Item #353866 [Printed letter signed, an invitation to the among the earliest exhibitions of the daguerreotype in America]. Francois Fauvel Gouraud.

The Introduction of Photography in America

[Printed letter signed, an invitation to the among the earliest exhibitions of the daguerreotype in America].

New York: 29 November 1839.

Price: $35,000.00


About the item

1 page. Signed in manuscript at the lower right, and with manuscript additions to the text of the invitation, adding the date and time. 9-3/4 x 7-7/8 inches. The Introduction of Photography in America. Old folds.

Item #353866

The author of this printed letter, Francois Gouraud (1808-1847), served as the principal agent for Alphonse Giroux & Cie., the manufacturer of the daguerreotype cameras designed by Daguerre himself; i.e. the first commercially manufactured photographic camera in the world.

Gouraud had just arrived in New York on November 23, 1839 aboard the British Queen with a collection of daguerreotypes and cameras, intending to introduce the invention of photography to America. However, that honor had already been usurped by D.W. Seager, with an announcement in the New York Morning Herald, September 30, 1839: "We saw, the other day, in Chilton’s in Broadway, a very curious specimen of the new mode, recently invented by Daguerre in Paris of taking on copper the exact resemblance of scenes and living objects, through the medium of the sun’s ray’s reflected in a camera obscura." Seager, who evidently worked out the process himself based on printed explanations in French from the end of August 1839, evidently brought to him via a very fast French ship, lectured on the invention at the Stuyvesant Institute on October 5.

Nevertheless, Gouraud's exhibition, with daguerreotypes by the master himself, would prove more influential, with a review published in the December issue of the Knickerbocker (vol. xiv, no. 6): "We have seen the views taken in Paris by the Daguerreotype and have no hesitation in avowing that they are the most remarkable objects of curiosity and admiration, in the arts that we ever beheld. Their exquisite perfection almost transcends the bounds of sober belief..." A February 1840 issue of the Knickerbocker would refer to Gouraud's images as "the true Daguerreotype views" seemingly accusing Seager as "a pseudo Daguerreotypist."

The present lithographically printed "letter" or invitation is one of very few known examples, inviting journalists and influential New Yorkers to that first exhibition of the French daguerreotype in America. Although the recipient of the present invitation is unknown, others were sent to Philip Hone, Thomas S. Cummings and William Sidney Mount; however, only the Mount example is extant (New York Historical Society). The text of the invitation reads:

"Dear Sir As the friend and pupil of Mr. Daguerre, I came from Paris by the British Queen, with the charge of introducing to the new world, the perfect knowledge of the marvellous process of drawing, which fame has already made known to you under the name of the Daguerreotype. Having the good fortune to possess a collection of the finest proofs which have yet been made either by the most talented pupils of Mr. Daguerre, by the great artist himself, I have thought it my duty, before showing them to the public to give the most eminent men and distinguished artists of this City, the satisfaction of having the first views of perhaps the most interesting object which has ever been exposed to the curiosity of a man of taste, and therefore if agreeable to you, I shall have the honor of receiving you on Wednesday next the 4 Dec. from the hour of 11 to one oclock inclusive at the Hotel Français No 57 Broadway, where this invitation will admit you."

Following the above private exhibition, over the next two weeks Gouraud held public exhibitions and demonstrations in New York, before moving the show to Boston. There, he lectured, sold equipment (including the first camera to Samuel Bemis), published articles and authored a manual -- the very first separately-printed photography manual published in America.

We find no record of another invitation ever appearing on the market. An extraordinary piece of ephemera from the very beginnings of photography in America.

[WITH:] The Knickerbocker, or New-York Monthly Magazine. Vol. XIV. New York: Clark and Edson, 1839. With a description of Gouraud's exhibition on pages 560-561 (quoted in part above). [AND WITH:] The Knickerbocker, or New-York Monthly Magazine. Vol. XV. New York: Clark and Edson, 1840. With a notice of Gouraud's exhibition on p. 176. [AND WITH:] Wood, R. Derek. The Arrival of the Daguerreotype in New York. [New York]: A Publication of the American Photographic Historical Society, [ca. 1994]. 20pp. Wrappers.

References
Welling, Photography in America, p. 8; Newhall, The Daguerreotype in America, pp. 27-32; Gernsheim, The History of Photography, pp. 121-122; Taft, Photography and the American Scene, pp. 41-42; R. Derek Wood, The Arrival of the Daguerreotype in New York (New York: American Photographic Historical Society: ca. 1994).