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A Village Lost and Found Hardcover – December 22, 2009

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Frances Lincoln; Slp edition (December 22, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0711230390
  • ISBN-13: 978-0711230392
  • Product Dimensions: 12.7 x 9.8 x 1.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (30 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #550,841 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


A Village Preserved, Green and All: Brian May’s Photographic Recovery

The name T. R. Williams does not ring many bells in photohistorical circles today. But in Victorian London he was a kind of rock star, whose instruments were marvels of scientific novelty — the stereoscopic camera and viewer, developed in the 1850s, were the earliest forerunners of the View-Master and the current 3-D movie craze.

His fame as a stereo portraitist reached such heights that the Queen herself requested his services, to photograph her daughter, Princess Victoria, on her 16th birthday and on the occasion of her wedding. But by the early 20th century, after movies brought an end to the form’s wild popularity, the work of stereo photographers like Williams often wound up in the dusty remainder bins of photo shops and auction houses.

Which is where an actual rock star affiliated with a different sort of Queen — Brian May, the woolly-haired lead guitarist for the beloved glam-band — was perpetually on the prowl for them for years, between gigs, in many of the cities where the band was packing stadiums.

“Depending on where we were, I always knew the dealers and collectors to go see,” recalled Mr. May, who has been obsessed with stereo pictures for most of his life. “And it was nice because I was interacting in a world that was completely divorced from the rock world. None of these guys thought of me as anything other than an enthusiast, unless one of their kids would see me and say, ‘Do you know who that is? He’s in Queen!’ ”

Now, after more than four decades of collecting, Mr. May’s passion has resulted in an ambitious door-stopper of a historical study examining Williams’s life and work, “A Village Lost and Found” (Frances Lincoln). To promote the book, which Mr. May wrote with a photography historian and conservator, Elena Vidal, he has embarked on a tour considerably more sedate than the ones he used to know. Last week, one of its stops was Huron, Ohio (pop. 7,348), where he and Ms. Vidal were guest speakers at the 36th annual convention of the National Stereoscopic Association, a group of ardent hobbyists and collectors.

On Thursday the tour came to New York City, where Mr. May spoke before a modest but appreciative crowd at the Barnes & Noble branch in TriBeCa. (Only one Queen T-shirt was in evidence but an exuberant fan did bring his red electric guitar to try to get Mr. May to sign it.) On Friday Mr. May was to play undoubtedly the tour’s most august venue, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, discussing “A Village Lost and Found” with Ms. Vidal as part of the museum’s lecture series.

In an interview at the Waldorf Astoria, where he was staying, Mr. May said that the book had been a dream of his almost since he came across his first Williams stereo-photo card — a pastel-colored rural reverie — as a college student in London and wondered “What in the world can this be?” While Williams had a thriving business producing portraits and views of notable events of the day, he seemed to have spent years working on a project much more personal in nature, a series called “Scenes in Our Village,” that chronicled daily life in a tiny countryside town.

The pictures in that series — with titles like “Old Dancy Enjoying His Pipe,” “Little Polly Gone Fast Asleep” and “Loading the Dung Cart,” and with sentimental poems, probably written by Williams himself, printed on the backs of the cards — were an attempt to capture a vision of English rural life that was already disappearing in the 1850s, as the Industrial Revolution gathered speed. The nostalgia for this kind of an idyllic past runs deep in English culture, and was memorably celebrated (and poked fun at) by another British rock band, the Kinks, in their song “The Village Green Preservation Society.” (“We are the Office Block Persecution Affinity/God save little shops, china cups and virginity.”)

Williams’s photo cards, many of them hand-colored, present such an idealized view of that vanishing world that Mr. May and others familiar with the photographer’s work were never sure whether the village they showed had actually existed, or was perhaps cobbled together from scenes in various places.

But one benefit of being famous is that you can get people’s attention. And so in 2003, when Mr. May posted a picture on brianmay.com of the village church shown in the stereo cards and an appeal for help in tracking down its location, he was inundated with information, and within 36 hours found the village, which was no Brigadoon. Called Hinton Waldrist, it still exists in Oxfordshire, west of London.

