Phantom Skies and Shifting Ground: Landscape, Culture, and Rephotography in Eadweard Muybridge's Illustrations of Central America

Collecting Muybridge

As of this writing, there are eleven known bound Muybridge albums housed at ten different institutions. In addition, there is one unbound (partial) album, and three small collections of individual pictures, each held at separate institutions.

Only a single album contains every picture from Muybridge’s travels and there’s also only one known “Supplement to Catalogue,” a promotional brochure that Muybridge used to describe and list the photographs and to advertise for print orders. Although unconfirmed, there have been reports of original pictures on display in Venezuela. Regardless of the precise figure for album count, the Central American pictures are exceedingly rare and few people have seen the body of photographs either in part or in whole. The location of Muybridge’s original negatives are unknown, although a few were recovered from his garden.

The albums are most commonly cited as:
Muybridge, Eadweard. The Pacific Coast of Central America and Mexico: The Isthmus of Panama; Guatemala; and the Cultivation and Shipment of Coffee. San Francisco, 1876.

List of Archives with Muybridge Albums or with Images from Albums:

Stanford University Libraries, Special Collections & University Archives, Rare Books Division, Stanford University, Palo Alto, California                  
One album in two volumes, 121 pictures
Given to F.E. Johnston, Muybridge’s defense lawyer
(described in the print publication as “album A”)

Stanford University Libraries, Special Collections & University Archives, Rare Books Division, Stanford University, Palo Alto, California      
One album in one volume, 59 pictures
Given to Fran Frank Shay, Stanford’s secretary
(described in the print publication as “album B”) 

The Center for Creative Photography, The University of Arizona, Tucson, Arizona
One album in one volume, 100 pictures
Provenance unknown

The California State Library, Rare Materials Reading Room, Sacramento, California
One album in one volume, 62 pictures                                                                                  
Given to Mrs. Wirt Pendegast, widow of his defense lawyer (Pendegast died while Muybridge was in Central America).

Cornell University, Kroch Library Rare & Manuscripts, Ithaca, New York
One album in one volume, 71 pictures
First owner was Marshall Howard Saville (1867-1935) an archaeologist and professor at Columbia University. It passed to the Huntington Free Library, then to the Museum of the American Indian Heye Foundation, then to Cornell University. 

The Boston Athenaeum, Boston, Massachusetts     
One album in two volumes, (94 and 80 pictures respectively)                                             
Given to Captain S.V. Storm, purchased from Daniel Lombard in 1878

Niagara University Library, Special Collections, New York
One album in one volume, 60 pictures                                                                      
Provenance unknown

Special Collections and University Archives, Stony Brook University, The State University of New York          
One album in two volumes, 264 pictures (the only known complete collection of all images, numbered on each page in a continuous sequence from #4219 - #4482)
Provenance unknown – purchased for $54 by a SUNY faculty member in the late 1960’s from a bookstore in New York City and donated to the library.

The Museum of Modern Art, New York                                                                              
One album in one volume, 120 pictures
Provenance unknown

Centro de Investigaciones Regionales de Mesoamérica (CIRMA), Antigua, Guatemala      
One album in one volume, 120 pictures
Provenance unknown

The Smithsonian American Art Museum, Renwick Gallery                                                 
A partial unbound album, 75 pictures
Provenance unknown

University of California, Los Angeles, Library Department of Special Collections
6 pictures, unbound
Provenance unknown

The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley, California          
3 pictures, unbound                           
Provenance unknown

Collection Centre Canadien d'Architecture/ Canadian Centre for Architecture, Montréal      
5 pictures, unbound                           
Provenance unknown

Do you know of any other Muybridge albums not listed here, or information about provenance? If so, please let us know in the comments below.

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This page references:

  1. Title page for Photographic Studies of Central America by Muybridge.
  2. Leather cover for Photographic Studies of Central America by Muybridge.
  3. Frontispiece to Photographic Views Illustrating the Pacific Coast of Central America and Mexico, Isthmus of Panama, Guatemala, and the Cultivation and Shipment of Coffee, by Muybridge.