Collecting Early Original Photographs

Collecting early photographs is one of the most rewarding hobbies of today. The subject of material available is unlimited. This allows us to collect a broad spectrum of photographs within our criteria. Many collectors specialize in a particular area or region, where others like to buy those images that they find appealing and not necessarily in a particular theme.
For some the monetary value is important, for others it is irrelevant as long as the photographs fit their criteria.
As a lifelong collector, I think it is important to find images that I really love and regardless of cost, can live with them for a lifetime. Most of my clients are looking for vintage photographs that are at least 50 years old in 20th century images and of course are over 115 years old if they are collecting 19th century photographs.
Within our two websites and there are more than 3000 original photographs to select from. Almost all are housed in acid free archival mats to help them last another 100 years. They are ready for framing or can easily be stored in standard archival boxes. It is important that any photographic collection is stored in the best environment you have available.
Many collectors want to know that there is value in the items they collect. There is no guarantee that values will increase any more than there is a guarantee that stocks and shares you purchase will increase in value. Historically, prices on vintage photographs have increased substantially over time, but you should not be purchasing for this reason. Purchase for the enjoyment that your collection gives you and for the pursuit of finding those great photographs that are a fit into your collection, no matter where you find them.

Tony Davis

I am always looking to purchase 19th century photograph albums in large format from:  India, China, U.S.A., Canada, Australia and South Pacific. Send details via email please.

19th century photographs of India

Glaciers in the Scinde Valley - Cashmere

Glaciers in the Scinde Valley – Cashmere


Samuel Bourne
English photographer who arrived in India in early 1863. During the summer of that year Bourne traveled to the Himalayas where he states in an article in the British Journal of Photography, he decided “to see what elements of beauty and grandeur lay concealed in some of the higher and little known regions of the Himalayas.” This was followed by two more excursions into the Cashmere [Kashmir] and the Himalayas (1865-1866). Bourne’s determination to photograph the most picturesque and remote areas of Northern India resulted in the finest examples of scenic photography ever produced by a single photographer. This group of photographs represents just that.

The high quality, fine contrast and tonality of the prints that are more than 140 years old, demonstrates not just the artistic skill of the photographer, but of the attention to detail in the printing of the images.

View of Srinuggur - Cashmere

View of Srinuggur – Cashmere

View on the Kholee, Kangra Valley

View on the Kholee, Kangra Valley

View of Chini and it's Mountains

Rocky Channel of the Ganges at Bhairamghati

Rocky Channel of the Ganges at Bhairamghati

General View of the Wanga Valley

General View of the Wanga Valley

The Thibet Road across the Rogi Cliffs

The Thibet Road across the Rogi Cliffs

View from the Thibet Road at Pangi, & the Great Chini Peaks

View from the Thibet Road at Pangi, & the Great Chini Peaks

The Village of Kibber - Spitti

The Village of Kibber – Spitti

Great Snowy Peak, South of Hamta Pass

Great Snowy Peak, South of Hamta Pass

The Manirung Pass - Elevation 18,600 Feet

The Manirung Pass – Elevation 18,600 Feet

Some of Samuel Bourne’s journals were published in the British Journal of Photography commencing on 26th November, 1869 under the title ‘A Photographic Journey through the Higher Himalayas.’ His description of the Top of the Manirung Pass, (#1468) gives us some idea of the difficulty in photographing this remote area of the World.

“Before six we were on the move, and at half-past eight I stood on the crest of the Manirung Pass, at an elevation of 18,600 feet above sea! But how shall I describe such a situation, or convey to the reader any idea of the wondrous extent of view which spread around me?

From my very feet rose the Manirung Peak, 3,000 feet still higher, forming the northern boundary of the Pass. Across the glacier on the opposite side was a somewhat lower range, presenting a singular contorted structure in those parts not covered with snow. Looking towards the east and south, a mighty succession of snowy ranges stretched beyond the limit of vision into the vast unexplored regions of Thibet, and beyond the sources of the Ganges and Jumna to the sacred shrines of Kedarnath and Budrinath. Looking to the west, the barren, snow-capped mountains of Spiti were visible in all their rugged grandeur, and the Spiti river gleamed like a thread of silver through the now hazy valley down which I had come. I seemed to stand on a level with the highest of these innumerable peaks, and as the eye wandered from summit to summit, all robbed in the silent whiteness of eternal winter, it seemed as though I stood on a solitary island in the middle of some vast polar ocean, whose rolling waves and billows. crested with foam, had been suddenly seized in their mad career by some omnipotent power and commanded to perpetual rest. All was still and serene; the sun poured his still hot beams through the clear ether, and made the sun sullied snow dazzling and painful in its brightness.

