Wallace Heaton Blue Book 1939

The formal name of this book is “Minitography and Cinetography” and it relates to miniature (i.e. 35 mm) and cine photography, although there are some adverts for medium format (120 film) cameras. It is the second edition of what became known as The Blue Book. About 1/3 of the book is articles on various aspects of photography (110 pages out of 338 total pages). The rest of the book consists of a catalogue of Wallace Heaton’s product line and services. It measures 11 cm by 15 cm (4¼ by 6 inches in old money) and is 1½ cm thick in its well-read condition. It is now beginning to disintegrate, the front cover being almost detached. It cost the princely sum of 1/- (one shilling) new (that is 5p in modern money.
Wallace Heaton Blue Book 1939 © John Margetts


The date of publication is the main reason I bought this – 1939. Camera technology advanced tremendously during the 1930s and then in 1939 everything stopped. German camera manufactures, along with the rest of German industry, was moved over to manufacturing war materiel. So, this book has both details and prices of German cameras immediately before the hiatus of 1939-1945 (other nationalities of cameras are also represented). Interestingly, there is a typed, pasted addendum on the fly-leaf stating: “Since the outbreak of war we regret that many of the prices in this handbook have been increased in price byabout (sic) 15-20%  We welcome your enquiries when full information will be given” This addendum has itself been addended by hand to read “15-50%”.
The introduction to the handbook makes the interesting comment that “Due to the magnificent efforts of our Prime Minister, war was avoided . . . ”  Was this level of unfounded optimism in our Prime Minister (one Neville Chamberlain) normal in Britain in 1939? Had no one understood this Adolf Hitler chap?
Within the camera descriptions are some peculiar anomalies. For instance, for each camera there is a box giving details of the options available. In these boxes, focal lengths are given in cm or mm but in the written descriptions the focal lengths are given in inches. For instance, the Zeiss Orthometar lens is given in the box as having a focal length of 27 mm and as 1 1/32 inches in the text. The Tessar lens is either 4 cm or 1 9/16 inches. It is enough to make me glad we moved over to the metric system and abandoned the old Imperial system. Somewhat strange is the seemingly indiscriminate use of cm and mm for focal length. Before 1939, cm was usual, particularly in Europe, and after 1945 mm became usual. Here, in 1939, we are on the cusp of the change and I suspect the usage depends on the individual writer – the younger or more fashionable writers having already moved to mm and the older hands still using cm.

The makes of camera advertised is telling – and must have caused problems once anti-German sentiment settled in in late 1939 and early 1940. Leica, Zeiss Ikon, Certo, Welta, Agfa, Balda, Robot, Rollei, Exakta, Pilot, Voigtlander, Altiflex, Korelle, Primarflex, Zeca, Foth, Plaubal – all German while non-German cameras are represented by Kodak, Ensign, Newman and Guardia, Purma, Minca (USA), Thorton Pickard and Soho. Even then, the best Kodaks (Retina) were German designed and made. All the non-German cameras offered Carl Zeiss lenses and Compur shutters, again German and soon to be in short supply.

As well as cameras, the book lists darkroom supplies – hardware and chemicals – slide and cine projectors, epidiascopes and cine cameras. There are also cine films for hire – much like Netflix  but not quite the same range on offer. Services offered include developing film, printing and contract photography.

The articles are on various technical aspects of photography. The article titles are:

  • The Amateur Press Photographer
  • Animals and the Cine camera
  • Animal photography
  • Cine – Kodak Special
  • “Colmax” (Regd) Prints
  • Colour Films. What to do with your
  • Dufaycolour
  • Fill the Picture Space
  • Fireside Photography with a Miniature
  • How it is done
  • Insurance
  • “Lens-hoods”
  • Managing Director’s Message, The
  • Miniature film processing
  • New Ideas
  • Personal film, The
  • Pola Screen, the use of the
  • Rangefinder or Reflex
  • Rolleiflex, Why I like my
  • Small Object Photography in Colour
  • Speed v. Grain
  • Stereo Photography, What About
  • Studio Lighting for Portraits in Colour
  • Super Ikonta, The, as a Universal Camera
  • Treat Them gently
  • Warm-Tone Enlargements, Why not try

There is quite a lot about colour photography as colour film was only just becoming generally available and affordable.


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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