Why prints?

Photographer 1850sThe range of printed topographical prints for this catalogue ranges from 1750 up to 1850. After this date the refined newly-invented cameras became the media for recording topography.

The arrival of the picture postcard, together with the invention of the rotary press and the introduction of the zinc plate semi-mechanically engraved image as used by the Illustrated London News and Graphic, led to the swift demise of topographical line engraving.

For the first 50 years of the period, the works concentrated on the castles and ruins of the county as artists liked to record the romantic antique of these subjects.

For the next 50 years the emphasis was on the old county houses from which the publisher and artists gained patronage. These are particularly interesting as they show houses before the new extensions and improvements made by the gentry during the wealth creating period of the Victorians. These are, in some ways, the most interesting years as they show the opening up of the county by the railways which introduced tourists. They, in turn needed reminders of their stay, just as we do today.

The Victorian printers and publishers were quick to commercialise the prints by adapting them as letterheads to advertise a town or building and occasionally altering views to include recent modernisations. They also produced small view books which could be taken home and ‘stuck in a scrap book’; views with embossed paper borders as gifts. These could be bought from ‘Gift Emporiums’ usually owned by printers and publishers producing stationery.