Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Book Review: Around the World in 2000 Pictures

Title: Around the World in 2000 Pictures

Editor: A. Milton Runyon

Date: 1954

Publisher: Doubleday

ISBN: none

Length: 446 pages plus 2-page index

Illustrations: book consists mostly of black-and-white photos

Quote: “The things you'll see in these pictures...are the things you'd really see on a tour of the world...the same sort of pictures that can be and frequently are taken by the average traveler...although...selected for subject interest and photographic excellence.”

With that, this book launches the reader back through time to the 1950s, a quaint time when people actually liked black-and-white photographs. At least they liked the very best kind of black-and-white photographs, as reprinted here, where it's possible to tell what the subject is meant to be. Almost every time, when one of these photos is meant to be a lake, you'll see right away that it's a lake and not, say, an historic building.

In 1954 some cities advertised that people still drove ox carts on the streets, too, and that at least on special occasions at least some of the local people still put on their classic town festival costumes as designed in the eighteenth or nineteenth century. However, some of the landscapes and buildings in this book still exist.

But this is not the big coffee-table picture book it wanted to be. It's a standard-sized book of black-and-white pictures on regular paper, with bland, small-print captions. The pictures are small and colorless; the color photos on the end papers are faded and look very, very 1950s.

I've displayed the copy of this book I physically own. People pick it up, bemused. They lay it down again when they realize that in order to get 2000 pictures into 450 pages, those pictures have to be wallet-sized as well as black-and-white. 

So...fair disclosure: you can see lots of fresher, prettier, more colorful photos on the Internet, nowadays, probably at no extra charge since you have Internet service anyway. If all you want is eye candy, this book is truly outdated. Leave it to those who appreciate it.

If, on the other hand, you're interested in history, in comparing the way places look now to the way they looked to a previous generation, then this book is still a valuable document. Run don't walk. It's not a hot seller on Amazon, but from readers who understand what it's good for, it gets five stars. 

The usual pricing system applies: $5 per book, $5 per package (up to four books of this size will ship in one package), $1 per online payment.