Just a picture in an obscure old book

Did the book or the picture come first? Pre-internet the picture would have been seen in the book, but the picture has led the book since around 2015.

Our research on this image began in 2017 by trying to find out where the image came from. Came from as in where it was published. The image was on a number of websites but seemingly without attributation. The image seems to have first resurfaced on a post by Chris Stanley within a Flickr bus group on February 20th 2015.

After trawling through a number of forums the ScimitarWeb and Autosport Nostalgia forums seem to have been at the front of identifying the book the image came from.

The earliest identification of the book, we found, was by user gte4289 from the Coachbuild forum on 8th December 2015.

ScimitarWeb – Post by Stephenl identifies the book 10.27pm Sunday 20th December 2015.

Autosport – The Nostalgia Forum – Post by Roy C identifies the book 7.16am 21st December 2015 presumably after seeing the ScimitarWeb post late the previous night.

The book is Buses, Trolleys & Trams by Chas S Dunbar. Publisher was The Hamlyn Publishing Group Ltd. The first edition was printed in 1967.

Now knowing the book title, the next step was to buy it. Having been reprinted a few times the copy we bought, and refer to, is the third impression from 1969. Later versions which, we believe as have not seen, were printed in China. Our copy was printed in Italy by Arnoldo Mondadori Editore – Verona.

Receiving the book, the image is located on page 54 and is captioned “London buses in Oxford Street, 1962”

So first mystery solved. The year and approximate location. I say approximate location as Oxford Street is long.

Before going further talking about the book, I need to mention that I got in touch with Octopus Publishing who own the rights to the book and checked out the copyright situation. There is an extensive list of photography credits in the back of the book, but, and this is jumping ahead, I could not find the photographer.

The picture research manager from Octopus got in touch and said:

“It won’t be Octopus Publishing’s copyright, but we have no way of knowing now where it came from. This photo was taken 60 years ago, and we don’t have records that go back that far.

Personally, I think you will be OK using it on your website – your use is editorial; it can be taken down if anyone objects; and the image is low res (or could be). Just credit the book and photographer unknown (having checked the book again for any credits), perhaps with a caveat.

However any such use must be at your own risk – we cannot give you permission to reproduce the photograph, only permission to take it from the book.”

So, the above is a problem as the image is on a commercial website but to prove research. A potential solution is to register it as orphan work on the Intellectual Property Office website. However, this solution currently costs over £600.

Therefore, I have had to take a view on this, with that view completely discounting all the unauthorised (I would guess) reproductions across the web. The view is I am using the image for research and not selling the image or making money from it in and of itself, so will not pay the fee. If I get a complaint, simply remove the image from the website.

So a low risk decision, but at least thought about and includes an exit strategy.

So the credit for the picture is “Buses, Trolleys & Trams”, Chas S Dunbar. Octopus Publishing. Photographer unknown.”

The image is poorly printed

On checking with a time served printer, the image is "over-inked" and this throws out the colours somewhat.
The above also creates a "fake" quality for many elements within the image. To clarify, there may well be some fakery.

What was the purpose of the original image?

On the face of it, to represent buses in Oxford Street in 1962. However, it cannot be discounted that the car might have been the subject of the photograph and the image was picked up from, for example, a photograph archive to fulfill a purpose regarding the book.

Deceptive depth and cropping

The image has almost certainly been cropped and has much image depth compression. This makes analysis of it more difficult.