Books as props in early studio photography
Posing with a book gives individuals a studious air but photographers also kept books handy as a means steadying the sitter. Exposure time was much longer with early cameras and keeping still to avoid blurring was a real problem.
Bracing an elbow to furniture, a very common pose, is made less awkward by using a book. The stack of books under the elbow in one photo can be increased or decreased to accommodate leaning on the bench by sitters of different heights. In the photo of husband and wife, he is given the book and the seat as he is the master; she is standing and steadies herself by holding onto his arm. He must still have wobbled as the photographer has inked in his pupils to make the photograph look sharper than it is. The teenage boy can hold his head still as his elbow and hand support it, a pose enabled by the book. The awkwardness of the dangling hand below the arm on the table is reduced by the way the photographer has asked the sitter to place her index finger in between the pages as if she is holding her place in the book.