Harry Ransom CenterThe University of Texas at Austin

email signup
Search Collections

Albert Boni:

An Inventory of His Readex Microprint Corporation Collection at the Harry Ransom Center

Creator: Boni, Albert, 1892-1981
Title: Albert Boni Readex Microprint Corporation Collection
Dates: 1932-1970 (bulk 1959-1969)
Extent: 4 document boxes, 1 bound volume (1.89 linear feet)
Abstract: The Albert Boni Readex Microprint Corporation Collection consists of correspondence, research reports, research notes, clippings, and manuscripts that document the Readex Microprint Corporation's development of Microprint technologies as well as Albert Boni's composition of bibliographies on photographic literature. The collection is arranged in three series: I. Readex Microprint Corporation Research, 1932-1970, undated; II. Index to the Literature of Photography, 1932-1950, undated; and III. Photographic Literature, undated.
Call Number: Manuscript Collection MS-0445
Language: English
Access:

Open for research. Part or all of this collection is housed off-site and may require up to three business days notice for access in the Ransom Center’s Reading and Viewing Room. Please contact the Center before requesting this material: reference@hrc.utexas.edu




Acquisition:

Purchase, 1976 (R7305)

Processed by:

Elspeth Healey, 2010; updated by Kelsey Handler, 2012

Repository:

The University of Texas at Austin, Harry Ransom Center


Albert Boni was born on October 21, 1892, in New York City to Charles and Bertha( née Saslavsky) Boni. Raised in Newark, New Jersey, Boni attended first Cornell University and then Harvard University. In 1917, he married Nell van Leeuwen and had one son, William.

In 1913, Boni began a career in the book trade when he and his younger brother Charles founded the Washington Square Book Shop, located at 137 MacDougal Street in New York City, which soon became popular with writers from the Greenwich Village bohemian community. In 1915, the Boni brothers partnered with Harry Scherman to launch the Little Leather Library, which offered reprints of classics; however, other commitments soon required the Bonis to sell their share. In 1917, Albert Boni co-founded the publishing firm of Boni and Liveright, where he helped launch the Modern Library. Though Boni's name remained a part of the publishing house until 1928, he left the firm in 1918 after reputedly losing a coin toss for control of the business to his partner Horace Liveright. In 1923, Boni entered into another publishing venture with his brother Charles, purchasing the small house of Lieber and Lewis to found Albert and Charles Boni. The firm went on to publish titles by William Carlos Williams, Ford Madox Ford, Thornton Wilder, Marcel Proust, and socialist writers such as Upton Sinclair and Max Eastman. In the late 1930s, the firm moved away from publishing original works of literature in favor of reprints and nonfiction before going out of business in 1939.

Also in 1939, Albert Boni founded the Readex Microprint Corporation. Boni conceived of his idea for microprint in 1934 when his friend, writer and editor Manuel Komroff, showed him his experiments with enlarging photographic images. Boni was struck by the notion that if one were to reduce rather than enlarge images, publishers and libraries might be able to access large amounts of information, but at a great savings in materials, cost, and space. Throughout the 1940s, Boni worked to develop microprint, a micro-opaque process in which pages were photographed using 35mm microfilm and printed on cards using offset lithography. The end product was a 6” x 9” card containing ten rows of ten pages each. These cards, each of which carried 100 pages of text, could then be viewed with a microprint reader. During this period Boni also published his first bibliography of photographic literature, A Guide to the Literature of Photography and Related Subjects (1943), as a quarterly supplement (no. 18) to the Photo-Lab Index .

Significant early Readex Microprint series included the British Sessional Papers, the United States Government Non-Depository Publications, Early American Imprints, 1639-1800, and The Collected Scientific & Technical Papers on Nuclear Science. In the late 1950s and throughout the 1960s, Readex continued to develop its microprint techniques, licensing several advances developed by scientists at Philips Research Laboratories in Eindhoven, Netherlands.

Boni also continued his bibliographic work on photography, editing Photographic Literature (1962) and its supplement, Photographic Literature, 1960-1970 (1972). Boni viewed his work with Readex Microprint and his bibliographic scholarship on photography as intimately connected, attributing his success in developing Microprint to his research on the literature of photography.

In 1974, William F. Boni succeeded his father as President of Readex Microprint Corporation. William sold Readex to Dan Jones of NewsBank in 1984, and in the late 1980s, Readex transitioned to producing works on microfiche. Today, Readex provides online digital resources as a division of NewsBank.

