This famous image by Silvy appeared as an engraving in L’Illustration Journal Universel in May 21, 1859, just seven months before it was reproduced as the first “Phototype” (Joubert’s process) in The Journal of the Photographic Society of London. Comparing the two reproductions provides an interesting perspective on the impression of ‘truthfulness’ made possible with advancing photomechanical techniques.
Camille Silvy was primarily known as a portrait photographer, but he also produced a series of London and Paris street scenes that are masterful in their conception and execution. Silvy was adept at managing groups of people and arranging them within a scene. This image shows a group of men gathered to read Emperor Napoleon III’s freshly-posted dispatch from Italy. In his definitive study of Silvy’s work, Camille Silvy: Photographer of Modern Life, Mark Haworth-Booth notes that Napoleon’s Order was ‘intended to demonstrate that, although the emperor was away, he was still in control.’
Joubert (1810–1884) was a noted engraver who also ran a photographic studio. He first invented and patented “Acierage”, steel plating of engraved copper plates to lengthen the plates’ ability to print large editions. Joubert also created what he referred to as a “Phototype” image. In the Photographic Journal, in the January number, 1860, this partial explanation appeared… Towards the end of last year M. Joubert exhibited at a meeting of the Photographic Society some specimens of a new method of Carbon Printing; and about the same time made a promise to supply 3000 copies of a Carbon Print, as an illustration for their Journal. It appears that each print has to be separately exposed to light under a matrix, and this has occasioned so much delay in consequence of the bad weather which prevailed this spring… when the large number required [viz. 3000 impressions] is considered, those who are practisers of the photographic art will appreciate the difficulty of its accomplishment at this period of the year. Joubert wanted to sell the process and since no one came forward he never released it. The Photographic News, Nov. 16, 1860