OAKELEY, Richard Banner (mid-19th century)
The Pagoda of Hallibeed, illustrated by fifty-six photographic views, with descriptive letter-press
London: Thomas M'Lean, 1859. Folio. (19 3/8 x 12 3/8 inches). Letterpress title, 2pp. introduction, and descriptions of plates, errata slip tipped to verso of Introduction. 56 albumen photographs (each approximately 11 x 8 1/2 inches).
Contemporary half morocco, title gilt-lettered on morocco label on front board, edges gilt (rubbed and scuffed).
Provenance: Author's presentation inscription 'to his old and sincere friend,' M.H. Bloxham (signature and bookplate).
Limited edition of 25 copies: a very fine author's presentation copy of this masterpiece amongst early photographically-illustrated works.
In late 1856 on the recommendation of a 'Dr. Neill, of the 1st Madras Light Cavalry' Oakeley set out to photograph the Holysaleswara Temple, a magnificent example of Hindu architecture and sculpture begun during the first half of the 12th century. The journey involved a march of some twenty days, 'along the most miserable cross country roads conceivable' before reaching the temple: 'Having seen a great number of the most celebrated Pagodas in the South of India, I can unhesitatingly assert, it far surpasses any, even the most gorgeous of these beautiful structures.' 'Having a Photographic Apparatus with me, I lost no time in committing to waxed paper faithful representations of almost every portion of the Sculpture.' Despite working under very difficult circumstances and having lost 'a considerable portion' of his photographic equipment on the march to the temple, Oakeley here presents a range of images that demonstrate his consummate skill at composition. The images are all the more remarkable when one considers that these were Oakeley's first attempts 'at Photographing in a hot climate'. Between 1854 and 1857, four photographers are known to have made the difficult journey to Halebid: Tripe, Pigou, Neil and Richard Banner Oakeley. According to Jane Dewan, "Oakley's series is the most interesting photographically".
Jane Dewan 'The Hoysalesvara Temple of Halebid in Early Photography' History of Photography, Oct.-Dec., 1989, pp.343-354; Gernsheim 104.