“THE MOST PROMINENT OF THE EARLY PHOTOGRAPHERS OF EGYPT AND THE HOLY LAND”: FRANCIS FRITH’S SINAI AND PALESTINE, CIRCA 1862, WITH 37 VINTAGE MOUNTED ALBUMEN PRINTED, EXCEPTIONAL IN THEIR “CLARITY, PRECISION AND VISUAL IMPACT”
FRITH, Francis. Sinai and Palestine. London: William Mackenzie, circa 1862. Folio (13 by 17-3/4 inches), original half black morocco gilt, raised bands, original green cloth, marbled endpapers, all edges gilt. $12,500.
Enlarged second edition, the first volume of a four-volume set much preferred over the three-volume 1859-60 edition for the “stronger quality” of its gold-toned prints, with vintage mounted albumen print on first title page and 36 vintage mounted albumen photographs of Jerusalem, Damascus, the Dead Sea, Hebron, Gaza, Mount Lebanon and the Sinai, “some of the most exquisitely detailed images of his day,” most signed and numbered by Frith in the negative.
A founding member of the Liverpool Photographic Society, “Francis Frith is the most prominent of the early photographers of Egypt and the Holy Land. He built his own 16-by-20 inch wet-collodion plate camera, put it in his wicker camper/darkroom, and in 1856 embarked on his first trip up the Nile. The result was a series of pictures that still amaze in terms in their clarity, precision and visual impact. His direct eye-level frontal photography produced some of the most exquisitely detailed images of his day… All told, he made three trips to the Near East and between 1858 and 1862 and produced eight separate photographically illustrated books” (McDarrah, 156-7). “The books of Francis Frith inaugurated the first golden age of albumen-silver photographic illustration (1860-80) during which photographs of great visual strength were supplemented by supportive texts… 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” (Truthful Lens, 30). “His photographs of the landscape and monuments were taken under dangerous and difficult conditions. He slept in tombs and caves and was attacked by wild dogs and brigands; inside an unventilated tent he worked in desert temperatures with collodion chemicals that boiled on the glass plate negatives” he used to process some of the 5-1/2 by 8-1/2 albumen photographs included here, each mounted on a folio sheet measuring 12-by-17 inches (DNB). Considered “the most successful of the photographic entrepreneurs following the calotype era,” Frith created some “of the most renowned 19th-century photobooks” (Parr & Badger I:18, 28). This is the first of four volumes in the second, enlarged edition, preceded by a three-volume edition published 1859-60. “The prints in this edition are of a much stronger quality than those in the first edition having been gold-toned” to help prevent fading (Gernsheim 195). Each vintage print with accompanying text by Frith.
Prints exceptionally clean and free of foxing, slight edge-wear to original boards. A most desirable near-fine copy.