"IMAGES OF CAMEL CARAVANS IN THE DESERT": RARE 19TH-CENTURY ALBUM OF 22 VINTAGE ALBUMEN PRINTS, WITH BÉCHARD'S FAMOUS "ASCENSION DE LA GRAND PYRAMIDE"
(SÉBAH, J. Pascal and BÉCHARD, Emile, et al.). Photograph Album. Twenty-two Albumen Prints of Egypt with Views of the Pyramids. Egypt, circa 1880. Oblong quarto, period style full green morocco gilt, raised bands, gilt and blind-stamped boards, watered silk endpapers; 22 vintage albumen prints (each measuring 8 by 10 inches) mounted on heavy card stock (total of each measuring 10 by 14 inches). $7500.
Original photograph album of the Middle East circa 1880, with 22 splendid exhibition-size albumen prints from glass negatives, featuring the work of renowned photographers J. Pascal Sébah, Émile Béchard, Langahi and others, including Sébah's images of Alexandria's Column of Pompey, Nile yachts and desert vistas, Langahi's view of Nubian tribesmen, and Béchard's iconic image of people climbing the massive stones of the Great Pyramid. Splendidly bound.
Near the end of the 19th century, many "were captivated by photography's capacity to 'take them there' and bring them directly in contact with the long ago and far away" (Parr & Badger I:18). With that, Egypt's majestic pyramids and exotic worlds beckoned. This rare album of 22 vintage albumen prints, characteristically produced for England and France, highlights the work of two highly respected photographers: J. Pascal Sébah and Émile Béchard. The Turkish-born Sébah especially possessed a keen sense of his subjects' "interaction with one another… His outside work involving people is very dramatic: for example, the well-known images of camel caravans in the desert, where a string of camels and their riders walk across the picture place." Those very qualities are seen here in Sébah's "Marshée aux Chameaux" (March of Camels), "Chameliers" (Camels), and his images of crowded bazaars and Nile River yachts. In addition Sébah's striking views of Alexandria include one of its catacombs and another of the Column of Pompey, one of the best known ancient monuments standing today.
Like Sébah, French photographer Béchard worked in Egypt in the 1870s and 80s, where he was "known primarily for his photographs of Egyptian antiquities and archaeological sites… characterized by a dramatic sense of presentation" (Micklewright and Brassey, Victorian Traveler, 118-120). One of his most famous photographs is that featured at the close of this album: "Ascension de la grand pyramide." With the misleading signature of Sébah's brother Cosimi, who ran Sébah's studio after his death, Béchard's evocative view of people climbing the massive stones of the Great Pyramid is one of the era's most iconic. This impressive album also features several unattributed prints: a view of the Great Pyramid and Sphinx that closely resembles Francis Frith's distinctive photograph, panoramas of Smyrna in Sébah's Turkish homeland and the portrait of an Ottoman soldier, together with a print of Nubians astride camels, by Langahi, and the image of a veiled woman seated on a donkey (unclear in-negative caption). With 22 vintage albumen prints from glass negatives, each measuring 8 by 10-1/2 inches, individually mounted on heavy card stock, most with in-negative captions and signatures. See Rosenblum, 163.
Photographs fresh with only light scattered margin foxing not affecting prints. A rare album of vintage prints in about-fine condition. Beautifully bound.