An Abbreviated History of Stereo-Pair Illustrated books

written by David Starkman, USA

The first book that I ever saw illus­trat­ed with stereo pairs was “The Stereo Real­ist Man­u­al” by Mor­gan & Lester, pub­lished in 1954. This book fea­tured side-by-side stereo pairs that were approx­i­mate­ly 2.25″ x 2.25″ square, both in col­or and black-and-white. For view­ing, a plas­tic hand-held stereo view­er was includ­ed in a pock­et glued inside the back cov­er of the book. It was sim­ple, and quite effec­tive. This same view­er is still being made today, and has been includ­ed with numer­ous books. The most recent wave of 3‑D books with stereo pairs have been a series pub­lished by Chron­i­cle Books (begin­ning with “Beneath the Sea in 3‑D”, and fol­lowed by many oth­ers in the same for­mat). These have the images print­ed side­ways (par­al­lel to the spine of the book) with fold out flap in the back cov­er which incor­po­rates the view­ing lens­es. This basic con­cept and for­mat turns out to be quite old, but more about that later.

Some­where along the way I became fas­ci­nat­ed with the idea of stereo illus­trat­ed books that incor­po­rate a view­er, and how to achieve this with stereo pairs, rather than anaglyphs.

The Stereo Real­ist Man­u­al, 1954
Beneath the Sea 3D, 1997
19th century

The first book ever to incor­po­rate actu­al side-by-side stereo pairs was “Tener­ife, An Astronomers Exper­i­ment” by C. Piazzi Smyth, pub­lished in 1858 by Low­ell Reeve in Lon­don. Accom­pa­ny­ing the text were 20 albu­men stereo images, which were log­i­cal­ly includ­ed by hav­ing an out­line for the stereo pair, and the cap­tion print­ed on a page, and then the sep­a­rate right and left images past­ed onto the pages. Obvi­ous­ly a labor inten­sive process, the book was issued in an edi­tion of 2,000. The pub­lish­er offered an acces­so­ry “Book Stere­o­scope” man­u­fac­tured by Negret­ti and Zambra.

The idea of such stereo illus­trat­ed books must have had some pop­u­lar­i­ty, as the well known stere­o­scope mak­er Smith, Beck & Beck made a spe­cial book stere­o­scope and patent­ed it in 1859. The view­er is designed to rest direct­ly upon the stereo pair. The lens pan­el moves up and down by means of an adjust­ment knob to allow for focus­ing. The achro­mat­ic lens­es are pris­mat­ic, and may be rotat­ed to adjust for images of var­i­ous sizes. An angled mir­ror on the ver­ti­cal sup­port­ing pan­el reflects light onto the images, and the sep­tum is made of frost­ed glass, to reduce shad­ows that it might cause on either of the images. Even today one could not think of a sin­gle fea­ture to improve on the design of a stere­o­scope for this pur­pose! To the best of my knowl­edge a bet­ter, or even equal, view­er for book stereo pairs has nev­er been made.

Tener­ife. An Astronomers Exper­i­ment, 1858

Book Stere­o­scope by Smith, Beck and Beck, 1859

The next, and much more ambi­tious use of stere­ograms in a book was “Egypt, Nubia, and Ethiopia” by Joseph Bono­mi, with notes by Samuel Sharpe, pub­lished in Lon­don in 1862. This attrac­tive book con­tains 100 stereo­scop­ic pho­tographs, con­sist­ing of actu­al pho­to­graph­ic prints past­ed side-by-side onto a hor­i­zon­tal­ly ori­ent­ed page. There is no bor­der for the prints, just a cap­tion cen­tered below them.

This is all just a back­ground for what real­ly intrigues me more — stereo illus­trat­ed books that actu­al­ly incor­po­rate a view­er into the design. The first such men­tion of a book incor­po­rat­ing a stere­o­scope was point­ed out to me by Paul Wing. It is a Masch­er design — the same Masch­er who had intro­duced the stereo daguerreo­type view­ing case. The Stereo­scop­ic Book was intro­duced in an 1856 issue of Sci­en­tif­ic Amer­i­can. A flat lens pan­el was attached to the cov­er of the book, and the stereo pho­tos placed on the pages that face the lens pan­el. While one would expect to find more, the only known exam­ple of a Masch­er Stereo­scop­ic book is in the Smith­son­ian col­lec­tion. In 1871 J. Fletch Wood­ward patent­ed a stereo pho­to album design that looks like a book, and the design could eas­i­ly have been incor­po­rat­ed into a book — albeit a very expen­sive book.

