British photographic history

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Carte de Visite mugshots and 1800´s crime related photography.



My name is Tomas and im from Sweden. Just joined this group to hopefully connect with someone who share my specific interest in photographic history. I collect crime/murder related photos in the CDV/Cabinet Card format. I also have an immense passion for 1800´s carte de visite/cabinet card mug shots/police booking photos and enjoy avid collecting of such as well. Do you, or any fellow collector that you know, have any 1800´s/victorian/turn of the century CDV mug shots?

I would also love to get in contact with any collector that might have what I'm looking for, but most important with an interest in this specific niche of CDV's/cabinet cards.
I really hope to hear back from you regarding the above.
Thanks and happy collecting to all! 
Best regards.//Tomas.

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If it helps, there were two BPH postings relating to mug shots of 19th century criminals which you can read about it here and here. Unfortunately, they're not from a private collection but might be a good background read. Hope it helps and good luck with your collection.

Saw these today...

Not many but may be of interest to you.


Dear Tomas,

You may be interested to know that Bedford and Luton Archives based at County Hall in Bedford have a very interesting register of Bedford Prison which contains Carte de Visite photographs taken in the 19th Century by the Prison Governor who was an early enthusiast of photography. Each photograph is accompanied by information on the prisoner. I remember that a special painted backdrop of a prison cell had been painted to sit the inmate in front of.

The Archive Conservator, Pamela Birch may be able to give you more information or pass you to an archivist with detailed knowledge of this register. She can be contacted by e-mail at this address:

I hope you find this of interest.


Hi Tomas, This item on criminal photography in Wales should be of interest: Cheers! Marcel

Hi Tomas,

In the 2008 issue of Studies in Photography (the annual periodical of the Scottish Society of the History of Photography), there was a two page article by Sara Stevenson, the former curator of the Photographic Collections in the Scottish National Portrait Gallery, on 'Photography and the Police - Glasgow 1854' which examines a report of the Glasgow police having daguerrotype portraits made of criminals. If this would be of ijterest to you, I could scan the two pages and e-mail them to you.

Best wishes,



I've just joined here and thought you'd like to know that I have a CdV of a prisoner, taken around the 1870's to mid 1880's by a Nottingham photographer. The photographer details are on both the front and back of the CdV, as was usual for that period.

When I first acquired it I thought it may have been taken as a "music hall" type of shot, by that I mean for a stage production. Lately though I have seen genuine prisoner photos from the same period and they also have the same sort of number identification on the prisoner as mine does, and I now think this is genuinely a prisoner, probably in Nottingham Jail.

I also have to tell you that this man also has an extra little finger on his left hand!

I'm presently waiting for a 'phone call from a lady in Nottingham who is very experienced with the prisoner photos of that period, hopefully she'll be able to give me more information. I'd be happy to send you a scan of this if you wish. In all the years I've been collecting CdV's I've never seen another genuine CdV (from a professional photographer), that shows a prisoner. I've also spoken quite a while ago now to Roger Vaughan, who has an extensive knowledge of CdV's, and he's never seen or heard of one either!"




This recent blog posting by Colin Harding at the National Media Museum, Bradford, might be of interest:


Hi Michael,


Thanks for the link, interesting read indeed!

I have now also expanded my topic of interest to 19th century CDV´s (and cabinet cards) with murderers and victims of murder. For reference consult link:


Please contact me should anyone have these kind of CDV´s in their collection.


Thanks a lot and happy collecting!


Barbara Levine of Project B has quite an amazing collection of vernacular photos and may know of a source for you.


James Berry the public executioner from Heckmondwike and ex Bradford policeman kept an album of the people that he dispatched. When he hanged Mary Ann  Britland he didn’t have her photo so he wrote to the Ashton Chief constable. “ Sir – I would take it as a favour if you would send me a carte-de-visite of Mary Ann Britland, the Ashton prisoner whom I executed at Her Majesty’s prison, Strangeways, Manchester. I did not hear them selling outside the prison, and I thought I should like one to put to my collection of murderers, whom I have hung on different occasions. I herewith enclose you my card, trusting you will send me one, or give me the address of the photographer. – I am sir yours faithfully James Berry, executioner” Mr Danglish duly complied with the request.

I don't know if this album still exists, perhaps someone else might know.. 

Berry wrote his life story, the book was edited by Henry Snowden Ward and published by Percy Lund. It is available to read online.


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