When the first feelings of surprise and admiration were satisfied I was anxious to set to work to record some impressions of these grand scenes, but alas! all my paraphernalia was behind. My poor coolies could not climb so fast as I had done, and I saw them far below apparently almost motionless beneath their burthens. I sent some of those who had arrived  with lighter loads ti hasten and help them on, for there were not wanting signs already to show that what I did must be done quickly or all would be lost. It is a rare thing to get a clear day at such an elevation as this, and I considered myself wonderfully favoured. But the view to the east was gradually becoming obscured by clouds which I was afraid every moment would shut out all; but, fortunately, though they came rolling up to my very feet at the crest of the Pass they came no further, but seemed as it were to turn back, as though they would wait and give me an opportunity to secure some record of these sublime scenes so rarely visible.

Every minute seemed like an hour as I waited the slow arrival of my boxes, and it was not till eleven o’clock that I could commence operations. I had just time to secure three negatives before the clouds which I had marshalled themselves into vapoury ranks behind me, rolling and seething, anxious to come on, but apparently could not till my operations were finished, at length rushed over the scene, and I saw its sublimity no more.

The running about in the soft snow to get these pictures at such an elevation was a work of no small difficulty, on account of the rarefaction of the air. With the chemicals I had no trouble, the exposure (the subjects being largely composed of snow) was very short, not more than seven or eight seconds with a Grubb’s C lens, fifteen inches focus, and smallest stop. I am not aware that any other photographs have ever been taken at so great an elevation as this; and had these been less perfect than they are I should have still valued them, and they would have been interesting on this account.

(The spelling and punctuation is Bournes. He was correct that nobody had ever taken photographs at this altitude at that time in 1866.)

Wooded Valley from Fualdarn - The Srikanta Peaks in the Distance

Wooded Valley from Fualdarn – The Srikanta Peaks in the Distance

Hindoo Temples on the Ganges at Derali

Hindoo Temples on the Ganges at Derali

Ice Cave in the Glacier - Source of the Buspa

Ice Cave in the Glacier – Source of the Buspa

The Village of Dunkar - Spitti

The Village of Dunkar – Spitti

Mount Moira (22,621 Ft.) from the Gangootri Glacier

Mount Moira (22,621 Ft.) from the Gangootri Glacier

Bridge of Shops at Srinuggur

Bridge of Shops at Srinuggur

Ancient Hindoo Temple and Pipul Tree - Bheem Tal

Ancient Hindoo Temple and Pipul Tree – Bheem Tal

Ice Cave in the Glacier - Source of the Ganges

Ice Cave in the Glacier – Source of the Ganges

Bridge over the Marqual Canal - Cashmere

Bridge over the Marqual Canal – Cashmere

Cane Bridge over the 'Runjeet' Below Darjeeling

Cane Bridge over the ‘Runjeet’ Below Darjeeling

View of the Ravee at Chumba

View of the Ravee at Chumba

A 'Peep' at the South End of the Lake - Nynee Tal

A ‘Peep’ at the South End of the Lake – Nynee Tal

View on the Dhul Canal - Cashmere. Prize photograph 1865

View on the Dhul Canal – Cashmere. Prize photograph 1865

India in the 19th century is shown in this post, the places and the people, a fascinating journey, seen through the eyes of mainly European photographers.

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Hand tinted Japanese Photograph Album

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I have purchased dozens of hand-tinted Japanese photograph albums and the one I am posting today is by far the best I have ever owned. This album is in excellent condition with 100 images in lacquer covers. The photographs are in excellent condition with the exception of possibly 5. This album by Kusakabe Kimbei dates to around 1880 when he opened his studio at 36 Benten Dori Nichome in Yokohama, Japan.

Kimbei worked for and studied with Felice Beato and Baron Raimund von Stillfried, the two most important European professional photographers in 19th century Japan. As a colorist and photographer his work is considered to be the best of the Meiji era. By the turn of the century Kimbei’s studio was the largest in Japan.

The photographs are beautifully hand-tinted albumen prints.

