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.


Wallace Heaton Blue Book – 1952

A paperback illustrated catalogue of the main items that Wallace Heaton sold in 1952. They issued it every year and they were the largest photographic retailer in Britain for many years. So, these are quite common (I do not really understand why people kept them once they were out of date, but they clearly did) and therefore quite cheap to buy.

Wallace Heaton Blue Book - 1952
Wallace Heaton Blue Book 1952

For the camera collector, these Blue Books have two separate appeals. One is that they show us just what equipment was available in a given year.  This is particularly useful where minor changes were made to a camera model and you can see from the photographs in the catalogue how the outside (at least) looked in a particular year. Each item also has a brief description including available lenses and shutters. Secondly, each item is accompanied by a price – or a range of prices for each variation available in that year.

What you cannot do is use this book to see what manufacturers were producing. This particular Blue Book dates from 1952 (I have other editions from 1939 and 1971) and the UK had legal limits on the quantities of imports allowed from various places. As most of these cameras were made in Germany, import quotas could be quite small, or even non-existent.

Blog copyright by John Margetts, 2014

As a major photographic retailer, Wallace Heaton did not just sell cameras, they sold everything either a professional or amateur photographer could want. They even had a small range of OEM products – distinguished by the trade name ‘Zodal’ or variations on that.

The main headings in the catalogue are:

darkroom equipment
still projectors
cine projectors
tape recorders

There are a total of 144 pages and the books dimensions are 5 3/4 inches  by 4 inches (146mm by 100mm). An interesting little book.

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