Taking pictures, talking pictures

Posted on 5th November 2015 by simonbeattie

Just over a year ago, I wrote about the first photographic manual in the world, written in 1839 by the Austrian writer Karl von Frankenstein (1810–1848).  I’d love to find another copy of that book, but I shall have to content myself for the moment with this, a complete run of the first year of a journal Frankenstein edited called the Innerösterreichisches Industrie- und Gewerbs-Blatt:


As one might expect, Frankenstein advertises his book for sale in his journal, in the number for 21 August.  Later, we find advertisements for daguerreotype plates from F. Machts & Comp. in Vienna (6 November) and Franz de Crignis in Graz (4 December).

But the real interest here is an article Frankenstein published across two numbers of the journal, 29 May – 1 June, predating his little book by about three months: ‘Ueber die Darstellung der Daguerre’schen Lichtbilder durch die Cammera obscura.  (Daguerrotypie.)’.  In it, he recounts the birth of photography, discusses the chemical processes involved, and the possibilities which the invention opens up.  He ends by citing two early German photographers, in Dresden and Nuremberg, who have already achieved good results.

In the rare book world, we use the term incunabula (literally, ‘things in the cradle’) to refer to the earliest printed books (i.e. printed before 1501).  This work by Frankenstein is an incunable of photographic literature.

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