Archive and Special Collections

Technically it's bread

Owen Simmons was a lecturer at the National School of Bakery in London. He held many bread making and baking distinctions including being the top ranking United Kingdom bread making medalist in 1886. He was an obsessive about bread and his book published in 1903 called ‘The Book Of Bread’ is one of the most curious ‘cookery’ books.

On one level it is a very technical manual about bread making on another it is a surreal photographic essay concerned with the appearance of bread in all its forms as realised in a number of life size photographs of loaves and slices. Although it was not intentional there is a quality about the book that is reminiscent of surrealism, as exemplified by Salvador Dali’s ‘The Art of Farting’ and appendix to his Diary of a Genius.  Simmons book was included in Parr and Badger’s ‘The Photobook: a History Volume 1’  in 2004 and since then many have come to regard it as an artists photobook despite the photographer remaining anonymous, no doubt he was a journeyman employed by Simmons simply to illustrate his technical manual.  Since its inclusion in Parr and Badger it has become very collectible.

The book is part of our Special Collections, and originally came from the Yorkshire Training College of Housecraft, otherwise known as the Yorkshire College of Education and Home Economics, which would eventually become part of Leeds Polytechnic.

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By Dr Keith Rowntree
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