Banqueting Hall, Kenilworth. Bedford, Francis  (British, 1816-1894)

"From a photograph by F. Bedford", "Photelectric Engraving – Dallas’ Process", "Presented to the Subscribers of the Photographic News, Jan. 1. 1864.", "Published by Duncan C. Dallas, 108, Fleet Street, London, E.C." and "Untouched by the Graver".

In 1854, Paul Pretsch patented photogalvanography and together with Roger Fenton went on to establish the Photogalvanographic Company in 1856 to commercialize his new process. Duncan C. Dallas was hired as the company manager. To their surprise, Dallas was granted provisional protection for his own patent in June of 1856 on Improvements in chemical preparations applicable to the photographic and photogalvanographic processes. Pretsch and Fenton asked him to leave the company and many years of litigation followed.

In the September 11, 1863 issue of The Photographic News, Dallas published the abstract “Photo-Electric Engraving and Observations Upon Sundry Processes of Photographic Engraving.” Although the paper was submitted to the British Association for the Advancement of Science, it was ultimately deemed inadmissible by the Chairman and never presented to the organization. Dallas filed for another patent in May of 1866 and was again refused but moved ahead with his own company, advertising the Dallastype and Dallastint as cheap first class engraving, one shilling per square inch. A reliable substitute for wood engraving, faithfully reproducing in any size the artist’s or other original specimens for six stamps.

Dallas wrote a letter to the British Journal of Photography, published in the March 5, 1875 issue, to protest Pretsch’s claim of developing photogalvanography. I had been the founder and organiser of the Photogalvanographic Company,” he claimed, “and had been robbed— I used the word deliberately—of the fruits of ray brain and hand labour by Mr. Paul Pretsch.

Later that year, in need of money, he tried to sell the process, publishing Proposal for Divulging the Dallastype Process of Photographic Engraving to Five Hundred Subscribers, or more, at £20 each ([London]: Duncan Campbell Dallas, 1875). Dallas went on to publish a facsimile of the 1623 Shakespeare First Folio and then, several portfolios of Walter Crane’s illustrations for individual plays. [1] [2]

Compare this print to Fenton and Prestch’s photogalvanograph, Rivaulx Abbey, the Choir and Transept, which is very similar in subject matter. From my perspective, the two processes differ.

As explained by Dallas in 1863, It was after experimenting some time with photogalvanography that it occurred to me to strike out in a different direction. Anyone acquainted with engraving is aware that aqua-tint and ‘chalk,’ or stippling, produce fine grain, half-tones, and detail. The problem I set myself was how to imitate this combination….It is something similar to this [aquatint grain] which I have succeeded in imitating, with peculiarities sui generis, by photography and the electrotype. I can also, as it were, modify the size of the dots, obtaining them so fine as to carry almost microscopic detail; but if too fine there will be deficient depth in the dark. In this, as in all things, there is a happy medium, and this I believe I have secured. I commence with a negative: this should be reversed. From the negative a positive proof is taken: this I prefer not toned, but merely fixed in the sepia colour of the ‘hypo.’ I cover the negative, which must be varnished with a material from which I obtain a latent positive. This latent positive I turn by a simple process into a suitable negative, and it is with this negative that I subsequently manipulate…If necessary, I can electrotype direct upon my material; but, as this might lead to the discovery of part of my process, I prefer to make a different kind of matrix. (The Photographic News 1863, pgs. 363-364). Dallastype, Dallastint circa 1885, was a typographic modification of his process. Dallas claimed all of these processes as his. Dallas was originally the manager of the Photo-Galvano-Graphic Co. of Pretsch. A falling out had Dallas dismissed.

Reproduced / Exhibited

The British Museum Museum number 1946,0710.320


[1] Princeton Graphics Arts blog citesd 02/23/23

[2] Hanson, David. Checklist of photomechanical processes and printing 1825-1910, 2017 p. 37