Brought to Light: Photography and the Invisible, 1840–1900

Brought to Light: Photography and the Invisible, 1840–1900

San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco, California, 2008


Brought to Light chronicles scientific photography from the dawn of the medium in 1840 to the turn of the 20th century. This catalogue brings together nearly 200 vintage photographs that demonstrate early experiments with microscopes, telescopes, motion studies, electricity and magnetism, x-rays and spirit photography. In the 19th century, such images revealed the spectacle of the natural world not only to the scientific community but also to an awestruck public. The catalogue design seeks to respect the role these pictures played in popular science at the time of their creation, while at the same time highlighting their striking beauty for today’s viewers.

The use of multiple stocks anchors the approach, producing a visual as well as tactile experience. A shift in paper and a flood of custom-mixed chocolate-brown ink signals the transitions between sections of the catalogue. The end-sheets display images in relative scale to evoke a salon-style hanging, as many of these prints would have originally been displayed. Essays on a creamy white stock invite comfortable reading. The layout of the plate section is structured to expand and contract in a flow that includes multiple images on a spread when needed, while sometimes allowing individual images room to breathe on their own.

Juror Notes

The use of color is so subtle and elegant that it allows the images to really jump off of each page. 

Collections: 50 Books | 50 Covers of 2008
Repository: Denver Art Museum
Discipline: Book design
Format: Book


Design firm
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art
Art director
Jennifer Sonderby
James Williams
Jacket designer
James Williams
Marie-Sophie Corcy, Maren Gröning, Tom Gunning, Corey Keller, Erin O’Toole, Carole Troufléau-Sandrin, Jennifer Tucker
Karen A. Levine
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art/Yale University Press
Trim size
9.5 x 11.75
Quantity printed
Archer, Van Condensed, Whitman
Editoriale Bortolazzi Stei
Jacket printer
Editoriale Bortolazzi Stei
Burgo Selena, 140 gsm; GardaPat 13 Klassica, 135 gsm; GardaMatt Art, 170 gsm
Editoriale Bortolazzi Stei