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Early Photographic Processes

The daguerreotype was first announced by its French inventor, Louis-Jacques-Mandé Daguèrre, in 1839 at a meeting of the French Academy of Sciences in Paris.  Americans embraced the process and, by 1850, there were over 70 daguerreotype studios in New York alone.  The ambrotype, which was quicker and cheaper to produce, rapidly replaced the daguerreotype toward the end of the 1850s, but manuals helped spread knowledge of the processes for practitioners.

Charles Louis Chevalier (1804-1859)
Mélanges photographiques. Complément des nouvelles instructions sur l'usage du daguerreotype
Paris : Chez l'auteur, 1844.

Nathan G. Burgess.

The photograph and ambrotype manual : a practical treatise on the art of taking positive and negative photographs on paper and glass.  New York : Wiley & Halsted ; London : Trübner, 1858.


headrests for sale from Thorthwaite

W. H. (William Henry) Thornthwaite.
A guide to photography.  13th edition illustrated with numerous woodcuts.  London : Simpkin, Marshall, 1856.

Shown here is an image of headrests for sale; head rests were used to keep sitters of early portraits still and comfortable during the lengthy exposure time necessary.










Alfred Brothers.Woodburytype from Brothers's manual
Photography: its history, processes, apparatus, and materials : comprising working details of all the more important methods ... with plates by many of the processes described.  London : C. Griffin, 1892.

The image shown in the open volume is a Woodburytype, a process that combines photography and printing by creating a molded relief image on lead, into which warm pigmented gelatin is spread.  When pressed against paper, the resulting print is a precise, continuously-toned image with rich dimensional detail.  The process, named for its inventor, Walter Woodbury, dates to 1864, and was popular for photographic illustrations in books.



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