Per­haps the first most sig­nif­i­cant incor­po­ra­tion of a view­er into a book was in the book “Gems of Amer­i­can Scenery — White Moun­tains.“ This was print­ed in 1878 using an 1876 patent by Edward Bier­stadt, and con­sist­ed of a thin fold­ing flap on the cov­er of the book, with 1/2” square pris­mat­ic lens­es. The 24 views were print­ed on heavy stock in the Arto­type Process, and are remark­able today for their pho­to­graph­ic qual­i­ty, yet with the non-fad­ing advan­tages of the print­ing process. The Chron­i­cle books men­tioned at the begin­ning of this arti­cle are basi­cal­ly an updat­ed ver­sion of this 1876 design!

Gems of Amer­i­can Scenery — White Moun­tains, 1878
Instruc­tion pho­to, 1878
Schoenstein, Germany

The next book design to intrigue me was the “Raum­bild Album” intro­duced by Otto Schoen­stein in Ger­many around 1935. Although the view­er is not per­ma­nent­ly attached to the book, nei­ther are the views. The book con­sists of very thick cov­ers large enough for A4 size text pages. The cov­ers con­tain pock­ets; one for a fold­ing stere­o­scope, and sev­er­al more for sep­a­rate stereo view cards print­ed on thick pho­to­graph­ic paper. In the most com­mon con­fig­u­ra­tion there are four card pock­ets, each with 25 views, and text pages bound into the mid­dle of the book. In some Raum­bild books, such as the 1936 Olympic Games, the first 25 views are past­ed onto thick­er pages that are incor­po­rat­ed into the text pages.

The Raum­bild book is one of my favorite designs. It has the out­ward appear­ance of a book, and can con­tain text pages like a book, but it func­tions more like a boxed set of stere­o­cards with an accom­pa­ny­ing text­book. Although Schoen­stein exper­i­ment­ed with some oth­er designs over the years, this was the prin­ci­pal one. The design was used for a num­ber of Nazi pro­pa­gan­da titles through the World War II years, and was last used in 1952 for a book on the Helsin­ki Olympic games.

Raum­bild, 1936
Orig­i­nal adver­tise­ment for Raumbild
Farrar & Rinehart, USA

In 1937, three quite remark­able books were pro­duced in the USA by Far­rar & Rine­hart, Inc. of New York. These were “Sail­ing In: The Stereo Book of Ships”, “At The Zoo: The Stereo Book of Ani­mals”, and “What is it? The Stereo Book of Puz­zling Pic­tures.” The books incor­po­rat­ed a fold­ing stere­o­scope design by Mr. Van Dyke Hill.

On the back cov­er of the book met­al clamps attached to it hold a square rod which has a small round­ed sec­tion at the bot­tom end. A recess at the bot­tom edge of the cov­er holds a small met­al framed flat stere­o­scope, which is con­nect­ed to the square rod by a flat tele­scop­ing arm with a square tube at the end, which sur­rounds the rod. When the square tube on the arm is at the low­er end of the rod, which has the round sec­tion it may be fold­ed into the recess in the book cov­er along with the stere­o­scope. To use the stere­o­scope one folds the arm ver­ti­cal in rela­tion to the book, and then slides it upwards so that the square part of the tube engages the square rod. Once the tube is seat­ed on the square part of the rod the arm will stay ver­ti­cal on it’s own. Then the lens pan­el is flipped over into the view­ing posi­tion, and the arm may be extend­ed to focus prop­er­ly on the stereo pairs that are print­ed on the parts of the page that will align with the stere­o­scope. Three images may be placed on each page, and the lens pan­el may be slid up or down on the rod to bring it into view­ing posi­tion for each of the three stereo images.

Far­rar & Rine­hart, 1937
Far­rar & Rine­hart, 1937
Wonders of the Stereoscope, USA

In the late 1970s a book appeared on the pop­u­lar mar­ket which was quite ambi­tious, and received nation­al dis­tri­b­u­tion in the USA at pop­u­lar book­stores (I know, because we bought our copy new!). “Won­ders of the Stere­o­scope” fea­tured a hard cov­er text­book, and a sec­ond “book” fit­ted into the same hard slip case which con­tained a recessed area for a set of lithe stereo view cards (repro­duc­tions of antique orig­i­nals) and a unique fold­ing plas­tic stere­o­scope. The stere­o­scope was unique and designed specif­i­cal­ly for this book. I don’t know how many were pro­duced, but exam­ples today are fair­ly scarce, and the design does not seem to have been used again.

