“ONE OF THE MOST RENOWNED OF 19TH-CENTURY PHOTOBOOKS”: FRANCIS FRITH’S EGYPT AND PALESTINE, WITH 76 VINTAGE FOLIO ALBUMEN PRINTS
(EGYPT) (HOLY LAND) FRITH, Francis. Egypt and Palestine Photographed and Described. London: James S. Virtue, [1858-1859]. Two volumes. Folio (13 by 18 inches),original full burgundy morocco gilt, elaborately gilt-decorated spines and boards, raised bands, marbled endpapers, all edges gilt.
First edition of Frith’s masterful two-volume work, containing 76 vintage mounted albumen prints from wet-collodion negatives of Egyptian and Palestinian antiquities, preserving their integrity from “the corroding tooth of Time, and the ceaseless drifting of the remorseless sand.” Prints fine, most signed and numbered by Frith in the negative, in handsome original morocco-gilt bindings.
Frith’s photographs of Egypt and the Holy Land, some of the earliest and most sought-after images of the Near East, established his reputation as one of the most important photographers of the 19th century. “One of the most renowned of 19th-century photobooks,” Frith’s prints in Egypt and Palestine are “justly famous… as much for their technical as for their artistic achievement” (Parr & Badger I:28). “The books of Francis Frith inaugurated the first golden age of albumen-silver photographic illustration (1860-80)… One of the most outspoken on the esthetics of photography, Frith was among the first photographers to successfully seize the opportunity of using the recently perfected glass-negative and albumen print process to establish a reputation as a master photographic book illustrator… During September, 1856 to July, 1857, he journeyed to Egypt, Palestine, and Syria, where he made full-plate and stereo negatives. Upon his return [to England] they were published under the title Egypt and Palestine Photographed and Described (1858-59), in which every photograph was faced with a page or more of descriptive text… He writes in a chatty, discursive manner, often including remarks about how he made a picture, while discussing the history of a particular monument… the photographs communicate special information ranging from the graffiti on the stones to the amorphous piles of rubble that have, by comparison, a crystalline clarity and definition” (Truthful Lens, 30-31). The crisp quality of Frith’s images is remarkable since he was forced to develop his wet-plate negatives in caves, tombs and temples to escape the heat and strong light of the desert. Subscribers List (II). Truthful Lens 61. Gift bookplate (I). Several embossed library stamps. Small shelf numbers to lower margins of contents pages.
Prints exceptionally fine, lightest scattered foxing to text and mounts, slight rubbing, mild toning to boards. Volume I text block and inner hinges expertly repaired. A splendid about-fine copy, rare in this condition.