The albumen print, also called albumen silver print, was invented in 1850 by Louis Désiré Blanquart-Evrard, and was the first commercially exploitable method of producing a photographic print on a paper base from a negative. It used the albumen found in egg whites to bind the photographic chemicals to the paper and became the dominant form of photographic positives from 1855 to the turn of the 20th century, with a peak in the 1860-90 period. (Wikipedia)

2 Photograph Albums of Cuba 1899 – 1902

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CUBA. A remarkable documentary portrait of Cuba during the U.S. Military Rule of the Island (1899 – 1902).

Two outstanding photographic albums containing 104 photographs,  of Cuba during the U.S. Military rule after the Spanish-American War.  The excellent condition and fine tonal range of these photographs makes them an important group of rare images.

These albums were possibly owned by Maj. General Leonard Wood,  soldier and doctor who was the commander of the 1st United States Volunteer Cavalry (not Teddy Roosevelt as is popularly believed) and later became the American Military Governor of Cuba.   The photographs were taken when Gen. Wood was Governor of Santiago Province (Eastern Cuba), and served to document the Province of Santiago and the various improvements being made to the infrastructure of the Island.

Size of images are approximately 190 x 240 mm (7 ½” x 9 ½”) or the reverse.

Condition of photographs overall is very good with excellent tonal range.  There is minor foxing in some of the boards and in some of the photographs, which does not detract from these superb images.  Many of the photographs have the name of Lamarque, Photographer Santiago in the negative and those that are not are probably by this photographer.

Descriptions of the photographs:


1.  General Wood at work in his office.
2.  Plaza Santiago.
3.  Corner of Palace Santiago with General Wood and Major Rungie.
4.  Morro Castle.
5.  Morro Barracs (sic) from terrace.
6.  Morro Barracs.
7.  Castle from East.
8.  Morro Door.
9.  Morro Foss.
10.  La Estrella Batery (sic) from Morro’s Terrace.
11.  Harbor Entrance, Santiago – Smith Cay & Estrella Battery.
12.  Spanish Gun at Punta Gorda.
13.  Spanish Guns at Socapa.
14.  Spanish Gun at Punta Gorda.
15.  Spanish Gun at Punta Gorda (with an American “Rough Rider” Soldier leaning on it)
16.  Yellow Fever Hospital.
17.  Jail
18.  Yard of the Jail, Santiago. (showing prisoners in yard and behind bars on upper level)
19.  Jail Yard.
20.  Caney Town from the Blockhouse.
21.  Caney Town from the Blockhouse.
22.  Caney Plaza.
23.  Caney City Hall.
24.  Caney  Blockhouse.
25.  Caney Blockhouse from a distance.
26.  Caney Entrance.
27.  Caney Suburbs.
28.  Street in Caney.
29.  Caney from Colonel Hill – Santiago in distance.
30.  Building Cristina Promenade, Santiago.
31.  Buliding a road to Santa Ines entrance near Santiago.
32.  Building Santa Ines Road, Santiago.
33.  San Juan Nepomuoeno Street, Santiago.
34.  Paseo de Concha, Santiago.
35.  Cristina Road, Santiago.
36.  Barracs entrance.
37.  Building Roads.
38.  Mr. Hanna & Mr Wilkinson directing works on the roads, Santiago.
39.  Building a road to the slaughterhouse, Santiago.
40.  Bridge on Cristina Street, Santiago.
41.  El Cobre.
42.  Sanctuarium at El Cobre seen from town.
43.  Caney Sanctuarium.
44.  Ruins of Cooper Mines behind the Sanctuarium at El Cobre.
45.  Gasometer and Battery of La Estrella.
46.  Fort Santa Ines.
47.  Panorama of Boniato.
48.  A street in Santiago before American rule.
49.  Same street after…
50.  Plaza de Dolores.
51.  Hospital Street, Santiago.
52.  Magazine Island
53.  Cato Ratones (Rats Cay) in Santiago.
54.  Playa del Este.

