Late Victorian Leporello View Albums

One of the many tourist souvenirs on sale on the Island were books of views - these generally consisted of a single long page, printed on a single side, folded zig-zag fashion (usually referred to as 'accordion pleat') and mounted within ornate gilded card covers - that shown below is typical of those of the 1890's.

The term Leporello was apparently first used in the German music publishing business for a folded single sheet - whether it was so called after Leporello in Mozart's Don Giovani who, it will be recalled, held an expanding note of his master's amatory conquests or vice versa I have not yet determined. Souvenirs based on a folded printed sheet are still being marketed as Leporello-sheets.

Mona's isle Album of ViewsMost albums date from about 1880 and extend to about 1905 — obviously intended for the mass tourist market, they replaced the much more expensive book of engraved (later lithographed) views that made their appearance from the 1840's and were, in turn, replaced by the cheap postcards collected in their millions by the Edwardian tourists. The views on these postcards were then often recycled into view albums though generally these date post 1918.

Most of the early examples appear to have been printed in Lower Saxony, Germany (which also produced many of the early postcards) - there a few companies had specialised in the required paper using the fine pottery clay to give a suitable coating and in the lithographic techniques needed to print photographs at a low enough cost for this mass market — it was possible from the 1870's (or earlier) to buy high quality photographs to stick into scrap-albums but this was probably aimed more at the affluent middle class tourist rather than the mass market. By the late 1890's anti-German feeling was running high and 'British made' began to be prominently displayed.

Photographic views, though an attractive souvenir for the tourist, had one major defect for the producer - in a rapidly changing environment, such as the Island during the tourist boom years, views rapidly went out of date! No publication I have includes a date of publication, many do not even indicate a publisher. In several cases 'artistic' corrections to the photograph (or the lithographic plate ?) are obvious to stretch the photograph to last another year. In other cases artistic licence was employed to draw in buildings either in the course of construction or merely planned. Many of the 'photographs' on closer examination turn out to be drawn views possibly superimposed on a photographed landscape. In some cases there is more than a hint of a suggestion that the photograph was actually based on a much earlier engraved view!.

The photographs/views contained within the covers can span many years but some detail will fix an earliest publication date.

I have a small collection of around some 20 - generally they are still readily available (typical prices from around £5) but the quality can vary widely. Many of them carried advertising for one of the various bazaars operating in Douglas - Webb's Lounge (run by Samuel Webb later to be Major of Douglas) was a significant provider. Many had a map of the Island pasted on the inside rear cover - in most cases this map was incorrect with respect to the railways showing incorrect routes and proposed lines that were never built !

Possibly the earliest I have is "The Leporello Album of The Isle of Man Views" - 72 x 115 mm containing 12 views on a single strip. No publisher or date is given but the inside rear cover states "entered at Stationers' Hall. Trade Mark L & R Rd".

The list of views is typical of many later albums:

Douglas [viewed from the Head] ; Douglas Iron Pier; Ramsey; Laxey Water Wheel; Castle Mona Hotel; Kirk Braddan ; The Nunnery [obelisk and cannon]; Castle Rushen ; Peel Castle ; The Swiss Cottage, Rhenass The Tower of Refuge; Port Erin.

A brief textual description is on the rear. All views show more evidence of the artistic pen than of the camera! That of Port Erin shown below is typical (the building right midground is the Dandy Hill Chapel of 1860, the ornate facaded left midground is I think the Falcon's Nest Hotel of c.1860). Port Erin had started to develop as a family resort away from the dancing and drinking establishments of Douglas especially after the railway arrived in 1873.

Port Erin as depicted  in 'Album of IoM Views'

Most views are effectively undateable. The Iron pier (and Swiss Cottage) date it post 1869; the Ramsey view shows the Lezayre (Beaconsfield) Windmill, with sails, which is supposed to have ceased by the 1870's. The Douglas view however shows only the Red Pier and no sign of the New or Victoria Pier which was fully open in 1872 (though in course of construction from 1870) thus dating c.1870 or a lttle later.

The next is probably The Liver Album of the Isle of Man Views, 100 x142 mm, again undated and "entered at Stationers Hall. D & M Registered". The rear cover shows, I think, a Liver Bird which has, of course, Liverpudlian connections. It contains 18 views : Douglas from the Head (which shows a rather stylised Victoria pier); Douglas Aquarium & Baths (of 1877); Ramsey from the sea; Peel Town & Bay; Castletown [from new Quay], S.S. Douglas; Ballure Chapel & Albert Tower, Ramsey; Peel castle; Kirk Braddan; Tower of Refuge; Laxey Wheel; Swiss Cottage & Suspension Bridge; Port Erin ; Castle Mona Hotel; Castle Rushen; The Villiers Hotel, The Promenade, Ramsey and finally 'The Cyprus Puzzle' - as Cyprus came to attention of the British public in 1878 following its aquisition by the Treaty of Berlin it would date it c.1879 though quite why it was included within a set of Manx views I am at a loss to explain.

