Among my tiny books is this little album from the nineteenth century. It’s filled with over twenty portraits of the members of a very large family. Among collectors, these are called “Gem Albums” or “Fairy Gems.”
I enjoy owning things that other people have used and loved, but something as intimate as a photo album is different. One almost feels an intruder. And yet, if I had been the owner of this little volume, I would have liked the idea of some person in the distant future keeping it safe and pondering the faces within from time to time. Every single person in the album is long dead, and yet their images remain.
Whoever owned this album filled every single page. Each image is less than one inch high, and they are very difficult to photograph with an iPhone!
There is something ghostly about many of the images. I think they are tintypes, made on thin sheets of metal. Tintypes were most popular in the 1860s and 70s, which fits the costumes and hairstyles in these photos.
Back then people did not smile when having their portrait taken. I read that this was because in the early days of photography, one had to sit still for several minutes, and it was difficult to hold a smile. Furthermore, many people had bad teeth. And finally, having a photograph taken was a formal occasion that called for a serious expression. Smiling did not become common until the twentieth century.
The girls wear dresses in plaid fabrics with the high necklines of the period. The oldest woman wears what looks like a mourning dress with matching headgear. Perhaps this was her album.
The collection includes two relatively youthful but full-grown men, including this fellow with beard but no mustache–an unattractive but popular style.
Two more boys, both handsome fellows who look like brothers, yet brothers with very different personalities.
Another favorite is this young girl with a Mona Lisa smile. I hope she had a happy life. And I’m glad I was not born in the nineteenth century.
Looking up the publisher of these albums, I discovered a similar example for sale online at $479. No, I didn’t pay that much!!
Oh my, what a beautiful treasure. Thank you for sharing.
Many thanks for visiting!
Oh my goodness, what a treasure to have! How did you come by it? The seller had no more information to give on the origin of this little gem? It is absolutely beautiful!
Thank you! No, I received no information about the source, and sadly there are no names inscribed in the album. I would have enjoyed researching them to try to find out more about the family.
Yes, I would want to know that as well. I always wonder when I see old photographs like that at what kind of life those people led…
According to my records, I bought it in an antiquarian bookstore in Phoenix in 2009.
Sylvie G said:
It is so unfortunate that nothing is known about the photos but they could not end in better hands than yours. Thank you Linnet 🙂
Thank you, Sylvie.
What an amazing little photo album. I have never seen such a small one – what a fabulous find! And yes, it definitely evokes curiosity. What became of these people? Who were they? Why and how was the little album ever sold? No answers to those questions – but it would provide great inspiration for a story…
Yes it would!
I’d also like to find a blank one, and put in tiny pictures of my favorite actor 🙂
That is simply fantastic! (Although, I’ll confess I’d be terrified the thing was haunted and that I’d unleash ghosts every time I opened it.)
Another great story idea, “The Haunted Photo Album”! I suppose every old photo album has its ghosts.
It’s fabulous! I love the patriarch and that first little girl, too.
Yes, the patriarch and the youngest girls are my favorites.
What a beautiful little album! I would truly treasure that – those little girls are so pretty.
Thank you! I think it is a treasure too.
So, how many Mb storage space does it have…?
What a precious little thing 🙂
Yes, all my photos now are digital, but I’m not sure they will last any longer than this book has.
Lisa @ cheergerm said:
Thanks Lisa 🙂
I just inherited the discards of my family’s photo’s. My aunts and mother didn’t want them all, and they went back to the 1800’s. Some, they’d say, they didn’t want because they “didn’t know who they were”…which i found not a good reason, and kept a bunch. They are indeed SO SO SO ghostly. I don’t think we will make such ghostly postmarks.
I agree, but what will we look like to people 200 years from now?
What’s so different now is the quantity of images we will leave behind. Do you think we will be less interesting” post-mortem because of the plethora?
Yes, I am sure the eyes of our descendants will glaze over when they see the endless snaps we take! Though maybe they will enjoy the cat pictures 🙂
it puts new meaning to the phrase “Insta-Gram”…”Insta-Grandmother” 🙂
What an amazing treasure… and so small and crafty.. Makes you want to go on a ‘who do you think you are?’ journey. You cant help but wonder who there people were, what they did in their lived and so on…
(nothing wrong with unruly curly hair 😉 they should just not have tried to tame it 😉 )
Laughing about the hair 🙂 I always wanted luxurious curly hair, but those who actually have it told me to be grateful I didn’t!
I’ve not seen the “Who do you think you are?” show but would like to. Isn’t there an episode with Stephen Fry?
yes, here it is and also most others there are loads 🙂 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_Qh_gzXPleI
Ah, thank you! I am going to enjoy this 🙂
jk Rowling https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4iy_-6o7cRc
SJ Parker https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SNUOSuVae-k
some interesting ones but there are loads 🙂
Lovely! I just watched the D. Tennant “Hamlet” and was very impressed. He seemed more of a “mad” Hamlet than Cumberbatch.
yup 😉 i felt him a bit more as Hamlet, have to admit it 🙂
ah and curly hair is only luxurious if by that you mean high maintenance and excessive product use :-p LOL
Haha! I meant that there is plenty of hair. Probably “luxuriant” is the better word!
I think it would be neat to make a teeny tiny photo album of friends and family, or really whatever, and make it look like it came from the past. It could be a big goof with lots of unsmiling faces.
That would be interesting, a modern version with the conventions of the nineteenth century! It is interesting to me that the photo makers produced such tiny pictures. I guess they are like the tiny photo icons we use on blogs and twitter.
Maybe it was like the little photo inserts in our wallets…something you can carry around with you?
Thank you! One of my favorite tiny books.