55.  Cyclone effect on the roof of Engineers Pier.(Nautic Club)
56.  Santiago Suburbs.
57.  Palace Santiago.
58.  Old Hospital Civil now Orphelins Assylum.
59.  Daiquiri, as seen from the sea.
60.  Daiquiri.
61.  Daiquiri Beach.
62.  Daiquiri Pier.
63.  A Daiquiri Cottage.
64.  Siboney, near Daiquiri.
65.  Morro Castle, as seen from the Canal.
66.  San Juan Hill.
67.  San Juan River.
68.  Santiago City from the Civil Hill.
69.  Suburbs, Santiago.
70.  Surrender Tree.
71.  A “Patio” Santiago.
72.  Barracs, Santiago.
73.  Barracs, back.
74.  Barracs, Santiago .
75.  Cathedral, Santiago.
76.  Entrance to the Civil Hospital.
77.  Principe Alfonso Hospital.
78.  Punta Blance Battery, front view.
79.  Officiers(sic) Hospital, Santiago.
80.  Store Houses, Santiago.
81.  Store Houses, Santiago.
82.  Punta Blance Battery, Santiago.
83.  A corner of the leading Cuban Club, Santiago (S. Carlos Club).
84.  Plaza and San Carlos Club, Santiago.
85.  A typical cabin, Santiago.
86.  Santa Ursula Fort, Santiago.
87.  Fort Sta. Ursula rear view.
88.  Santiago suburbs from Sta. Ursula Fort.
89.  Fort Sta. Ursula and suburbs, Santiago.
90.  Fort number 7 , Santiago.
91.  Fort number 7, Santiago (closer view)
92.  Loading Manganese on Santiago (British ship “Straits of Dover”).
93.  Improving the Warfs (sic) Santiago.
94.  Bridge on Cristina Street, Santiago.
95.  Hospital Street, Santiago.
96.  A typical street, Santiago.
97.  Uncaptioned street scene with horses, carts and people.
98.  Juragua Pier, near Mr. Wood residence.
99.  Plaza de Dolores, Santiago.
100.  Typical houses in Santiago.
101.  Stone cutting engine, Santiago.
102.  A typical cart, Santiago.
103.  Surrender Tree details.
104.  Bullets effect on palm tree near San Juan.

The Spanish–American War was a conflict in 1898 between Spain and the United States, effectively the result of American intervention in the ongoing Cuban War of Independence.

Revolts against Spanish rule had been endemic for decades in Cuba and were closely watched by Americans. By 1897–98, American public opinion grew angrier at reports of Spanish atrocities. After the mysterious sinking of the American battleship Maine in Havana harbor, political pressures from the Democratic Party pushed the government of President William McKinley, a Republican, into a war McKinley had wished to avoid. Compromise proved impossible, resulting in an ultimatum sent to Madrid demanding it surrender control of Cuba immediately, which was not accepted. First Madrid, then Washington, formally declared war.

Although the main issue was Cuban independence, the ten-week war was fought in both the Caribbean and the Pacific. American naval power proved decisive, allowing U.S. expeditionary forces to disembark in Cuba against a Spanish garrison already reeling from nation-wide insurgent attacks and wasted by yellow fever. Cuban, Philippine, and American forces obtained the surrender of Santiago de Cuba and Manila owing to their numerical superiority in most of the battles and despite the good performance of some of the Spanish infantry units and spirited defenses in places like San Juan Hill. With two obsolete Spanish squadrons sunk in Santiago de Cuba and Manila Bay and a third, more modern fleet recalled home to protect the Spanish coasts, Madrid sued for peace. The result was the 1898 Treaty of Paris, negotiated on terms favorable to the U.S., which allowed temporary American control of Cuba and, following their purchase from Spain, indefinite colonial authority over Puerto Rico, Guam and the Philippines. (Wikipedia)

1858 Photographs of the Inniskilling Dragoon Officers

An important historical military photograph album of early *salted paper photographs dated 1858 that was photographed by R. J. Garnett, one of the officers of the 6th Inniskilling Regiment of Dragoons who at that time were stationed in Brighton, England.

The regiment had a distinguished record and had recently returned from the Crimean War, where it had taken part in the charge of the Heavy Brigade at Balaclava.  This action was less well known than the charge of the Light Brigade, but was more successful.

In 1858 the regiment numbered amongst its officers men of wealth and position. Commanded by Lieutenant-Colonel Charles Cameron Shute.

The regiment was ordered to India later in 1858, toward the end of the Indian Mutiny. Faced with the prospect of years of inactivity in an unhealthy climate,  many of the officers decided to transfer to other regiments or to retire. Various pencilled notations show those who sold out their commissions or who transferred.

Officers of note:

General Sir Charles Cameron Shute. In 1834 Shute entered the army with the rank of cornet in the 13th Light Dragoons and served with distinction with the regiment during operations in 1839 in the Kurnool area of India. In the same year he was promoted to lieutenant In 1840 he transferred to the 6th (Inniskilling) Dragoons. He served with the 6th Dragoons in the Crimean War, and Shute was promoted to major in June 1854, acting as second in command. He was assistant adjutant general of the cavalry division from November 1854 until its breakup in July 1856. He was mentioned in despatches for his service at Balaclava and was recommended for the award of the Victoria Cross.

