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A Young Man Playing a Guitar, an original tintype from about 1860

 

 

About our Original C19th Prints

Although the Vintage Graphics collection is made up largely of high quality reproductions of early images, the gallery also stocks a selection of original photographs, mostly from the latter half of the C19th. We aim to source only the best quality images in fine condition, whilst ensuring that prices are affordable. Early examples such as these are becoming increasingly rare and collectable, so represent a sound investment as well as a decorative artefact.

Our stock of prints is constantly changing, so do email us if you are looking for a specific image or the work of a particular photographer. Some of our original prints are also available as reproductions in The Vintage Photography or Elijah Yeoman catalogues.

We supply original prints mounted in 100% cotton museum mounts and sealed in presentation wallets, or framed and ready to hang. We do advise however that if prints are to be hung, they should be kept out of strong daylight as the delicate emulsions of some early prints are susceptible to fading.

Each image in the catalogue carries a description of type, size and condition. The photographer is also credited, where known. Original prints of this type fall into several main categories:

Albumen Prints

By far the most common print type encountered from this period, albumen prints were made by contact with the glass plate onto a very thin paper, which used a silver nitrate emulsion over a solution of egg white and salt. Albumen prints are almost always mounted onto card, because the paper curls very badly due to the elasticity of the emulsion. Albumen prints have a characteristic yellowish tone with strong blacks, and often show fading around the edge of the print. Well-preserved prints however, show excellent detail and a good tonal range.

Silver Prints

Prints made using a silver gelatin emulsion, usually on a heavy glazed paper. Silver prints tend to be more commonly used towards the end of the C19th and into the early C20th. The better quality prints are often toned, which enriches the image contrast, makes the print less susceptible to fading, and depending on the type of toner used, will give the print a characteristic coloured tint. The best toned silver prints from large plates can be of exceptional quality.

Platinum Prints

Platinum prints were considered to be the pinnacle of quality in the C19th, and were usually reserved for exhibition or presentation prints. They have a characteristic matt surface, with an exceptional tonal range and neutral colour. Unlike albumen prints, they usually retain their flatness, and so can often be found unmounted. The use of platinum prints died out with the First World War, when supplies of platinum were diverted to the war effort, and only recently have some fine art photographers revived the process.

Ambrotypes and Tintypes

Ambrotypes and Tintypes predate all the above, being produced mostly in the 1860s and 1870s. Both are 'one-off' processes, i.e. the original artefact produced in the camera, and therefore not the result of any form of reproduction. Although the ambrotype was made on glass and the tintype on metal, they share the same technology, being coated with a collodion solution before exposure in the camera whilst still wet, then processed in a darkroom. The ambrotype, being a glass negative, was displayed on black velvet or black lacquered on the reverse so that the image appeared as a positive, and usually presented in a sealed frame or case for protection. Tintypes on the other hand were much more resilient,and were frequently left unmounted. A common characteristic of tintypes is that they often have clipped corners, originally to facilitate mounting in an oval case.

 

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