate these features were due to plate placement within the camera, not reproduction equipment. All Type I views were 45×107. Sometimes views of this type were altered into other types. A range of examples is shown below.

Titles and numbers were written on bottom and top in different styles, reflecting individual writers. If no bars were present, the information was placed directly on the images. If bars were present, writers usually tried to fit the description into that space. At least three or four different writers appear to have been involved.

This type had characteristic 2-, 3-, 4-, and 5-digit numbers, but not all were numbered. Series names, e.g., Artois, Verdun, and Allemand, were often applied as well.

Type II

The second type has handwritten titles in the clear center. They may or may not have cutouts and often have traces of the black lines at top and/or bottom. Alterations to the image and handwritten descriptions made many Type I stereoviews into Type II. Minor differences in penmanship and wording evident in otherwise identical views show that each view was titled by hand.

Type IIIA

Handwritten title bar with or without a number. The variety of styles shows the bars were written by different people.

Several different 3-, 4-, and 5-digit number series were used, probably indicating different photographers. Some had letter prefixes.

The 8xxx series cannot be confused with LSU 8xxx series title bars, which consistently have a different appearance. The block printing in the examples below are typical.

Type IIIB

Neatly lettered with the number preceded by a “No.”

Type IIIC

Black-on-white machine font with an “A” or “S” prefix.

Known Stereographers

None identified

If you’re aware of any stereo photographers, please contact us.

Known artefacts

In the Great War in 3D archive:

  • Brentano’s cardboard box for 45x107mm glass stereoviews

References

  1. Boyd, Bob. Brentano’s/Over There Group, 2007