William Hickling Prescott Brady, Matthew B  (American, 1829-1878)

"One of the most beautiful examples of lithographs after daguerreotypes ever published"

A famous but very rare work, including portraits of John James Audubon and President Zachary Taylor from daguerreotypes by Mathew Brady, the most famous American photographer of the mid-19th century. The series is made up of twelve portraits, all but one from Brady’s daguerreotypes, accompanied by biographical descriptions. With Brady as the senior partner, the work was a joint publishing venture between the journalist and author Charles Edwards Lester (who undertook to write the biographical sketches), the lithographer F. d’Avignon and Brady. The "book was issued by D’Avignon’s Press … It received fine notices from the Herald and other New York newspapers, but the public was apathetic and sales were disappointing. Brady had paid D’Avignon a hundred dollars apiece for each of the lithographic stones and Brady soon recognized the book as a critical success but a financial failure". The year 1850 was … a milestone in Brady’s life; his dream of having his Gallery … published became a reality" (J.D.Horan Mathew Brady Historian with a camera. 1955 pp.10-14). Brady’s ambitious plan was to issue these portraits semi-monthly for two years for $1 each, or $20 for the set of 24. For those who paid in advance, a portfolio was included in which to house the portraits. It is estimated that only about 50 portfolio sets were sold. Having paid d’Avignon $100 each to engrave the portraits, Brady needed to recover some of his costs. The first 12 completed portraits were bound into volumes from the remaining prints, although it is unknown how many of these bound volumes were produced. Many see this group of portraits as representing the peak of Brady’s career. Even though he went on to photograph 18 Presidents and Generals on both sides, as well as soldiers in the field, these images mark the beginnings of photographic portraiture in America by one of the masters of the art.

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. 40
Trachtenberg, Alan.
Reading American Photographs: Images As History : Mathew Brady to Walker Evans. New York: Hill and Wang, 2008.
Coke, Van D. T
he Painter and the Photograph: From Delacroix to Warhol. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1972. pl. 83 (alt)
Marien, Mary W.
Photography: A Cultural History. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: SunSoft Press, 2002. fig. 3.14 (alt).