British photographic history

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Reports by the Juries 1851 available at auction

Although BPH is not particularly commercially orientated every so often something comes along which deserves making a fuss of. British auction house Bonhams has a copy of Reports by the Juries (1851) up for auction on 7 June 2011. This particular copy was presented by W H F Talbot to his daughter Matilda in 1860 and come by descent to the present owner so it is reasonable to assume that it has come from Lacock Abbey. The lot is estimated at a very reasonable £20,000-30,000 for what is a rather wonderful item with exceptional provenance.

The lot can be found here and the lot description and footnote is reproduced below:


Lot No: 67•

Exhibition of the Works of Industry of All Nations, 1851. Reports by the Juries on The Subjects in the Thirty Classes into which the Exhibition was Divided, 4. vol., ONE OF FIFTEEN COPIES GIVEN BY THE COMMISSIONERS TO WILLIAM HENRY FOX TALBOT, this copy inscribed by Talbot at the foot of the specially printed tipped-in presentation leaf to "his dear daughter Matilda 1st January 1860", 154 MOUNTED CALOTYPES, captioned on the mounts, images 175 x 224mm., 3 chromolithographed plates by Day & Son, some light occasional foxing (images unaffected), original red morocco by Riviére, title of each volume and the crowned monogram of Victoria and Albert stamped in gilt on covers and spines, red morocco turn-ins with gilt Greek key pattern, blue watered silk endpapers with gilt stamped Royal insignia between Victoria and Albert monograms, g.e, folio (347 x 255mm.), Spicer Brothers, Wholesale Stationers, W. Clowes & Sons, Printers, 1852

Estimate: £20,000 - 30,000, € 23,000 - 34,000
Request Condition Report


As inventor of the calotype, and the holder of the patent, Talbot agreed to accept fifteen copies of the Reports (each valued at £30), in lieu of what he might have received by exercising his rights under the patent for the calotypes used.

Nikolaas Henneman (Talbot's one time photographic assistant) was responsible for printing all 20,150 photographs needed for the Reports, of which 130 copies were printed, from albumenised glass plate negatives and calotype paper negatives by Claude Marie Ferrier and Hugh Owen respectively. Henneman was commissioned by the Royal Commissioners and Executive Committee of the Great Exhibition to undertake the printing of the positives on Talbot's silver chloride paper. However, as Talbot commented at the time, "[the Committee] are so extraordinarily stingy, notwithstanding they have a surplus of £200,000, and make such hard conditions with [Henneman], that it is doubtful whether he will earn anything by his labour" (Gernsheim, p.207). One hundred and thirty copies of the Reports were printed, each set comprising four volumes containing 154 calotype prints, for presentation to Queen Victoria, Prince Albert, Cabinet Ministers, foreign governments and institutions such as the British Museum. The Great Exhibition is today often thought to be synonymous with various decorative arts, but many of the calotypes serve to remind that British engineering and technology were very much in the minds of the Commissioners, including Crampton's locomotive (illustrated) and Naysmyth's steam hammer.

Provenance: William Henry Fox Talbot, presented to his daughter Matilda in 1860; and thence by direct decent to the current owner.

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