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Grolier Club Exhibitions

Vittorio Sella's Photography: In Print

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Leone Sinigaglia.
Climbing in the Dolomites.
London: T. Fisher Unwin, 1896.

Leone Sinigaglia (1868–1944), a native of Turin, was an Italian composer in the circles of Johannes Brahms and Antonín Dvořák. A passionate mountaineer, he was the first great Italian climber in the Dolomites. This English translation of his book, a classic of climbing literature, was published shortly after the Italian edition, one of the first books to include Vittorio Sella’s photography.

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May Norman-Neruda.
The Climbs of Norman-Neruda.
Charleston: Nabu Press, 1899.

Ludwig Norman-Neruda (1864–1898) was an English mountaineer. This book, authored by his wife, May, recounts many of his climbs. This volume is illustrated with many of Vittorio Sella’s early images of the Alps. In the 1890s, Sella’s reputation as a mountain photographer grew, and a variety of authors used his work to illustrate accounts of their alpine climbs and travels.

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Samuel Aitken.
Among the Alps.
Published by the author, 1900.

Samuel Aitken, an English mountaineer, privately published 18 copies of his experiences as a Christmas gift for his family and friends. The book is illustrated with 73 photographs by Vittorio Sella, including, on the title page, his photograph Hospice of the Great Saint Bernard.

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Vittorio Sella and William F. Donkin.
Album of nineteenth-century photographs of mountaineering and the Alps, 1880s.

This album includes Vittorio Sella’s 22 large-format photographs of the Alps from his expeditions from 1882 to 1888 as well as photographs by William F. Donkin, a photographer and mountaineer who died, aged 43, during a climbing expedition to the Caucasus, in 1888.

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Guido Rey.
Peaks and Precipices: Scrambles in the Dolomites and Savoy.
London: T. Fisher Unwin, 1914.

Guido Rey was born in 1861 in Turin. Like his cousin Vittorio Sella, he was inspired to take up mountain climbing by their uncle Quintino Sella. Rey helped open new routes and wrote articles and books on mountaineering. In 1885, he began photographing his expeditions and became recognized both at home and abroad for his photography.


Douglas W. Freshfield.
The Exploration of the Caucasus, 2 vols.
London: Edward Arnold, 1896.

Douglas W. Freshfield (1845–1934) was a British lawyer and mountaineer who served as president of both the Royal Geographical Society and the Alpine Club. Freshfield asked Vittorio Sella to contribute photographs to this book on his explorations of the Caucasus. Freshfield revered Sella’s photographs, writing, “Sella has inherited his uncle’s love of the mountains and the thoroughness he displayed in whatever he undertook. His photographic work above the snow level stands unrivalled for quality and extent.”

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Filippo de Filippi.
The Ascent of Mount St. Elias (Alaska).
London: Archibald Constable and Co., 1900.

This book documents the first of three expeditions that the Duke of the Abruzzi conducted together with Vittorio Sella. Narrated by the Italian surgeon, scholar, and mountaineer Filippo de Filippi, the official recorder of the Duke’s expeditions, it is illustrated with 33 plates by Sella.


Letter from Vittorio Sella to Filippo de Filippi, date unknown.
Found in The Ascent of Mount St. Elias (Alaska).

Vittorio Sella discusses the fate of another explorer associated with the mountaineering club Mazamas in Portland, Oregon. He mentions his preparation for a conference where he was planning to show “lantern slides” of his images from the expedition to Mount Saint Elias.

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Postcard from the Duke of the Abruzzi to Filippo de Filippi, date unknown. Found in The Ascent of Mount Elias (Alaska).

“Dear de Filippi,

It is fine for me . . . I will be in Genoa on Sunday. Would you have lunch at 12:15 at the Concordia . . . Wear your jacket? If you do not approve the annotations you will show them to me on Sunday. I will keep everything ready so that on Sunday we can settle everything regarding the book (Italian and foreign editions). Telegraph if necessary in all parts of the world. I will keep the appendix for two or three days so I can check it against the book I keep in Spezia.

Luigi di Savoia” 


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Douglas W. Freshfield.
“The Glaciers of Kangchenjunga.”
The Geographical Journal 19, no. 4 (April 1902).

Kangchenjunga is the third highest mountain on Earth, located along the border between India and Nepal, about one hundred miles east of Mount Everest. In 1899, the British explorer and writer Douglas Freshfield, accompanied by Vittorio Sella as photographer, explored the peaks and valleys around this mountain.


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Douglas W. Freshfield.
Round Kangchenjunga: A Narrative of Mountain Travel and Exploration.
London: Edward Arnold, 1903.

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Vittorio Sella.
Images de L’Himalaya.
Paris: Encyclopédie Alpina Illustrée, 1941.

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Luigi Amedeo of Savoy, Duke of the Abruzzi.
“The Snows of the Nile. Being an Account of the Exploration of the Peaks, Passes, and Glaciers of Ruwenzori.”
The Geographical Journal 29, no. 2 (February 1907).

In 1906, the Duke of the Abruzzi, together with Vittorio Sella and others, set out to explore and climb the mountains of the Ruwenzori in today’s Uganda, bordering the Democratic Republic of Congo. His team successfully summited many of the peaks in the mountain range. Sella captured photographs not only of the mountains but also the local people and flora. It would be 21 years before climbers stood on these peaks again.


Filippo de Filippi.
London: Archibald Constable and Co., 1908.

This is Filippo de Filippi’s formal account of the expedition to the Ruwenzori mountains in 1906, with a preface by the Duke of the Abruzzi and illustrations by Vittorio Sella.


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Charles E. Fay.
“The World’s Highest Altitudes and First Ascents.”
National Geographic Magazine
20, no. 6 (June 1909).

This account of fifty years of global mountain exploration is illustrated with photographs of the Alps, the Himalayas, and mountains in Alaska and Africa by Vittorio Sella.

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Luigi Amedeo of Savoy, Duke of the Abruzzi.
Viaggio di esplorazione nei Monti del Karakoram. Conferenza in Torino il 16 febbraio 1910.
Turin: Touring, March 12, 1910.

The Duke of the Abruzzi’s first published account of his K2 attempt was presented to the Italian Alpine club in 1910.

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Filippo de Filippi.
Karakoram and Western Himalaya: An Account of the Expedition of H.R.H. the Duke of the Abruzzi.
London: Archibald Constable and Co., 1912.

In 1912, Filippo de Filippi published the official account of the Duke of the Abruzzi’s 1909 expedition to K2. Though the group did not summit the peak, they identified the southeast ridge as the most likely path up the mountain. This path was later named the Abruzzi Ridge and was the route by which the summit was first reached, by Ardito Desio, in 1954.