Tuloom (detail) Catherwood, Frederick  (British, 1799-1854)

The engravings included in Stephens’ second work Incidents of Travel in Yucatan, 1843, may represent the earliest use of daguerreian images in exploration in the New World.

Incidents of Travel in Yucatan is an account of the second expedition to Central America led by the American expolrer John L. Stephens. He was accompanied by Frederick Catherwood, a draughtsman, and an ornithologist, Dr. Cabot. Their purpose was to explore and record the Mayan ruins, a task which Stephens describes as follows: "Mr. Catherwood made minute architectural drawings of the whole . . . and I would remark that, as on our former expedition, he made all his drawings with the camera lucida, for the purpose of obtaining the utmost accuracy of proportion and detail. Besides which, we had with us a Daguerreotype apparatus, the best that could be procured in New-York, with which, immediately on our arrival at Uxmal, Mr. Catherwood began taking views; but the results were not sufficiently perfect to suit his ideas. At times the projecting cornices and ornaments threw parts of the subject in shade, while others were in broad sunshine; so that, while parts were brought out well, other parts required pencil drawings to supply their defects. They gave a general idea of the character of the buildings, but would not do to put into the hands of the engraver without copying the views on paper, and introducing the defective parts, which would require more labour than that of making at once original drawings. He therefore completed everything with his pencil and camera lucida, while Doctor Cabot and myself took up the Daguerreotype; and, in order to ensure the utmost accuracy, the Daguerreotype views were placed with the drawings in the hands of the engravers for their guidance." (Vol. I, pp. 174-175). "the first—and still the best—of the archeological accounts of Maya remains in Yucatan." Image: The Bulletin of the George Eastman House of Photography, v. 11 no. 6, 1962, (Met Museum)

Reproduced / Exhibited

Foster, Sheila J, Manfred Heiting, and Rachel Stuhlman. Imagining Paradise: The Richard and Ronay Menschel Library at George Eastman House, Rochester. Göttingen: Steidl, 2007 p. 39

Barger, M S, and William B. White. The Daguerreotype: Nineteenth-century Technology and Modern Science. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2000. p.77

Hanson, David A. "The Beginnings of Photographic Reproduction in the USA." History of Photography. 12.4 (1988): 357-376. figure 5 (alt)

Jussim, Estelle. ‘Visual Communication and the Graphic Arts: Photographic Technologies in the Nineteenth Century’. New York: R.R. Bowker, 1983. Plate 16.

Rosenblum, Naomi. A World History of Photography. New York: Abbeville Press, 2008. no. 96 (detail)