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I have this Vernon Heath albumen photograph in my possession that I purchased about seven years ago here in New England. It's in its original frame and the photograph itself measures 19 1/4" h x 26 1/4"w. It's possible that this example is an enlargement from a smaller glass negative as I'm aware of Heath's innovations in this regard. Although, does anyone know whether he did employ mammoth plates?

In his book entitled "Vernon Heath's Recollections" (Cassell & Co., London, 1892) Heath writes in chapter VII, page 61; "I recollect two negatives that I obtained in 1862-one at Cookham, the other at Roe-Hampton:the former the horse chestnut tree at the angle of the backwater". Could this be that photograph described?

In addition, written on the back of the photograph in pencil is "Vernon Heath". I have no way of knowing whether it's his signature as I've never come across an example. But it's possible that this particular photograph was entered into a photo exhibition (London?) and that the person who received it wrote Heath's name on the back for proper identification as it hung on a wall or in an exhibition catalog. Does anyone have any information that might help me determine whether indeed this is the case with this photograph?

I thank you for your time and consideration.

John Minichiello
Providence, RI

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Comment by John Minichiello on July 22, 2016 at 23:47

Hi Ken,

Thank you for your generous reply. While I have done some research as best as I can, it's always great to have the opinion and /or advice of the experts!

Perhaps it is, after all, a carbon print. I've thought about that possibility (sometimes it's difficult to be sure) and in light of the information you've provided me about Heath and his practices, it seems very likely that it would be an enlargement from a smaller sized negative. 

In addition, I appreciate your thoughts about it not necessarily being an exhibition print, as I had conjectured. Perhaps the signature is Heath's, and it's merely the perfectly understandable action of an artist signing his work!

Kind regards,

John

Comment by Ken Jacobson on July 22, 2016 at 11:54

Dear John,

The print you have is typical of Heath's large carbon print enlargements (do you think this is carbon ?). They are not at all common but I have had and seen a number over the years. He loved beautiful trees and produced some spectacular photographs like your one.

I don't think he had a mammoth -plate camera because, as you have discovered, he was so proud of his enlargement technique. I recollect that he once bragged that an enormous carbon print ("Autotype") enlargement from an 8 x 10 inch negative was sharper than a contact print from the same negative [seems unlikely?]. He claimed to have made enlargements as big as 53 x 43 inches! He won a gold medal at the 1878 Exposition Universelle in Paris for what Davanne described as "les très remarquables  agrandissements de paysages".

I don't know if this negative was taken at Cookham in 1862. I believe he made some carbon enlargements (began in the 1870s) from older negatives but I don't know if this was a habit.

I don't see why this should necessarily be an exhibition print. Heath was quite commercial and Murray & Heath had a prominent shop window on Piccadilly. My guess is that his landscape enlargements sold well but that many of the prints were thrown away over the years because few wanted to store the cumbersome frames that housed the works. Interestingly, one rarely sees the same large Vernon Heath enlargement twice. I have never seen yours.

It seems you have already done much of the research. I hope this helps a little more.

Best,

Ken Jacobson

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