Won­ders of the Stere­o­scope, 1976
Won­ders of the Stere­o­scope, 1976
Tanner+Staehelin, Switzerland

In 1983 the Swiss pub­lish­er Tanner+Staehelin came out with two books that incor­po­rat­ed a stereo view­er into a fold­ing flap on the back cov­er. By print­ing the stereo views only on the pages fac­ing the view­er, and the text on the remain­ing pages, they came up with a very mod­ern and effi­cient design for a stereo-pair illus­trat­ed book, with built-in view­er. The basic design is real­ly just an upda­teon the orig­i­nal Masch­er con­cept, and the design used in the “Gems of Amer­i­can Scenery — White Moun­tains” book. The two books were titled “Reise Ins Land der 3.Dimension” (Jour­ney into the Land of 3‑Dimension) and “Baum­buch” (The Tree Book). The first book was in Black and white, and the sec­ond one in col­or. Both books incor­po­rat­ed a unique dot­less screen print­ing process that offered near pho­to­graph­ic qual­i­ty. The first book used a lens pan­el fold­ed over from the card­board back cov­er, with the lens­es glued into the sand­wich formed by the flap.

Reise Ins Land der 3.Dimension, 1983
KMQ, Germany

There is anoth­er vari­a­tion on this theme that is also worth men­tion­ing: Over/Under illus­trat­ed books. In this for­mat the right and left images are place one above the oth­er, and a pris­mat­ic view­er with prisms angling upward and down­ward to bring the two images togeth­er is used. The main advan­tage of this for­mat is that there is no size lim­it to the print­ed pic­tures, and even panoram­ic views may be pre­sent­ed. This con­cept is men­tioned in the 1903 “Stereo­scop­ic Phe­nom­e­na of Light and Sight” by Theodore Brown (reprint­ed in 1994 by Reel 3‑D Enter­pris­es, and now out-of-print), but not com­mer­cial­ly exploit­ed in a book until the KMQ com­pa­ny in Ger­many came out with a low-cost plas­tic over/under prism lorgnette. As far as I know they have only used it in one book (Faszinierende Natur, 1983).

Faszinierende Natur, 1983
Faszinierende Natur, 1983
Chronicle Books, USA

Going back to the more tra­di­tion­al side-by side con­cept, this idea has most recent­ly been used for a series of 3‑D books pub­lished by Chron­i­cle Books in San Fran­cis­co, Cal­i­for­nia. Their first ven­ture into this was with the book “Cal­i­for­nia in Depth” by Jim Crain pub­lished in 1994. This book used a page size of 10” wide by 9.5” high.

Through­out the book com­plete stereo cards were repro­duced in a sepia tone to an over­all width of 5”, rather than the orig­i­nal 7”. This had the effect of reduc­ing the cen­ter-to-cen­ter dis­tance to 2.25” for bet­ter view­ing with the enclosed fold­ing stereo view­er, con­tained in a pock­et in the back of the book. In 1997 Chron­i­cle Books pub­lished a fur­ther series of 3‑D books by Mark Blum, start­ing with “Beneath the Sea in 3D”. These books were all in the same book for­mat as “3D Muse­um” from 1995, using a view­er incor­po­rat­ed into the back cov­er, remain­ing a per­ma­nent part of the book.

Cal­i­for­nia in Depth, 1994
Beneath the Sea 3D, 1997
Shokokugan, Japan

In 1995 & 1996 Shokoku­gan has pro­duced sev­er­al stereo books with side-by-side stereo pairs. The first was called “Fish Eyes”, and fea­tures stun­ning full col­or under­wa­ter 3‑D pho­tog­ra­phy tak­en with a cus­tom under­wa­ter stereo cam­era rig. For this book a new all plas­tic lorgnette style view­er was pro­duced, and put in an enve­lope in the back of the book, in a very sim­i­lar fash­ion to the 1954 “Stereo Real­ist Manual”.

The next book, “3‑D Muse­um” con­sists of famous works of art (Such as the Mona Lisa, works by Dutch Mas­ters, French Impres­sion­ists, etc.) con­vert­ed by com­put­er manip­u­la­tion into full three dimen­sion­al images. This book proves that with mod­ern skill and tech­nol­o­gy you CAN make a 3‑D pic­ture out of a 2‑D one. The images are just stun­ning, and the 3‑D con­ver­sion is vir­tu­al­ly flaw­less. For this book Shogoku­gan copied pre­vi­ous designs, with yet anoth­er vari­a­tion on the “lens pan­el flap in the back of the book” con­cept. The only major dif­fer­ence is the use of very large diam­e­ter lens­es, mak­ing the view­ing even easier.

