As an amateur, Louis Désiré Blanquart-Évrard pursued the idea of improving Talbot’s calotype invention. In doing so, he made several early discoveries advancing the quality, permanency, and production speed the calotype negative/positive paper process. By employing a division of labor, an assembly-line type of factory organization, and his new accelerating chemistry, Blanquart-Évrard believed he stood on the verge of creating industrial means capable of mass-producing photographs and opened the first French photographic printing firm in Lille in 1851 (Imprimerie Photographique de Lille).
From a technical standpoint, Blanquart-Évrard found the way “not to depend upon the vagaries of sun.” Instead of a long exposure depending on weather conditions, he used the property of the latent image, which could be obtained in few minutes, then developed and fixed. The developing method represented a major advance. It provided more stable prints, as well. Blanquart-Évrard submitted his method to the Académie des Sciences in April 1851 and improved it constantly.
The establishment of Imprimerie Photographique generated quite the buzz in the early 1850s – a time when a photographic printing factory was seen as a major instrument for the progress of dissemination of photographs—a dream that photography could play a major role in visual communication. Based upon the projected success of the operation, photographers, scientists, and members of the Société Héliographique advocated for the development of similar printshops in Paris. Photography was on the threshold of emerging as an unbounded new means of production.
Contributing to the dialogue on the issue of how to reproduce photographs to accompany printed texts, Blanquart-Évrard asserted that his calotypes could serve as well as any of the new ink-based photo-mechanical means. It is apparent, however, that he misunderstood the challenge of the new ink-based processes. On July 22, 1855, he published the calotype, "Un Moulin pres de Lille" in La Lumiére (seen here), but there were problems. Like Talbot’s Art Union prints fading, Blanquart-Évrard prints began falling out of the journal; in a later issue the printer explained that, to his chagrin, he had provided La Lumiére with the incorrect formula for the glue used.
Ultimately, his efforts to displace traditional graphic art forms with photographic prints on paper did not work. As Blanquart-Évrard opened the first imprimerie photographique, he also was among the first casualties of the competition between printshops. Despite his efforts to economize his production, he was not able to keep his costs down, and his firm was able to sustain activity for only five years. For these reasons, Blanquart-Évrard closed his printshop in 1855, further stimulating the advancement of ink-based photomechanical pursuits which he would ultimately celebrate in his important 1869 essay La photographie, ses origines, ses progrès, ses transformation.
Eder, History of Photography, Epsteam translation, Third Edition Dover 1905 (1945)
Hannavy John. Encyclopedia of Nineteenth-Century Photography. Vol. 1 A-I Index. Routledge 2008.
Rosen, H. Jeffrey, Lemercier & de: Photolithography and the Industrialisation of Print Production in France, 1837-1859, PhD dissertation, Evanston, Illinois, June 1988