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Cathedrals and cloisters of France
by Elise Whitlock Rose,
with photographs by Vida Hunt Francis

Cathedralsandcloisters - Midland France

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The Cathedrals and cloisters of France
the books
map of cathedrals in France, 1910
Elise Whitlock Rose
Vida Hunt Francis
platinotype photography
end notes

related pages:

Click for an introduction to cathedrals and stained glass in France.

The Cathedrals and cloisters of France

Cathedrals and cloisters - set of eight books

An American, Elise Whitlock Rose, made a grand tour of France studying and recording her findings and impressions of the many cathedrals in France, together with their cloisters.

She published her studies as a series of four sets of books, each in two volumes, for

  • Northern France,
  • the Isle de France - Bourges-Troyes-Reims, and Rouen,
  • Midland France - Burgundy-Savoy-Dauphiné-Auvergne-Acquitaine, and
  • the South of France - Provence-Languedoc-Gascony.

“These ... volumes ... are the fruit of many successive summers spent in wanderings in “rare unspoilt France” where the tourist and his suit-case are practically unknown.

“The authors introduce, in photograph and story,the cathedral of the ... provinces, as they exist to-day [just before World War One], with their architectural and historical peculiarities; and they add incidentally certain illuminating bits of church politics and psychology, for the ecclesiastical traditions of France go back to the first years of the Christian era.”
[End paper fluff from the Publishers]

The books were first published progressively from 1906. The last volume was published in 1914, the United States being then still unaffected by World War One, and Elise Whitlock Rose having finished her researches in France in time.

The books were splendidly photographically illustrated by Elise Whitlock Rose’s friend, Vida Hunt Francis. Vida used platinum-based film, which provides very detailed images of great durability.

Despite comments from others that Rose’s books are not good, the Cathedrals and Cloisters series is the most useful set of books on French cathedrals I have found.

the books

Published by G. Putnam’s Sons, under the imprimatur of the Knickerbocker Press, these books came in two editions. There was a cheaper version with blue cloth covers and red printing. There are also available several modern facsimiles and scanned, then printed, versions of highly variable quality. There are also some scans of varying quality on the Internet. There are some reasonable web versions that can give an idea of the photographs, but the reproductions tend not to be as subtle as the platinotype-derived pictures in the original books.

The ruins of Maillezais cathedral, Abbaye Saint Pierre
The ruins of Maillezais cathedral, Abbaye Saint Pierre
photo: Vida Hunt Francis
Cathedrals and cloisters of Midland France, vol.1, p.19

The superior version was

“With 4 Photogravure and 200 other Photographs and a Map. 2 volumes, cloth extra, gilt tops, stamped on side with full gilt and color, boxed, per set, net $5.00.”

$5 in current terms would be more like, at least, $200 in modern money [2012]. The few copies that are now available usually sell in the $30 to $50 range for a two-volume sub-set. While they can often be found in fairly clean and usable state, their construction tends to mean that they are a little tired and the gilded covers have lost their sparkle from handling and sun damage. This is especially true of the head and base of the spines, which show more wear and will be chipped.

on buying second-hand books
When buying old books, it is common for the vendors to be economical with the reality and to skate over poor features. Be sure to know which edition you are buying - the superior, or the cheaper version, and which volume of which set. Remember that each region is in two volumes, not in one. Condition is very important in book valuation.

The boxes, or rather cardboard slip covers, are now very rarely seen, as they tend to break over time and were discarded. The paper of the pages was also of a finer quality than the cheap version. The books were supplied unguillotined [untrimmed] so the fore edge of the book is uneven, sometimes with unseparated pages, unlike the cheap version.





Cathedrals and cloisters of Southern FranceCathedrals and cloisters in the South of France
Published 1906

Vol. I
The South of France
293 pages
88 illustrations

Vol. II
293 pages
108 illustrations

Cathedrals and cloisters of Midland FranceCathedrals and cloisters in Midland France
Published 1907

Vol. I
     Midland France
     Architecture in Midland France
400 pages
142 illustrations

Vol. II
     Auvergne (Continued)
361 pages
116 illustrations

Cathedrals and cloisters of the Isle de FranceCathedrals and cloisters of the Isle de France
Published 1910

