My long-time interest has been photography. I bought my first photography books in the early 1960s, at a time when there were few galleries, museums, or auction houses showing photographs. Through books, you can see a lot. My focus gradually centered on photography in the 19th century. I was attracted to the picture of an earlier time, and to the visions shown by early practitioners. I acquired technical manuals and books illustrated with tipped-in photos and photomechanical reproductions.
For the current show I’ve chosen to feature Ernest Edwards, a photographer-publisher, born in England in 1837, whose career spanned the late 1800s and encompassed numerous photographic processes. Edwards had a portrait studio in London during the 1860s, and produced eight volumes picturing distinguished individuals, along with providing photographs for George’s The Oberland and its Glaciers. Late that decade he patented a version of the collotype printing process called the ‘heliotype’. Edwards sold the American rights to the Boston publisher James Osgood in 1872, and moved to Boston to head The Heliotype Printing Company. In 1885 he founded, in New York, The Photo-Gravure Company (subsequently renamed The New York Photo-Gravure Company), which printed the 781 plates for Muybridge’s 11-volume Animal Locomotion.
La Photographie: Ses Origines, ses progrès, ses transformations.
Louis Désiré Blanquart-Evrard. Paris: Didron & Lille: Chez L. Quarré, 1870. Tipped-in plate: “Photographie au charbon de M. Ernest Edwards, de Londres.”
This well-known treatise, originally published a year earlier, is an historical survey of the first thirty years of photography, presenting examples of numerous different photographic processes. It appears that the author considered Edwards important enough to include his work alongside that of a largely continental group of photographers---Maxime Du Camp, Adolphe Braun, Édouard Baldus, and others. The 1869 edition also contains a portrait by Edwards, with its subject being a young lady.
The Heliotype Process. With Twenty-Eight Illustrations.
Ernest Edwards. Boston: James R. Osgood and Company, 1876. Plate 26: “Copied from samples of lace”.
This promotional volume for Edwards’ photomechanical process was produced for Osgood’s display at the Centennial in Philadelphia and emphasized the heliotype’s value for the reproduction of art works and copying of documents. Edwards’ 8-page introduction notes that heliotypes could be produced rapidly, at moderate costs, and with no need for mounting. Pictured here is a subject chosen likewise three decades earlier, by William Henry Fox Talbot, to exhibit the literal faithfulness of the photograph.
Sun & Shade: An Artistic Periodical.
New York: New York Photo-Gravure Company. Vol. II, 1889-1890. Plate 61: “A Study in Japanese”, by Catherine Weed Barnes.
The New York Photo-Gravure Company, with Edwards as president, specialized in the photogravure, photogelatine, and half-tone processes. In July 1888 appeared the first issue of a ‘novel adventure in journalism’, the periodical Sun & Shade, which ran until March 1896. Each monthly issue contained eight or more illustrations, produced on paper 11 x 14 inches in size. Its publication was “free from the slightest taint of advertising”, and aimed to be an educational, artistic journal.