One of the very first, if not the first compilation album of photogravures issued by Ernest Edwards’ New York Photogravure Company was titled Bits of Nature: Ten Studies in Photo-Gravure, No. 1. (First Series) It was published under the imprint of Nims & Knight, a publisher based in Troy, New York, most likely in early June of 1888. A follow-up album of views under the slightly different title Bits of Nature: a Series of Ten Photogravures from Nature but with the sub-title of Second Series came out the following year in 1889. In the No. 1 edition of 1888, ten photographic plates are included, with three featuring two photographs per plate, for a total of 13 individual images. Hand-pulled photogravures printed on delicate Japan tissue paper make up these plates, with the first curiously engraved with the credit of the Gast Lithograph and Engraving Company of New York and St. Louis. (1.) All of the other plates in the album were done by Edwards firm. (although some carry no credit) Photographers for the individual works are unknown (other than the William Mozart image: In Prospect Park) except for those carrying the credit of Ernest Edwards himself. The following reviews for the work came out in the summer of 1888:
One of the most promising signs that photography is gaining favor in the estimation of the art-loving public, is before us in the form of an exquisite collection of photogravures, by the Photogravure Company of this city, entitled “Bits of Nature,” and published by a well-known publishing house of Troy—Nims & Knight. So far as we know, this is the first instance of such a collection of photogravures made direct from photographic negatives of nature. They are ten in number, printed in various delicate tints, and mounted upon large white sheets, with liberal margins, the artistic Japanese paper being-merely gummed at the corners. The whole is contained, without binding, in an attractive cover of artistic design and quality, and makes an elegant present to a lady or art-lover from a photographer, and an appropriate article for the library centre-table. 2.
Bits Of Nature. Ten Studies in Photogravure. Published by Nims & Knight, Troy, N. Y. This is a handsome portfolio about ten by twelve inches, containing a series of excellent photogravures of scenes in and around New York and upon the Hudson River. For those who like to have pretty pictures in a handy form for the library or parlor table, we have not lately seen a better collection than these before us. 3.
In July of 1888, the trade journal Publishers’ Weekly also included the details that Bits of Nature was priced at $1.50 and issued in a “portfolio envelope”. This “envelope” is actually two separate pieces of rough-surface gray art paper (sometimes referred to as “cartridge board”) in which two holes are punched. Instead of being stapled as one would typically find in a viewbook style compilation similar to this, the plates have also been punched and all gathered along with the cover and backing cover together with a silk ribbon. 4.
1. tissue photogravure (2 separate sheets) atelier credit: Gast, St Louis & N.Y.: for some reason, this plate was originally given the credit of the Photogravure Co. N.Y. for the very same composite plate published as a plate-paper photogravure in the January 27, 1888 issue of The Photographic Times and American Photographer.
2. Our Editorial Table: in: The Photographic Times and American Photographer: June 29, 1888: New York: Scovill Manufacturing Company: pp. 311-12
3. Bibliography: in: Anthony’s Photographic Bulletin: August 11, 1888: New York: E. & H. T. Anthony & Co. : p. 478
4. both individual red and gold ribbons were used for Bits of Nature No. 1