Fred Spira and Photographic History

Daguerreotype from Fred Spira collection.

Toronto. The late Fred Spira of New York City made his fortune and fame creating and selling inexpensive photographic lenses and accessories as well as importing many Japanese products from the late 1940s, all sold under the Spiratone brand.

He was also a collector of photographica and worked diligently on a book combining his collection and the history of photography. Declining health prevented him from completing the book, but his son Jonathan, along with noted author Eaton S Lothrop Jr managed the task.

In 2001, Aperture published it as a 232 page coffee table size hard cover book with many beautiful colour images titled “The History of Photography as Seen Through the Spira Collection.”  Originally selling for about $75 CDN, today a used copy can be found at about half that price. I have a new copy complete with a dust cover. The above link to shows the book as 192 pages which is incorrect.

Both cameras and photographs are covered in this delightful, easy to read book. The photographing and staging of cameras and accessories is done with care and precision. Ending some 17 years ago, the digital camera section at the end seems a bit quaint today with the rapid improvement in technology. As each subject is covered very briefly, the book gives a broad overview of the history of photography and as such complements rather than replaces the many other books on the topic.

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