Shute also took part in the Battle of Inkerman and the Siege of Sevastopol. He was appointed brevet lieutenant colonel and commanding officer of the 6th Dragoons in April 1855, a post he held until 1860. In 1861 he retired on half pay with the rank of brevet colonel, but in May 1862 returned to the army as commanding officer of the 4th (Royal Irish) Dragoon Guards He remained the CO of the regiment until 1871 when he was promoted to major general. He was made a Companion of the Bath in 1869. In 1874 Shute was elected as one of Brighton’s two members of parliament(Wikipedia)

Lt.-Gen Hon. Charles Wemyss Thesiger was Aide-de-Camp to the Lord-Lieutenant of Ireland in 1858.  He fought in the China War in 1860. H gained the rank of Lieutenant- General in the service of the Curragh Brigade.  He was Inspector of Yeomanry Cavalry between 1878 and 1883. He gained the rank of Colonel in the service of the 14th Hussrs. He was Inspector-General of Cavalry in Ireland between 1885 and 1890. (Wikipedia)

Lt.-Gen Sir Frederick Wellington John Fitzwygram, 4th baronet  became a cavalry officer and served with the 6th (Inniskilling) Dragoons in the Crimean War. He subsequently commanded the Cavalry Brigade at Aldershot.[1] In 1873 he inherited the Wigram baronetcy on the death of his elder brother Robert. He was a member of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons,[3] and as President from 1875 to 1877 he unified the veterinary profession. He was active in public life and in 1876 he was mayor of Portsmouth.[4] From 1879 to 1884 he was Inspector-General of Cavalry at Aldershot. Fitzwygram was elected as Member of Parliament for Hampshire South  in 1884. (Wikipedia)

William Moule joined the 15th Foot and became a Colonel in America during the American Civil War, although this has not been confirmed.

Edward Roden Bourke became the Aide-de-Camp and private screatary to the Governor of Ceylon.

John Kirby Mountain can be seen wearing the British Crimea Medal with clasps.

There are two photographs that were not of officers (at that time).

Charles Wooden VC was a recipient of the Victoria Cross, the highest and most prestigious award for gallantry in the face of the enemy that can be awarded to British and Commonwealth forces. He was awarded the Victoria Cross for acts of gallantry during the Crimean War. He was 25 years old, and a Sergeant-Major in the 17th Lancers (Duke of Cambridge’s Own), British Army. On 26 October 1854, in the Crimea, at Balaklava, Sergeant-Major Wooden went out with surgeon James Mouat to the assistance of an officer who was lying seriously wounded in an exposed position, after the retreat of the Light Cavalry. He helped to dress the officer’s wounds under heavy fire from the enemy. He was promoted to Lieutenant and Quartermaster of the 6th Dragoons in October 1860, exchanged to the 5th Lancers in 1865 and then into the 104th Regiment of Foot (Bengal Fusiliers) in 1871. (Wikipedia)

Card who was for 17 years the mess waiter.

* The salt print was the dominant paper-based photographic process for producing positive prints during the period from 1839 through approximately 1860.

The salted paper print was the first type of paper print used in photography, and remained the most popular paper print until the introduction of the albumen print process in the 1850s. The salted paper technique was created by British photographer William Henry Fox Talbot. He called his negative process calotype printing, while the salt print process was used for making positive prints from the Calotype negatives. They both employ a technique of coating sheets of paper with silver salts, but the Calotype process differs slightly in chemicals used in the sensitization procedure, and uses an extra ‘accelerator’ step, immediately prior to exposure of the sensitized paper. (Wikipedia)


Collecting 19th Century photographs part 1

As a collector and dealer I specialize in original large format 19th century photographs with an emphasis on ethnographic images from Japan, China, Indian sub-continent and the Pacific Rim. My topographical emphasis is on the same countries with the addition to North & South America. To me the most important thing is the image, not who the photographer was. If it is known who the photographer was then that is a bonus. My niche in the photographic market for 19th century images is for the ethnographic studies and many have been acquired by museums and colectors around the world.

My general rule is to only buy photographs I personally like and can live with for a lifetime. I travel extensively in my quest to find great images and I welcome inquiries by email to

Visit my website with more than 3000 images:

Thinking of selling one item or an entire collection? I am happy to give you an idea of the value of your photographs before you offer them on the market.

– Tony Davis