TRIPE, Linnaeus (1822-1902)
Photographs of the Elliot Marbles; and other subjects; in the Central Museum Madras [cover title]
Bangalore: 1858 [-1859]. Oblong folio. (13 x 17 7/8 inches). 2 leaves of letterpress: introduction (dated June 1859) and index of photographs]. 75 albumen photographs from 76 dry collodion glass negatives (the penultimate print made from two negatives), mounted on 51 leaves, as issued, images measuring from 170 x 60mm. to 260 x 342mm., or the reverse. Tripe's "Photographer to Government" embossed blind stamp on each mount, pagination in ink in upper right corner of each mount, as issued.
Expertly bound to style in half black morocco over original buff paper covered boards, lettered on the upper cover. Housed in a modern black morocco box.
An important book by Tripe from the dawn of photography in India: a rare complete example and one of less than twenty surviving examples.
This series of photographs records sculptures from the ruined Buddhist stupa at Amaravati, in Andhra Pradesh, southeastern India, which had been excavated in 1845 by Walter Elliot, an employee of the Madras Civil Service. They were transported to Madras where Tripe photographed them before being shipped to London.
The extreme difficulties in producing the album are described in the introduction: "These Photographs were taken by Captain Tripe in the months of May and June , after a wearying tour through Trichinpoly, Madura and Tanjore Districts, during the preceding four months and a half. Many of the subjects being heavy masses, and therefore not to be easily transported into the open air, were taken as they were lying, in the rooms of the Museum. To enable him to attempt them at all he was obliged to use a dry collodion process, with which he had only recently made acquaintance. In printing from the above mentioned negatives, their density, though apparently in their favor, increased the liability to yellowness in the lights, so much complained of in toning a print on albumenised paper with gold."
The Madras Government commissioned "seventy positive copies from each of his listed Elliot Marbles negatives, which were to be 'mounted in book form...'", though the order was revised in February 1859 to encompass only the images "'of greatest interest and importance of which possess artistic merit'" (Dewan, p. 609). Printing of the images began in August 1858, and was completed in March 1859, slowed by his whiting out the backgrounds on each negative and difficulties in printing described above.
The result was a stunning photographically illustrated monograph and an incunable of photographically illustrated works published in India. Walter Eliott, the archaeologist who discovered the marbles, described Tripe in 1859 as the "ablest artist" in southern India.
Tripe's Elliot Marbles is very rare; Dewan cites but 16 extant examples, not including the present. Two further examples have traded at auction in the last decade.
Dewan, J. The Photographs of Linnaeus Tripe. A Catalogue Raisonné (Toronto: Art Gallery of Ontario, 2003).