Frederick William Broadhead's Shillingsworth Souvenir Publication
Written by Matthew Broadhead
F. W. B. published a version of ‘The Belvoir Castle Souvenir Twelve Permanent Photographs of the Interior and Exterior of Belvoir Castle for One Shilling’ when he was based at the Museum Studio at New Walk, Leicester. From the address, it is likely that this particular edition was released at some point between the years 1891-95. This was the only publication aside from the earlier album of photographs that was privately forwarded to the Prince and Princess of Wales after they visited Leicester in 1882. This small item was entirely photographed and published by F. W. B. on an independent basis, consisting of one accordion-folded sheet, formed of two sheets joined in the middle, in a binding. A local writer for the Leicester Journal dated 28th May 1886 provides more detail about this item:
“While alluding to local art matters let us favourably mention a tastefully bound (in crimson and gold) souvenir of Belvoir Castle, just issued by Mr. F. W. Broadhead, photographer, of Leicester. This artistic little photographic handbook to Belvoir contains three capital external views of the Castle, a view of the Spring Gardens (from the Duke’s Walk) so graphically described by Lady John Manners in a recent paper, and interior views of the ball-room, picture gallery, library, Regent’s gallery, armoury, Elizabeth saloon, the chapel, and Mausoleum, all faithful reproductions of larger views taken upon the spot. Altogether this is the cheapest and most interesting shillingsworth we have lately seen, redolent with associations of an ancestral and historic pile, of which we hope to obtain verbal descriptions in a rural ramble shortly.”
The aim is to determine what factors prompted F. W. B. to print a set of photographs of Belvoir Castle and assemble them in this kind of package. We know that the earliest mention of this product was in 1886, which suggests that he potentially printed and bound them on a continuous basis for up to a decade or more. This suggests that it was financially worth his while for production to take place, especially if he could coordinate supply with demand. It is not known if he practiced bookbinding but it is likely that the entire operation was executed independently. If we look closer at these photographs specifically, a vital clue is F. W. B.’s use of the word ‘permanent’ which would have been more than a marketing ploy to encourage sales. He was a licensee for the Lambertype for which patents were purchased by the Autotype Company from Claude Leon Lambert in 1876. Originally christened as Chromotype, it was a carbon process that yielded a permanent photograph. Despite the obvious benefits of this, standard silver albumen prints form the majority of his work that has survived into the present. This would have been due to the cost of licensing with extra processing that made it too expensive for many customers. F. W. B. was also a licensee for the platinotype process, which was invented by William Willis who patented it in 1873. A second patent issued in 1878 changed out the use of silver nitrate in favor of palladium as an image-forming metal. Shortly after in 1879 Willis formed the Platinotype Company in London which was instrumental in promoting the platinotype process through a variety of supplies that were manufactured. There was then a third and final patent which excluded both silver and lead in favor of increasing platinum compounds in the sensitizing solution. This led to the first commercial platinotype paper being offered for sale in 1880 which were ‘hot developed’. It was not until 1892 that ‘cold’ developed papers became available. This process was widely used by professional, art, and amateur photographers from about 1888 until the beginning of the first World War. The process was used by commercial photographers for high-end portraiture as platinum is the most stable metal found in nature making it preferable to silver based prints for this type of work. Like the Lambertype process, platinotype produced permanent prints. They were considered the most durable of all prints in existence.
The word ‘photographs’ used in his title suggests that this souvenir guide was not printed lithographically, whether it was by photoengraving (photolithography) or offset printing. Permanent inks could be used with any of these processes, but it is highly doubtful that the word photography would have been used if they were not specifically photographic prints. Photographs made using the Lambertype process usually had a glazed finish, were identified on the mount, and were generally produced between 1876-83. (Leyshon, 2001) Platinotype prints on the other hand seem like they would have been an expensive option for a souvenir guide that was priced at one shilling (otherwise described as a ‘shillingsworth’) as this would have been around £15 in today’s money. In response to the problem of fading silver prints, Joseph Wilson Swan invented the carbon process in 1864. He patented this, before selling the English rights in 1868 to a chemist, John Richard Johnson, and a photographer, Ernest Edwards who were both of London. The rights were also acquired that year by the newly formed Autotype (Printing and Publishing) Company. “The merits of the carbon process, rich tonal range and, particularly, its permanence soon commended itself to other photographic entrepreneurs. Almost immediately, rivals announced a series of doubtful ‘improvements’ to the process and the company was forced to assert its patent rights.” (Hannavy, 2007) After successfully defending their position, Johnson started working on improvements to Swan’s original process filing new patents in 1869 and 1870. The business started supplying carbon printing materials and making carbon prints, moving their London office next door to the artists’ suppliers Windsor & Newton. In 1871, “a photo-collographic printing department was added to the Ealing factory under the management of J.R.M. Sawyer and W.S. Bird. It also acquired the expertise of J.A. Spencer by amalgamating with his independent carbon printing business.” (Hannavy, 2007) In 1873 Spencer, Sawyer, Bird and Co. was formed. They purchased the Autotype Fine Art Company two years later which, by this time, was trading worldwide and developing a growing reputation for high quality carbon print reproductions of fine art and photographs. Whilst it is possible that F. W. B. carried out carbon printing of each photograph himself, it is more likely that the Autotype Fine Art Company fulfilled this work in the required quantity.
Carbon printing tissue found a new market through its use for photogravure of which the Autotype Fine Art Company made their own version known as ‘autogravure’ as a result of being amongst the first to experiment with this process. This means of producing book and periodical illustrations emerged from a long history of research and trials carried out by William Henry Fox Talbot and Karel Klič. Klič announced the photogravure process in 1879 but did not publish details or patent his process instead sharing it as a trade secret with printing firms in Austria and Germany. Dusan C. Stulik wrote that “unvarnished, hand-pulled photogravure prints are characterized by their high-quality ‘photographic look,’ well-developed details, and broad tonal range. The surface is matte and the image can be printed in almost any colour. Most photogravure prints were printed in black and various shades of brown, dark green, and blue to mimic tonalities of original untoned or toned photographic prints.” (Stulik and Kaplan, 2013) As the Autotype Fine Art Company were printers and publishers, it would make sense that they completed production from start to finish for F. W. B.’s publication which would have included printing, assembly, binding, and finishing. The process for photogravure basically resulted in a high-quality intaglio plate that could reproduce continuous tones. Although there would have been most costly to get these plates made, they could be cleaned after a first run and kept in storage should they be needed again. This explains why F. W. B. offered this publication for such a long period of time, as it would have been more cost effective to do so. When he moved addresses, the manufacturer simply changed the details on the front cover to reflect this.
Hannavy, J., 2007. Encyclopedia of Nineteenth-Century Photography. 1st ed. New York: Routledge.
Leyshon, W., 2001. Photographs from the 19th Century: A Process Identification Guide. [ebook] Available at: <https://history.denverlibrary.org/sites/history/files/Photographs_from_the_19century.pdf>.
Stulik, D. and Kaplan, A., 2013. The Atlas of Analytical Signatures of Photographic Processes. 1st ed. Los Angeles: The Getty Conservation Institute.