First Steps: A Daguerreotype
The daguerreotype photograph, named after the frenchman Louis Daguerre who's process this was. They were made on thin plates of copper that was silver plated on one or both sides, it was on one of these surfaces that the image was created. They were produced in large numbers and used between 1839 and the early 1850s in England but up to the 1860s in America, it's possible that some may date a little later than stated, as this was seen as a quality image and preferred over other formats by some that could afford it, and by those photographers who just didn't want to change.
The metal surface acts like a mirror, so to see the image at it's best the photograph has to be turned slightly until light reflects on the surface, then as if by magic the wonderful image appears. If it does this - then you know you have a daguerreotype.
The cost of a daguerreotype in England was about ten shillings and six pence, but more if they were hand coloured. In America they could cost as little as twelve and a half cents.
example by Antoine Claudet, 107 Regent Street, London.
Whole plate 16.5cm x 21.5cm
Half plate 11.5cm x 14cm
Quarter plate 8.2cm x 10.8cm - example by Emelian Fehrenbach of 111 Strand, London W.C.
One-sixth plate 6.8cm x 8.2cm
One-ninth plate 5cm x 6.3cm
The daguerreotype was then sealed inside a wooden case or a frame with a bright brass mount and under glass. The case was usually provided with a hinged lid and covered with leather or similar and some American cases were moulded using shellac with wood-fibre and gum and known as a Union case. The cases should not be taken apart or interfered with in any way.
They were displaced by the cheaper Ambrotypes
© Roger Vaughan 2004