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According to the British writer, George Bernhard Shaw: "This collection of photographs of London has been in preparation by Mr. Coburn for the past five years, but technically they represent the latest development of his art. ... Recognizing... that in photogravure he has now, as the impressions in this volume show, won the same command of it as his earlier methods and can not only produce prints comparable to his finest achievements in gum-platinotype, but reproduce them with a certainty at a cost which makes such a publication as the present possible." London, published in the year Coburn moved there from the United States, was his first important book with photogravures. Curiously, a smaller-format edition of the book was published in Minneapolis in 1914, with a different set of images.

Coburn, one of the youngest members of Alfred Stiegliz's Photo-Secession group, worked primarily as a portrait photographer and book illustrator, pursuits that frequently complemented one another. In his early twenties he befriended Shaw, who happily introduced Coburn to many of his fellow writers, whose books he subsequently illustrated.

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