Since photography’s inception, the fading of silver-based prints initiated a search for a more permanent and commercially viable process. The future of photography depended on it. This issue became the central point of focus for the Société d’encouragement pour l’Industrie nationale, one of the most important institutional forces in France for the development of photography.
In 1852, the famous Parisian printer specializing in lithography, Joseph Lemercier, along with the optician Noël Paymal Lerebours, the chemists Charles-Louis Barreswill and Louis-Alphonse Davanne, developed a method of transferring photographic images onto a lithographic stone based on the characteristics of bitumen of Judea devised by Nicephore Niepce in 1823 to make his Heliographs.
They filed patents in 1852 and in 1853 Lemercier established in his lithographic studio, a photographic printing house. His first project was to produce lithophotographic prints for sale from the negatives of Henri Le Secq created for the Missions heliographique. Six of the prints, prototypes of lithophotography, were published in a folio entitled Lithophotographie ou impressions obtenues sur pierre à l’aide de la photographie.
Lithophotography was real progress and it easy to do. It was also less dangerous than the previous processes, and more suitable to industrial production, but because of the grainy stone, details lost their precision. Ultimately the process was improved by Alphonse Poitevin in 1855.