Amberley Publishing's "Through Time" series is a format that does a great job of bringing the past to life in a very immediate way, by showing old photographs of the place being covered, and allowing the reader to compare them directly with modern photographs of the same locations. "Dunfermline Through Time" by Eric Simpson & George Robertson shows just how well this approach can be applied, in this case, as the name suggests, to Dunfermline. This is a book that should be considered essential reading, or perhaps that should be "viewing" for anyone with any connection to a town that, at one point in history (though rather before the photographic era), was the favoured residence of Kings and Queens of Scotland.
There are three elements that need to come together well for this sort of book to succeed. The first is the choice of the historical photographs; the second is the care with which the modern photographs have been matched to the historical views in order to illustrate the comparison the authors are seeking to make; and the third is the information provided in the image captions. Eric Simpson is a former history lecturer who has lived in, and written about, western Fife for nearly half a century; and George Robertson is a retired police officer known for his illustrated historical talks. Between them they have produced a book that brings these elements together very effectively indeed. The historical photographs are obviously carefully selected from a much larger collection, and the modern photographs appear to have been carefully taken in order to illustrate the point that is well made in the caption that accompanies each pair of images.
The care in image selection shows very clearly in two images of Dunfermline's lower station. The modern photograph shows a restored steam train passing through: allowing direct comparison with the station, also complete with steam train, in the image taken in 1950. What is particularly nice is that in key areas of the town the authors have not shied away from providing multiple pairs of images. The High Street, for example, is shown in pairs that illustrate how it has evolved since the Edwardian era, and since the 1920s, the 1930s, and the 1940s. This has been done in a way that ensures the modern photographs never duplicate one another, and in at least two cases the effect is almost that of a montage.