Fish Eyes, 1995
3‑D Muse­um, 1996
DK Publishing, UK

In 1998 DK Pub­lish­ing, based in the UK, began a series of teen ori­ent­ed 3‑D books in a series called “Eye­wit­ness 3D”. These books all used a method of pre­sent­ing 3‑D where the Left Eye image is print­ed reversed (mir­ror image), while the Right Eye Image is print­ed nor­mal­ly. Through the use of clever design, injec­tion mold­ing of plas­tic, and die cut­ting the pages, the book incor­po­rates a mir­ror as the view­ing aid to see the stereo pair. The unique­ly shaped plas­tic framed mir­ror stores flat in a pock­et in the back of the book, and inserts into a slot between the right and left images for view­ing. The design allows for the pages of the book to be turned, while the mir­ror remains in place. At least 8 titles were made in this series: 3D Cats, 3D Human Body, 3D Rocks & Min­er­als, 3D Insect, 3D Micro­life, 3D Ocean Life, 3D Plant, & 3D Reptile.

The idea to print this way is not new. Sev­er­al 1950’s mag­a­zines used this method, with the idea that a view­er need not be sup­plied, as a sim­ple pock­et mir­ror could be used. DK, how­ev­er, has to be giv­en cred­it for com­ing up with a design viable in a pub­lished book for­mat. As the author I have to express my per­son­al opin­ion that while this for­mat works well (once you fig­ure out the best view­ing and light­ing posi­tions), the book size is incon­ve­nient and awk­ward. Each book is 13 inch­es tall and 6 inch­es wide, mak­ing it very unfriend­ly for stor­ing on a bookshelf!

3D Cats, 1998
3D Cats, 1998
London Stereoscopic Company, UK

Most sig­nif­i­cant of the recent pub­li­ca­tions is a series of books pub­lished by Bri­an May and the Lon­don Stereo­scop­ic Com­pa­ny. This began in 2009 with the pub­li­ca­tion of “A Vil­lage Lost and Found”. To cre­ate a pub­li­ca­tion of the high­est qual­i­ty, he and his com­pa­ny came up with a book design con­sist­ing of a hard cov­er book con­tain­ing the stereo pairs, a rigid slip-case to hold the book, and also a fold­er con­tain­ing a cus­tom designed book stere­o­scope. Called the “Owl” view­er, it folds flat to fit into the slip case that sits adja­cent to the book. When opened up, and fold­ing part snapped into the final view­ing posi­tions, it is a true hand held stere­o­scope design that can be rest­ed on top of the stereo pairs in the book for view­ing. It even incor­po­rates a focus­ing fea­ture. A final bonus is that clas­sic 3.5″ x 7″ stereo view cards may also fit into the hold­er on the view­er for stereo view­ing. Since 2009 sev­en more books have been pub­lished. Most are in this lux­u­ri­ous for­mat. Some come with a lorgnette ver­sion of the Owl view­er called the “Lite Owl”.

A Vil­lage Lost and Found, 2009
A Vil­lage Lost and Found, 2009

That cov­ers most of the vari­a­tions on the side-by-side stereo pair book designs, and a cou­ple of vari­a­tions. I’m sure that there are dozens more titles and vari­a­tions that I am not yet aware of. It is always fun to dis­cov­er a new 3‑D book, and I would be pleased to hear from read­ers about oth­er titles that they know of or own.

David Starkman (Culver City, California, USA)

I joined the Los Ange­les 3‑D Club in Sep­tem­ber 1977, one month after mar­ry­ing Susan Pin­sky.  I start­ed 3‑D with the View-Mas­ter Per­son­al Stereo Cam­era, then the Wol­len­sak Stereo 10, and for ten years or so I used a Busch Veras­cope F40. Around 1990 I began using a cus­tom full 35mm SLR rig, fol­lowed by the RBT X2 and RBT S1 cam­eras. In 2014, I switched to dig­i­tal and am cur­rent­ly using a Fuji­film W3 and twin SonyP200 rig. I was Pres­i­dent of the LA 3D Club ( from 1981 to 1982. In addi­tion, I served as Tech­ni­cal Direc­tor for many years, and am cur­rent­ly co-Club Archivist with Susan. I have been “Newviews” co-Edi­tor for “Stereo World” mag­a­zine since 1981. A mem­ber of the Nation­al Stereo­scop­ic Asso­ci­a­tion, The Stereo­scop­ic Soci­ety (UK) and the Inter­na­tion­al Stereo­scop­ic Union, I have made a full-time liv­ing in 3‑D from 1984 to 2006 with Reel 3‑D Enter­pris­es ( My Begin­ner’s 3‑D guides on the LA 3D Club web site, and on their archives, and on the StereoPho­toMak­er down­load page.

Insta­gram-pro­file: davidestark­man