British photographic history

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Hi All,

I bought this wood block photo at an estate sale in New Jersey, USA.  To my untrained eye, it looks like it would be used to make prints of this photo.  It is etched in some parts such as the gentleman's face and hair.  Would love to hear what you experts might be able to tell me based on the attached photos, e.g. photo method, age, purpose, etc.

Thanks in advance,

Ben 

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Very interesting object. This is a portrait of Hiram Sibley (February 6, 1807 – July 12, 1888) an American industrialist, entrepreneur, and philanthropist. I will leave you to decide if this is the block for the print below! I don't think it is - the lines in the bow tie run horizontally in the block... More about him here if it helps...

https://wikivisually.com/wiki/Pacific_Telegraph_Act_of_1860

 
 

Thanks Dr. Joe for the informative response!  Not sure how you figured out the person in the photo (perhaps you made out the writing on the back, which now that you gave me the name, I can see written on the back but could not make out before that)?  If that's the case, perhaps you can read the other words on the back, which I still cannot?

Do you have any ideas on how this printing block was made, e..g. the photography methods/types used and how and what type of printing would be done with something like this?

Appreciate your expertise!

- Ben

I'm afraid I can't add anything more sensible. However, in my reading today I came across a mention of printing on wood blocks in the British Journal of Photography (1 December 1863 p. 472). It was at a meeting of the Edinburgh Photographic Society on 18 November 1863. It seems that the wet collodion emulsion was simply applied to the surface.... and you can see that on your example.

I hope this is of interest;

Thanks Dr. Joe.  Very interesting that you found this excerpt.  This does bring some light to my photographic block.
 
Dr. Joe Rock said:

I'm afraid I can't add anything more sensible. However, in my reading today I came across a mention of printing on wood blocks in the British Journal of Photography (1 December 1863 p. 472). It was at a meeting of the Edinburgh Photographic Society on 18 November 1863. It seems that the wet collodion emulsion was simply applied to the surface.... and you can see that on your example.

I hope this is of interest;

Hello again,

I came across this report in the British Journal of Photography in 1869 which may add to the ref. above. You should be able to scroll down to the second part if it should be of interest.

https://archive.org/stream/britishjournalof16unse#page/325/mode/1up...

Cheers,

Joe

Thanks Dr. Joe.  Very interesting discussion of the wood block photo engraving process, seemingly at the dawn of using such a method, with a lot of trial and error to perfect it.

Photo-on-wood was being experimented with at the end of the 1840s. The Illustrated London News was shown samples of the process in 1851... But did not adopt it for its illustrations for another decade. Thomas Bolton was known (and credited) for his photo-on-wood illustrations in the early 1860s. Hope this helps!!

Thanks Anthony.  This helps my understanding of the chronology.

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