Photographic Almanac

First, an apology. This is supposed to be an Old Camera blog, not a book blog but this book is about photography and dates from the same time as many of my cameras. In fact, since I originally wrote this article, I have purchased more of these Almanacs. I now have editions from 1922, 1936, 1944, 1950, 1953 (my birth year) and 1957. These all follow the same format as described here, with only minor variations, so I shall not describe each individually.

This book is a well-bound hard cover book – none of this Perfect Binding that falls apart after a few reads. The book has several sections, each of which is interesting in a different way. The book opens and closes with adverts from the main photographic businesses in Britain in 1957. There are 84 pages of adverts at the front and another 117 pages at the rear.
This is followed by five fairly long and intense articles on photography and  then a selection of abstracts from the British Journal of Photography (which, incidentally, is still published) who are the publishers of this almanac. After this are a number of photogravure plates of photographs. Next are a number of reviews of equipment and materials a couple of which are also articles in this blog (Bewi and Ikophot exposure meters).
After the reviews comes a brief chemistry primer for those chemicals a photographer is likely to come across. This is followed by a nine page glossary of technical terms in photography.
For the serious hobbyist photographer there follows a long section of formulae for developers, sensitizers, desensitizers, intensifiers, reducers, toners, silver recovery, stain removal, varnishes, mountants, and a few other things. The almanac also covers state of the art advances – there is a fairly long primer of the use of flash, both bulbs and electronic, and three-colour photography.
The rest of the book is more technical.  Forty pages of tables for all manner of things is followed by brief outlines of legal issues – copyright, Factory Acts, Shop Acts, registration of businesses, purchase tax, and a few others. (This book assumes a British audience and is also, of course, massively out of date.)

I am going to go through the Almanac section by section and outline what I find interesting in each part.

Blog copyright by John Margetts, 2014


These start with several pages of adverts from Kodak, which I suppose is fitting as the largest photographic company in the world in 1957 (I am guessing there but doubt I am far wrong). The ads start with colour film – still a new development in 1957 – and then equipment for colour photography, mostly cameras. Then on to black and white films and general cameras. My beef here is that Kodak do not include any pricing which would make the adverts more interesting although I do accept they were not thinking about a reader in sixty years time. The ads move on to chemicals, papers, cine equipment, darkroom equipment and industrial equipment.
The next few pages of ads (forty of them) are smaller ads aimed at professional photographers.  Then we come to Johnsons of Hendon who are more concerned with amateur enthusiasts. After Johnsons there are a few pages of Ilford ads – much the same array as Kodak but less of them.

This takes as to:


These assume an educated readership – the first article is titled Physics and Metaphysics in Modern Photography – not something I would image would appeal to a mass readership.  This article even goes so far as to touch on quantum mechanics and expects its audience to understand.
Next is an article on replenishing developer – still relevant to analogue photographers today. This is not quite as technical as the previous article but does assume the reader is au fait with basic chemistry.
This is followed by an article of the aesthetics of wild flowers.  In 20013 this reads fairly strangely as it assumes the photographer will be using black and white film which rather loses most of the appeal of flowers. If we remember that the article is a product of its day, it still reads well enough.
After this comes some cutting-edge stuff – television. It can be difficult to remember that in 1957 most people did not have television and when they did it could only be used during the evening – 24 hour TV had to wait for a couple of decades.
The article of the use of filters is still applicable, even to digital photographers.

The next section is called

Epitome of Progress

This section consists of abstracts from articles in two other places – British journal of Photography and Camera World. I will just give a few topics to give a flavour of this section.
Analysis of P.Q. Developers
Diffusion Transfer in Colour
Electro-optical Colour Separations
Wide Screen Systems

Again, these are not in the slightest bit dumbed down and end with a reference to the full article that has been abstracted.

Pictorial Supplement

There follows 32 pages of photogravure prints from “leading exhibitors”. Photogravure is a technique for printing photographs with a printing press. This gives very good definition (the picture is not reduces to half-tone dots) and gives pictures that are very attractive.  The iconic photographic magazine Camera Work published by Alfred Stieglitz between 1903 and 1917 used photogravure as its reproduction technique and Stieglitz used the technique as his standard printing technique even if he was not wanting to produce the picture in quantity.  Done well, photogravure pictures compare well with normal silver bromide prints and modern giclee digital prints. In addition, photogravure uses different ink to the normal printing processes and these photographs are printed on thicker, slightly glossy paper. This gives the surface of the prints a certain tactile quality that I find very attractive.

What did surprise me, given the date of this almanac, is that four of the pictures come from the other side of the Iron Curtain – two from Poland and two from Hungary.  All are well worth your attention.

New Goods

This section consists of reviews of equipment and materials available in 1957. There are 112 pages of these. They are worth reading to someone who is interested in old cameras (which I must assume anyone reading my blog will be). Not only do they contain descriptions of the equipment  but also comments on how they fit the expectations of a photographic reviewer in 1957. A further delight is that they include price information  – base price and purchase tax as separate amounts. Some of the cameras that I describe in this blog were very expensive new. They were certainly out of the reach of a normal working-class man and would have represented a sizeable investment for a middle-class man. That will  help to explain why they are usually still in very good condition after nearly sixty years.


Now we have sixteen pages of information about chemicals. This is basically a glossary, giving two to three lines about the most common photographic chemicals.

After this we have


This section both gives formulae for photographic solutions that you can make yourself and information about proprietary chemicals. This goes a bit beyond just formulae but I suppose there is a limit on just how many heading they could divide the book into.
For the enthusiast who wants to take his analogue photography beyond the basics, this is well worth reading.

The next section is

Plan-copying and Recording

This is basically about blueprints and copying office records – this is before the days of photocopiers! Not much here for the photographer apart from adapting the methods to produce cyanoprints.

Flash Photography

Flash photography was still in its early days in the 1950s and you needed to match your flash to your film and set the camera accordingly.  There is much information here about methods of synchronisation and types of shutters. There is also an explanation on how to calculate the correct exposure, using flash with colour, bounce flash, infra-red flash, violet flash, electronic flash and developing film for flash. There then follows some tables of data on various makes of film used with models of electronic flashguns.

There are tables on Reciprocity Failure and how to adjust exposure for various films when using flash.


Here are five pages on amateur cine filming.

Three-colour photography

The next twenty eight pages are about colour films.  There explanations of how the various colour films available in 1957 worked – there were rather a lot of types of colour film that did not last long.

The second to last section is a collection of


These cover an amazing range of topics. For instance:

Daily variation in Light in different Latitudes.
Shutter Speeds for Moving Objects.
Colour materials for Still Photography.
Conversion tables Imperial to metric.
Optical Calculations (including how to calculate the focal length of a lens and hyperfocal distances).


Miscellaneous Information

This section has a number of useful (or would have been useful in 1957, it is rather out of date now) snippets of information for the budding professional photographer. Topics are:

Factories Act
Shop Act
Registration of Business Names
There is a list of photographic text books and hand books which runs to several pages. This section ends with a directory of camera repairers in Britain.

The Almanac ends where it started – with:


These adverts are more aimed at amateurs as opposed to the professional bent of the opening adverts. Many (but not all) of these include prices which makes them more interesting to the collector.

Author: John Margetts

I am a keen photographer who also collects cameras. I am retired with about 50 years photography experience.

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