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 first practical photomechanical process and suitable to industrial production, but because of the grainy stone, details lost their precision. The process was short lived, ultimately improved by Alphonse Poitevin in 1855.
Lewis JW. Charles Nègre in Pursuit of the Photographic. 2012
Rosen, H. Jeffrey, Lemercier & de: Photolithography and the Industrialisation of Print Production in France, 1837-1859, PhD dissertation, Evanston, Illinois, June 1988
Auer, Michel and Michelle Auer, Encyclopedie internationale des photographes de 1839 a nous jours, Paris, Camera ob-scura, 1985.
Bouquin, Corinne, Recherches suri ’imprimerie lithog raphique a Paris au XIXe siecle, L’imprimerie Lemercier (1803-1901), PhD dissertation, University of Paris I, December. 1993. Figuier, Louis, Les applications nouvelles de la science a l’industrie et aux arts en 1855, Paris, 1856.
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Slythe, Margaret, The Art of Illustration: 1750-1900, London, 1970; Revue photographique. Chronique: Ateliers de M. Lemercier, no. 18, 5 avril 1857, 1.
Vol 2, Encyclopedia of 19th Century Photography written by Laure Boyer – The title is Lemercier, Lerebours and Barreswill.