Buckinghamshire interest

Posted on 28th July 2021 by simonbeattie

I was born and bred in Buckinghamshire (tomorrow in fact will be Buckinghamshire Day) and my family, on my mother’s side, has roots in the county going back well into the eighteenth century, if not earlier. So, as one might imagine, I have an interest in books relating to the county. I have written before that I also have an interest in lithography and it will come as no surprise that, as a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries, I am also interested in antiquarianism. This book brings all those aspects neatly together.

It’s a copy of the Buckinghamshire section of the Domesday Book which was reproduced in facsimile, by photozincography (a form of photolithography, but using metal plates rather than lithographic stones), in 1862. Here is the section on Chesham:

It’s a lovely book, and interesting to read about the process behind its production, in the introduction written by Colonel Sir Henry James, Director of the Ordnance Survey. ‘In the year 1855 I introduced Photography for the purpose of making accurate reductions of the Ordnance plans from the larger to the smaller scales required … In 1859 we improved and adapted the Chromo-carbon process to our requirements in such a way that the Photographs could at once be transferred to the waxed surface of a copper plate to guide the engraver, or to plates of zinc or to stone for printing as by the ordinary methods–and as we generally use zinc plates, I named this art Photo-zincography …

‘In an interview with the Right Hon. W. E. Gladstone, Chancellor of the Exchequer, he asked my opinion as to the applicability of this art to the copying of some of our ancient MS. records, and I at once expressed my belief that we could produce fac-similes of them at a very trifling cost … Having established the fact that Photo-zincography is applicable for the purpose of producing any number of copies of ancient MSS., the Lords of the Treasury … directed me to copy that part of the Domesday Book which relates to Cornwall; and the publication of that part having excited great interest, and a desire for the continuance of the publication of the work county by county, having been very generally expressed, I have been directed to publish the whole work …

‘In examining copies made by Photo-zincography, it must always be remembered that the original document is not even handled or touched by the copyist, each leaf of the book is placed in succession before the camera by the officer from the Public Record Office, in whose charge it constantly remains, and sometimes after an exposure of only twenty seconds, the copy is taken … The Photographs were [then] transferred to zinc by Mr. Appel, of the Ordnance Survey.’

Here’s the title-page, along with the original metal plate used for producing it:

Posted in

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *