British photographic history

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Research: Roger Fenton Crimea salt print, question about labeling.

This is a recently acquired salt print, 'Col. Dickson, Royal Engineers' by Roger Fenton. It is mounted on the usual large 18 x 24" page. Rather than having the number printed in the title, it is hand written in ink on the obverse. Is this an early 'proof'? A later copy?

Many thanks for any information.

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Comment by David Robert Jones on April 30, 2020 at 13:14

Hi David,

I cannot definitely say whether your print was an original or a later copy. However, as you know, '199'  refers to the number of the portrait in Agnew's catalogue for the London exhibition that began in October 1855 and the date on the page where your print is mounted is 5 April 1856. On page 62 of the book on Roger Fenton by John Hannavy, it says that the first prints were offered to the public for sale in November 1855 and that others were published at intervals over the next four to five months until all were available. It could therefore be an original print dating from this time.

The print title is 'Colonel Dickson, Royal Engineers', but there is no officer with the name of Dickson with the Royal Engineers in a comprehensive list of officers that served in the Crimea compiled by Tony Margrave. However, there was a Lieutenant Colonel Collingwood Dickson (1817-1904), who was in the Royal Artillery. He was awarded the Victoria Cross for his actions in the trenches before Sevastopol as follows: -

On 17 October 1854, when the gun batteries had run short of powder, Lieutenant Colonel Dickson displayed great coolness and contempt of danger in directing the unloading of several powder wagons which had been brought up to the trenches. He personally helped to carry the powder-barrels under heavy fire from the enemy.

I believe your print could be of him.

Hope this helps,

David Robert Jones

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