Webb's Leporello Album of the Isle of Man, 148 x 115 mm was dated by original purchaser 29th June 1883 - the views are 90% line drawings though in some cases probably based on photographic originals. It too has the by now usual format : a general view of Douglas, Iron pier; Red pier, Tower of Refuge, Castle Mona, Old Kirk Braddan, Peel Castle, Castle Rushen, Port Erin, Nunnery but adds Douglas Head Lighthouse, New Kirk Braddan and St Thomas's Church as well as Port Skillion.

Later Albums, many of which share the same photographs thus suggesting that one or two manufacturers were responsible for most titles, are:

The Mona Album of Isle of Man Views 188 x 140 mm, though a reduced size 140 x 117 mm version was also produced with same title containing most views, — the Douglas and Peel views would appear to date from late 1870's (eg Peel St Peter's clock tower, Douglas view does not show Derby Castle though this is shown in a separate photo) — it does however include a very stylised view of Williamson's Victoria Park at Laxey (Laxey Glen) - consistent with date in early 1880's.

The Mona's Isle Album of Isle of Man Views 188 x 140 mm - in card and paper covers, generally two views per page shares majority of views with above title - the views also differ somewhat between copies showing updates from c.1885 to c. 1892 as some show Falcon Cliff as well as the Iron Pier (removed 1892). The title might well reflect the paddle steamer Mona's Isle (III) of 1888.

The Album of Isle of Man Views 188 x 140 mm, published by Charles, Reynolds & Co 26 & 27, Milk Street, London, E.C. — the inside rear cover lists similar albums for some 90 tourist resorts. In a cheaper paper cover as well as the more usual ornate card cover — as it includes a photo of Mona's Queen II it must date post 1885 but not much afterwards..

The Palace Album of Isle of Man Views 212 x 158 mm — mostly similar retouched photos as above, one of Douglas Head lighthouse shows the pre 1896 light ; also shows Electric Railway at Groudle - c. 1894 ?

The New Album of 50 Isle of Man Views 148 x 205 mm published by John S McCann & Co Liverpool would appear to date from early 1895 as it includes what appears to be somewhat improved photo of the short-lived Laxey terminus station for the Mountain Railway together with a totally 'artistic' impression of the station at the summit.

The Album of Isle of Man 54 Views 215 x 315 mm — no publisher given, rear inside cover carries advert for Villiers Hotel, the 'general view of Douglas' shows work commencing on the passenger terminal (c. 1899 ?) but many of the 'photographs' are better described as 'drawings', including a highly imaginative one of Marine drive and a non existent estate on Douglas Head !

Premier Album coverThe Premier Album containing 60 Views of the Isle of Man 254 x 180 mm published by John S. McCann & Co Liverpool — mixture of full, half, third and even eighth size photographs within a very impressive ornate black and gold on red cover - pity is that the contents are not quite as impressive. The map on the inside rear cover ' Map of the Isle of Man showing the Stations on the Isle of Man Railway' has been corrected to show the lines as built but only the proposed route of the Douglas-Laxey Electric Railway The double spread "Bird's eye view of Douglas" can best be described as artist's impression but does attempt to show the new Victoria Pier passenger terminal which opened 1902 (a 'photograph' of the terminal would also appear to be more of an artistic impression) thus dating it c.1901/2.

The Camera Series Album of Isle of Man Views 212 x 158 mm — Brown & Rawcliffe, Liverpool. — shows Victoria Pier terminal thus post 1902 but many photographs are obviously retouched.

The Camera Series Album of Isle of Man Views 215 x 300 mm [presume Brown & Rawcliffe Liverpool] — this consists of much retouched photographs (in general the people appear to have been drawn onto a photographic print) — the inclusion of the Victoria Pier terminal dates it post 1902 but not much - ?1903 but some views e.g. that of 'The Promenade Douglas' date pre 1896.

The Palace Series Album of Isle of Man Views 212 x 158 mm - Brown & Rawcliffe Exchange Works, Pall Mall, Liverpool (also advertises other albums in same series ) — includes same photos as the above — similar date c.1903.

The Photographic Series Album Views of The Isle of Man 218 x 305 mm published by W Cowin & Co Victoria Pier is of much better photographic quality - many photographs are from the late 1890's (e.g. that of Castle Rushen does not show the 1901 Police station, the view of Port Soderick does not show the 1897 railway but others are c.1902-4 — probable publication c.1905.

Later many albums of the photographs used for postcards also appeared but these were in the more usual book format - these are discussed elsewhere.


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Any comments, errors or omissions gratefully received The Editor
© F.Coakley , 2002