Mr. May and Ms. Vidal have since spent a considerable amount of time there — as Williams is now known to have done as a child — and have tracked down many of the old buildings and views captured in his pictures. Asked whether he was drawn to it by countryside childhood memories of his own, Mr. May, who grew up in the London suburb of Feltham — which he called “not a pretty place” — said, smiling: “Not memories from this life, I don’t think. Maybe from a previous one.”

The writing life has been just one element of a highly unusual post-superstar career that Mr. May, 63, has pursued since the death of the band’s lead singer, Freddie Mercury, in 1991, and the band’s semiretirement of the last few years. He went back to school and took up the studies in astrophysics he had left when his music career took off in the 1970s. He earned his doctorate in 2008 and published his thesis, the title of which would not look out of place on a Pink Floyd album cover: “A Survey of Radial Velocities in the Zodiacal Dust Cloud” (Copies of the thesis are available on Amazon.com for $63.96.) He has also been a frequent guest on the popular BBC astronomy program “The Sky at Night,” and serves in a ceremonial capacity as chancellor of Liverpool John Moores University.

His head is still surrounded by the cloud of poodle curls he sported during his Queen years, but they have now gone a little gray, and he carries himself with more of an English gentleman’s gravitas than a rocker’s swagger. Two more vintage photography books are now in the works, he said, a full-length biography of Williams and an examination of wildly inventive French stereoscopic work from around the same period.

While he is still involved in making music and has hinted that he and Queen’s drummer, Roger Taylor, might reunite to play together again, he seems perfectly contented these days taking the stage behind a lectern, with a pair of reading glasses perched on his nose. Surveying the quietly admiring bookstore crowd in TriBeCa on Thursday night, he cleared his throat and deadpanned: “This isn’t exactly Madison Square Garden, but I think it will do.”—New York Times

"The work is the result of over 30 years of research, including the detective story aspect of discovering in 2003 the actual village that Williams photographed. Details about rural Victorian society, photographic equipment of the 1850s and the life of the enigmatic Williams himself promise to make this a major contribution to studies of the early history of stereography." Stereo World

About the Author

Paul Balmer worked on this project with luthier John Diggins, who has built custom 'Jaydee' guitars for Toni Iommi of Black Sabbath and Angus Young of AC/DC. Paul has written all previous books in the guitar manual series - in every case with John's expert guidance - and is also the author of the Drum-Kit Manual. He lives near Corby in Northamptonshire.

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Customer Reviews

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If you think you might want this book, you want this book.
Amazon Customer
Dr. Brian May and Ms. Elena Vidal are to be commended for their scholarship, artistry and writing.
Brandt Rowles
The book is very well made, and the attached viewer is very well made and easy to use.
Ralph L. Reiley

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

135 of 137 people found the following review helpful By Christoph64 on January 25, 2010
Format: Hardcover
Length: 2:51 Mins
Enjoy the video. For more information go to [...]
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37 of 37 people found the following review helpful By C. Wilson on December 30, 2009
Format: Hardcover
This book comes in a hard slip cover along with Brian May's self designed OWL viewer which is in a separate, gold embossed folder. Every aspect of this book shows its quality in printing, binding and reproduction of these long forgotten photographs.

The images in this book are a series of hand tinted 3D stereocards from the 1850's of, what was thought to be, a lost village in the UK. They portray a pastoral and still slightly primitive way of life that was on the very cusp of ending with the coming industrial revolution. The photographer, T.R. Williams had to pose every shot and make sure the poses were held while he took one image and then another. Where I see window violations in all sorts of old stereocards, Mr. Williams seemed to have grasped the concept very early and he does an excellent job of maintaining the window.

