LUYNES, Honoré T. P. Joseph d'Albert; Duc de (1802-1867) - Charles NÈGRE (1820-1880, photographer)
Voyage d'Exploration a la Mer Morte a Petra et sur la River Gauche du Jourdain
Paris: Arthus Bertrand, imprimerie de E. Martinet, [1868-74]. Atlas only, large 4to. (14 1/4 x 10 3/4 inches). Half-title. 2 folding coloured maps, engraved plate of the expedition's vessel, 64 photogravure plates by Charles Nègre after Louis Vignes (illustrating the Luynes expedition and numbered 1-64, 1 double-page); 4 maps or plans (one double-page), 14 tinted lithographed plates by Ciceri after photographs by Vignes and Sauvaire (illustrating the Mauss expedition, with the maps numbered 1-18); 14 plates from the text volumes (8 lithographed plates of shells, 2 engraved plates of elevations, 4 chromolithographed geological maps).
Expertly bound to style in half dark purple morocco over period purple cloth covered boards
An incunable of photomechanically-illustrated books and among the earliest published photographs of Jordan and the Dead Sea basin.
The Duc de Luynes inherited enormous wealth and spent his life on scientific, archeological and artistic pursuits. Among those was this 1864 private expedition to the Dead Sea basin and interior of Jordan to examine the region's ancient ruins and perform geological and scientific observations. Luynes was accompanied on the expedition by Lieutenant Louis Vignes, who served as the expedition's photographer, as well as noted geologist Louis Lartet. Arriving to the region in the early spring of 1864, the party travelled by way of Galilee and Samaria to Jerusalem, from whence they embarked on a month-long boat excursion on the Dead Sea, before ascending the right bank, travelling toward Lake Tiberias, before returning to Jerusalem via the Ammon and Moab mountains. From Jerusalem, the party returned back to the Dead Sea, turning south as far as Akabah and returning northward via Petra. In a second expedition, commanded by Vignes between September and October of that year, the party travelled from Tripoli, across the Golan to the sources of the Jordan River, travelling as far inland as Palmyra, before returning by way of Hamah to the coast.
Nearly a decade prior to this expedition, in 1856, Luynes had sponsored a contest with the Societe Française de Photographie to discover the best and most practical system of photomechanically reproducing photographs. This seminal event is credited with launching the development of the photobook. Among the participants in the contest was Charles Nègre. Although Nègre did not win the 7000 franc prize, Luynes selected him in 1865 to reproduce Vignes's photographs in this official account of the expedition, paying him 23,250 francs for the commission.
Albumen prints made from the original negatives show the original photographs by Vignes, taken no doubt in harsh conditions, were over-exposed. "It is remarkable how Nègre was able to open up the shadows and fill them with light, detail and space [not evident in the original negatives]. But undoubtedly the main reason the Duke chose Nègre to perform this task lay in the quality of the prints Nègre was capable of producing ... for he had achieved a control over his process which resulted in prints of rich tones, fine detail, transparency and effect" (Borcoman).
Luynes died before the work would be published, leaving the task to his son and Le Comte de Vogëé. The volumes of text (not present here) were published over several years, the first volume containing Luyne's account, the second volume comprised of Vignes's memoir (coupled with an account of a separate expedition by Mauss to Karak also sponsored by Luynes), with the final volume of geological observations not appearing until 1874. While the archaeological and scientific observations within the text were groundbreaking at the time, the work is today best appreciated for its stunning atlas of photogravure plates.
"To the small but vitally important field of nineteenth-century photomechanical process, Nègre brought not only technical expertise but also the eye of a master photographer. The book ... remains one of the finest photomechanically printed books of the era" (Parr and Badger).
Rohricht 2824; Truthful Lens 109; Parr & Badger I:p.33; James Borcoman, Charles Nègre 1820-1880 (Ottawa: National Gallery of Canada, 1976) pp. 45-46; Foster et al., Imagining Paradise, p.105; Jamme, Art of French Calotype, p. 222.