Vol. I
The Early Gothic
The Mature Gothic
389 pages
126 illustrations

Vol. II
The Mature Gothic (Continued)
The Flamboyant
The Pseudo-Classic
453 pages
135 illustrations

Cathedrals and cloisters of Northern FranceCathedrals and cloisters of Northern France
Published 1914

Vol. 1
     Northern France
     The Nivernais
294 pages
106 illustrations

Vol. II
     French Flanders
333 pages
119 illustrations

A typical cover of the cheaper version of Cathedrals and Cloisters
A typical cover of the cheaper version of Cathedrals and Cloisters

map of cathedrals in France, 1910

Map of cathedrals in France, 1910
click to go to larger version

Elise Whitlock Rose

I think that Elise Whitlock Rose may have been a medical doctor. She may have originated from Pennsylvania. She probably changed her first name from Eliza. She was identified on official consular documents between 1907 to 1918 as "Miss", despite continually referring to herself as "the Traveller", and appearing to hint that she was male in one or two passages.

4 November 1919
5,000 Xmas Presents To Go Abroad

"Now that calls for charitable aid have become less and less insistent, and money is running more freely thru our fingers, a good place to stop, look, listen and then give is at the door of "The Little House of St. Pantaleon."

"Dr. Elizabeth Clarke and Dr. Elise Whitlock-Rose, founders of the "Little House" and prominent women physicians of Philadelphia, who have given not only of their time and money, but also of their professional experience, are extremely anxious to reach between 4,000 and 5,000 lonely little French children this Christmas season. Last year they had 3,000 orphans to take care of, and reached barely 1,500 at Christmas time.

"To quote Dr. Elise Whitlock-Rose. "On Christmas day, I could not help thinking of multitude of 1-500 who received nothing at all. This year we should reach between 4,000 and 5,000, a still more stupendous task. As we are mostly professional people who cannot give in large sums, the effort is to get many, many people to donate what they can. Any sums—even a penny—should be gladly received, for anything counts."

"Christmas is just seven weeks away. If you ignore this appeal for your individual donation, you are not unlike the priest or Levite who knew of the man in need of help on the roadside, and passed by on the other side...."
[Quoted from the Swarthmore Phoenix, student newspaper, via triptych.brynmawr.edu]

The name, Elise Whitlock-Rose, also appears in Catholic World accompanying an article dated May, 1935, on p.223.

Her father was called Wilbur Fish Rose, born in 1866. In 1930, he resided in Philidelphia.

If any reader has more information, please emai abelard [at] abelard.org.

Vida Hunt Francis


Vida Hunt Francis came from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She graduated in 1892 from Smith College where she studied photography and platinum printing [platinotype] with Charles Pancoast and John C. Bullock.

Vida photographed throughout Europe, the Middle East, and the United States. She was commissioned by G. Putnam’s Sons to make the photographic illustrations in The Cathedrals and Cloisters of France.

[Vida’s surname Francis is sometimes spelt Frances.]

Platinotype photography

Usually, black and white photographic prints are made using silver salts suspended in a gelatine or albumen emulsion that coats the paper.

Platinotype photos use a more valuable metal - platinum, often combined with palladium. The metal salts are coated directly on the paper without an emulsion carrier. As there is no emulsion support involved, the resulting photographic print is entirely matt,with the metal salts being partially absorbed into the paper surface in the final print. The result is a picture with warm velvety-black tones, while the tonal range - from dark, through mid-tones to light - is greater, providing a more subtle range of tones.

Platinum prints are the most durable of photographic print processes. Thus, in theory, when manufactured correctly platinum prints can last thousands of years. However, platinum prints produced in the later 19th century and early 20th century were often made on rag paper, and so have deteriorated badly.

The basic platinotype process is called the "hot bath" method. Most platinum prints are made this way. Here, a mixture of ferric oxalate and finely precipitated potassium chloroplatinate is coated onto paper. This is exposed to light through a negative and then developed in a warm potassium oxalate solution.

Making platinum prints stopped as the price of platinum shot up at the beginning of the 20th century. The major photographic manufacturer in the United States, Kodak Eastman, stopped manufacture in 1916. Most platinotype photography stopped at the start of the First World War as available platinum stocks were required for high explosive manufacture. Since then, palladium has been used instead in a similar fashion, giving deeper, warmer blacks and a wider tonal range.

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