This book is an obvious labor of love with substantive research going into each an every image. No stone is left unturned and one cannot help but appreciate this not only as a beautiful 3D experience but an academic one as well. I'll skip the surface incongruity of a `rock-n-roll god' longing for such a simple and idyllic way of life between these pages. What emerges most is the artistic work of T.R. Williams and his ability to create wonderful 3D images at a time when cameras were unwieldy items and stereo cameras certainly didn't exist. Weather it was remarkable foresight and a need to preserve a way of life in images or just a love of the village life at the time, this photographer has saved a bit of history that we can all admire.

Along with this book comes Brian May's OWL viewer which has a slide focusing adjustment feature. Thoughtfully designed and with a sturdy construction, this is a quality viewer.
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33 of 35 people found the following review helpful By Jesse Kornbluth TOP 500 REVIEWER on April 16, 2010
Format: Hardcover
"Buddy you're a young man hard man
Shoutin' in the street gonna take on the world some day
You got blood on yo' face
You big disgrace
Wavin' your banner all over the place"

Brian May wrote those lyrics for --- but of course you remember....Queen.

Thirty years ago, the young guitarist and songwriter dropped out of school to see if his college band, Queen, would go anywhere. Did it ever! The group made 15 CDs, sold 300 million copies. Songs like "We Will Rock You" and "Bohemian Rhapsody" brought Queen to the height of British rock --- you won't be mocked if you argue that this was the best English band of all time. And let's not forget Freddie Mercury, the lead singer, lost to AIDs --- and still mourned by millions.

When Queen quieted down, Brian May completed his academic work and earned a PhD. from Imperial College, London. (You can buy his thesis on Interplentary Dust, A Survey of Radial Velocities in the Zodiacal Dust Cloud.) As a mass communicator, he had an interest in a more direct explanation of the way things work, so he co-authored a book, Bang! The Complete History of the Universe.

And now the versatile Dr. May has topped himself --- he's taken a lifelong interest in stereoscopic photography and produced a picture-and-text book that is at once a historical chronicle and a work of art. A Village Lost and Found: Scenes in Our Village comes in a slipcase; in a separate folder, you get a 3-D viewer that May, and his collaborator, Elena Vidal, created for this project.

Where does a fascination like this come from? You guessed it --- May's childhood. As a boy, he liked to let his eyes relax as he looked at the wallpaper in his room; eventually, it moved, popped, acquired dimensionality.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Darklighter on February 24, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I've been waiting for this book for sometime, being a Queen fan, I had heard about this project awhile ago, and then just waited. Brian May has a previously published book called BANG! co authored w/ Sir Christopher Lintott which I also enjoyed, as much for the brilliant photography as the informative text.
Like BANG! this is a high quality publication, a hard slipcase with a beautiful book and the well thought out and crafted OWL viewer which makes the photos truly come alive, I got this as a holiday gift to myself and am just so pleased with it. As an added plus, Brian's instuctions on the method of shooting a 3D photo were easy and informative, and something that I'll try myself soon. If you have an interest in stereoscopic photography or rural Victorian England I'd highly recommend this book.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Featherwood Kid, Gordon on July 18, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I must say this is a superb book. Look to the video review by Christoph64 for an overview of what this book is all about. This is a volume for those interested in photography, specifically stereoscopic photography, as well as for those interested and studying how people lived in 19th century Britain - with a focus on common village folk. The viewer which comes with the boxed book works well, though not as well as with my early 20th century viewer. I suggest, for those scenes which have special appeal and for personal use only, to have a print shop copy those particular scenes on card stock, and then cut them to size so they fit in an old-fashioned viewer. You will be amazed at what you will immediately see and how the scene pops to life.
I want to thank Brian May and Elena Vidal for working on and producing such a fine volume so that many around the world can enjoy these examples of life in Victorian Britain. It truly looks to be a labor of love. It strikes me that this book would be a good introduction for children, as well as adults, to learn about life in another place and time. Incidentally, many of the views show hand-colored examples of this early photography. This is an example of how publishers can still produce books of a fine quality at what I think is a reasonable price.
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