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Bonhams: Walter Woodbury and James Page

A rare set of photographic albums of the Dutch East Indies by the pioneering Victorian photographers, Walter Woodbury and James Page, will be auctioned off at a forthcoming sale in early October in Bonhams London.

The Lot features 248 images and is believed to represent one third of the Woodbury & Page studio's total photographic output. It including portraits of notable Indonesian figures, ethnographic studies, Dutch colonial life and topographical views from Sumatra to The Moluccas. It is estimated to sell between £40,000-£50,000.

Details of this lot, including a full description of the albumen albums, can be found here.

Walter B. Woodbury (1834-1885), a Mancunian by birth, is the earliest known photographer of the Dutch East Indies. Aged 18 Woodbury emigrated to Australia in the hope of making his fortune in the Australian gold-fields. However, he was sidetracked by his passion for photography and became one of the leading exponents of the wet-plate process. He went on to hone his skills whilst living in Melbourne and, in 1854, won a medal at the Melbourne Exhibition which resulted in his decision to turn to photography professionally. Whilst in Melbourne he met his future associate, James Page, another British expatriate photographer, and both agreed to leave Australia in 1857 for Batavia and established their studio, Woodbury & Page, in the same year. After mastering the use of wet collodion plates in tropical conditions, Woodbury & Page went from strength to strength. Their work was acclaimed in The British Journal of Photography who reported that it was the first "to show the beauties of tropical scenery ever introduced to [England]" (BJP, 18 September, 1885, p.596) and, in 1859, their photographs were marketed in England by Negretti & Zambra (scientific instrument makers to the Queen). After a short spell back in the UK, Woodbury returned to Java in 1860 and travelled extensively throughout the central and west of the country with Page and his brother, Henry James Woodbury (1836-1873). By 1861 the studio was moved to new premises and renamed Photographisch Atelier van Walter Woodbury where it remained until the company was liquidated in 1908. In 1863 Woodbury returned to England with his Javanese wife and, for the next 12 years, went on to invent prolifically (taking out patents for, amongst other things, optical kaleidoscopes, photographic apparatus and even musical railway signals). His breakthrough came with his patent for the Woodburytype in 1864, the photomechanical printing process which became the most commonly used method to illustrate fine books between 1870 and 1900.

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