Information and discussion on all aspects of British photographic history
The ‘Jubilee’ Collection amassed by one of the first specialist antique photographica dealers and collectors in London, the late Beryl Vosburgh will go under the hammer at Special Auction Services in Newbury on Thursday, 3 May and is expected to realise in excess of £30,000.
The auction comprises items from Jubilee Photographica, Beryl's shop as well as those from her own 40-year collection. It comprises a multitude of fine images, including works by Julia Margaret Cameron, William Fox Talbot – one of the founders of modern photography, Angus McBean and Cecil Beaton, theatrical images, Hattie Jacques’ collection of postcards of Gaiety Girls, Daguerreotypes, ambrotypes, photographic jewellery, stereoscopic images, photograph albums and topographical images from around the world. However, the core is several thousand cartes de visite, which are of huge social interest as precursors to photographic postcards, are expected to be very popular amongst collectors. In a time of formal manners and growing interest in photography, it was in Paris in 1857 that the photographer André Disdéri (see images) promoted the idea of putting a small albumen photographic print on a visiting card and Nadar, also in Paris, soon followed suit (see images). Studios opened in major cities around the world and the exchange of cartes became a craze; soon most towns of any size in wealthier countries housed studios. The collection focuses strongly on the glorious early years up to the mid-1860s, exemplified by the London-based Frenchman Camille Silvy (see images), whose cartes show unrivalled crispness, depth of tone and compositional skill. The majority of the images show individuals sitting or standing – sometimes in discomfort owing to the length of exposure – in studios, but Beryl’s attention means that she collected enchanting family groups, children with toys and dolls, cartes taken outside, views around the world, sitters in British India and other parts of the Empire, as well as circus attractions, famous politicians and royalty.
One carte from around 1860 shows the popular comic actor Edward Sothern sporting huge side whiskers as the amiable but foolish aristocrat Lord Dundreary in the British play ‘Our American Cousin’ by Tom Taylor. It was from this that the bushy sideburns were give the name ‘Dundreary whiskers’ and the image reflects the changing times, with Victorians being depicted in a less refined and stuffy way. Another depicts a young man photographed in India with dark hair and a beard who lost an arm, probably in the Indian Mutiny of 1857. Lot estimates range from £50 to £80 upwards, making history affordable.
Hugo Marsh, Director at Special Auction Services says: “This really is a fascinating collection and a real reflection of social history. Beryl made her career out of buying and selling but it was her passion more than a job; she also took very special care sorting her cartes de visite into categories thus indicating her dedication to defining and presenting the past in the best possible way. We have not seen a collection this large since the 1990s and we anticipate the lots being very popular with collectors in the UK as well as worldwide.”
The catalogue will be published here shortly.
BPH published an obituary of Beryl Vosburgh here.
About Beryl Vosburgh
Jubilee Photographica started life as a general antique stall in Camden Passage market in the mid-1960s. Beryl and her best friend Judy Moraes used to fill their toddlers’ pushchairs with antiques and wheel stock from their Islington homes to Camden Passage each week. There was such a high demand for their carefully selected dolls, lace, china, ephemera and photographica that the pushchairs' suspension couldn't take it anymore and they decided to get a permanent shop to sell their wares.
As she confessed she preferred spending time with the camera and photograph collectors to the doll people, so Jubilee focused on selling photographica and soon became an institution. It was one of the very first places in London where you could buy Daguerrotypes, ambrotypes, union cases, cartes de visite, cabinet cards, topographical prints, famous photographers, albums, stereo cards and viewers, old cameras and lenses, photographic jewellery, magic lanterns and slides all under one roof and in some volume. It was the go-to destination for those interested in the history of photography mostly due to Beryl's great eye and knowledge, but also because of her reasonable prices and friendly welcome. Collectors would be waiting outside the shop before it opened and were still there with a pile of images on their laps at closing time. Beryl couldn't help offering discounts to anyone she liked or thought needed encouraging in their collecting.
She was notorious for her own unique categorisation, especially of the cartes in her shop with sections for: "Photographers Who've Changed Addresses", "Nice Hats", "Pretty Crinolines" and even "Why Did They Go To The Photographers?"
A variety of well-known personalities discovered Jubilee and crossed her threshold including Terence Donovan, Derek Jarman, Dustin Hoffman and even Michael Jackson!
Beryl was a regular at every specialist photographica auction and event. Her list of clients grew to become a ‘Who's Who’ of leading lights in the photography world from prominent collectors such as Michael G Wilson and Brian May to institutions such as the Kodak Museum and the National Portrait Gallery.
As well as being a well-respected dealer and passionate collector, Beryl was an actress and Radio and TV presenter. She trained at RADA in the 1950s where she met Dick Vosburgh (1929-2007), the writer, lyricist, actor and broadcaster. They married in 1953 and had six children. After graduating from RADA Beryl was snapped up by the BBC for their radio series: "The Younger Generation Under 21 Parade" which she starred in for two years gaining celebrity status at the time. She went onto appear in many radio and TV shows including "Mrs Dale's Diaries"; the 1961 film: "A Little Of What She Fancied"; the Associated Rediffusion series "No Hiding Place"; and in the aptly named "Jubilee" gala at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane.
In 1965 she became one of the regular presenters of the popular BBC children's programme Play School.
Beryl was also a professional photographer. She supported her husband Dick's successful career often assisting him when he had plays on Broadway, on tour and in the West End and looking after the children when Dick was heavily involved in a project. As a result her acting career was often put on hold but photography became something she could do to bridge the gap and she never went anywhere without her camera. Her work primarily focused on London street photography in the early 1970s and she went onto photograph numerous theatrical productions and take headshots and Spotlight pictures of countless leading actors and actresses. She took photos for Millers Antique guides and was a regular at Rencontres d’Arles and Bièvres Internationale.
Furthering her passion for photography Beryl wrote articles for many magazines on collecting photographica and taking pictures; she was a founding member of the Royal Photographic Society Historical Group and the Magic Lantern Society. She often lent items from her own collection to be reproduced in books relating to the history of photography.
In the 1980s she acquired the late Hattie Jacques' collection of Grandpas' Lovelies and regularly gave lectures on these Edwardian music hall beauties (such as Zena and Phyllis Dare, Marie Studholme and Gladys Cooper). She also lectured on other specialisms including Islington photographers, interesting backs of cartes and rare magic lantern slides. She travelled the World buying and selling images and regularly had stalls at photo fairs in London, France and New York. She had a huge amount of like-minded friends in far flung places who often wrote to her asking her to look out for their specialist subject matters.
Jubilee finally closed in 2002 after over 30 years of trading when rising rents and business rates made it hard to make a profit and Beryl felt the need to slow down. Testament to the relationships forged over the years she sent out a note to clients and friends saying: "Beryl is retiring from Jubilee Photographica on 23rd March 2002. There will be sherry and crisps and Kleenex available. Goodbye and I love you all!"
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