Albert Boni died July 31, 1981, at his home in Ormond Beach, Florida.


"Albert Boni."   Contemporary Authors Online. http://www.galegroup.com (accessed 5 July 2010).

Landesman, Kayla. "Readex Microprint, An Historic Perspective."   Government Publications Review, Vol. 15 (1988): 463-469.

Mitgang, Herbert. Albert Boni, Publisher, Dies; Founder of Boni & Liveright.   New York Times, August 1, 1981. http://www.newyorktimes.com (accessed 5 July 2010).

Russell, Carmen R. and David Dzwonkoski. "Albert and Charles Boni."   Dictionary of Literary Biography, Volume 46: American Literary Publishing Houses, 1900-1980: Trade and Paperback. http://www.galegroup.com (accessed 5 July 2010).


The Albert Boni Readex Microprint Corporation Collection consists of correspondence, research reports, research notes, clippings, and manuscripts that document the Readex Microprint Corporation's development of Microprint technologies as well as Albert Boni's composition of bibliographies on photographic literature. The collection is arranged in three series: I. Readex Microprint Corporation Research, 1932-1970, undated; II. Index to the Literature of Photography, 1932-1950, undated; and III. Photographic Literature, undated.

Series I. Readex Microprint Corporation Research contains records and research materials that reflect the functioning of Readex Microprint Corporation from its founding, circa 1939, until 1970, with an emphasis on its development of Microprint technologies during the late 1950s and 1960s.

A large portion of materials within this series reflects Readex's negotiations and collaborations with scientists at Philips Research Laboratories in Eindhoven, Netherlands. With the assistance of Jan Boeke, a research consultant hired by Readex, Albert Boni and his associate P. A. van der Meulen entered into an agreement permitting Readex to license photographic film processes developed at Philips. The relationship with Philips is documented in correspondence, research reports, clippings, patent documents, and notes. Of note are reports and research notes concerning the P. D. [Physical Development] process. Invented by Philips scientists Hendrik Jonker and C. J. (Cornelis Johannes) Dippel, the P. D. process is an intermediate photosensitive process that falls between the "expensive silver halide emulsion process and the inexpensive diazotype sensitizing process."

Also included in Series I. are Photographic Film Patent and A. B. Film materials consisting of lab reports, samples, patent applications, and correspondence relating to Readex's own efforts to develop and patent its improvements to the photographic film process. Other materials in the series include advertising pamphlets by Readex and other film and book publishers, as well as bibliographies of and research notes on potential subject matter for Readex Microprint publications.

Series II. Index to the Literature of Photography contains correspondence, research notes, lists, and manuscript fragments for a work that Boni labeled 'Index to the Literature of Photography.' Boni's lists include subject headings from A to Z, but typescript drafts (some with handwritten corrections) are present only for entries under the letter A. Also present are unidentified carbon copy chapter bibliographies originally filed with one of the Index typescripts. Although Boni did not publish a work titled 'Index to the Literature of Photography,' much of this material corresponds with entries that appear in his various published works on photographic literature.

Series III consists of a published copy of the Albert Boni's Photographic Literature; An International Bibliographic Guide to General and Specialized Literature on Photographic Processes, Techniques, Theory, Chemistry, Physics, Apparatus, Materials & Applications, Industry, History, Biography, Aesthetics (1962) containing handwritten corrections and additions. These corrections do not appear in Boni's Photographic Literature, 1960-1970 (1972), which was a supplemental volume covering the decade of the 1960s.

The collection is in good condition with the exception of composite work sheets that hold film and microprint samples. These are fragile and require special handling. The majority of the collection is in English, although some Dutch correspondence and documents are present.


The Ransom Center's Book Collection contains numerous books published by Albert Boni's various publishing ventures. Boni correspondence is also present in the Center's Edward Nehls Collection. Several other institutions hold research materials for Albert Boni. The New York Public Library's Billy Rose Theatre Division holds an Albert Boni Collection and the University of California, Los Angeles's Charles E. Young Library holds two relevant collections: the Albert and Charles Boni, Inc. Records, circa 1916-1974 and the Albert Boni Collection of Material about Photography, circa 1840-1983.


Organizations

Albert & Charles Boni

North American Philips Co.

Philips Natuurkundig Laboratorium

Readex Microprint Corporation

Subjects

Photography

Publishers and publishing--United States

Document Types

Microforms

Patents

Specifications