09.08.2018 PWT 30-2018. Investigating a possible candidate for the Long Lost Clyde Daguerreotype (I)

On Long Lost Daguerreotypes

This conference* is an introduction to the more general project of an essay on lost daguerreotypes following the principles of classical bibliography, and William A. Jackson’s recommendation about lost books:

“We must recognize that despite all the work of the collectors of the past, a considerable portion of what once was printed no longer exists, and it is possible that the study of such lost books may become a recognized part of bibliographical work, just as the paleon­tologists are forced to reconstruct beasts whose bones they have never seen. Researches into books that have not survived may prove to be far more fruitful than at first seems possible.”

Roger Stoddard, former librarian of the Houghton library and author of the celebrated 1982 bibliography, Lost Books: American Poetry before 1821, strongly warned about the danger of wishful thinking:

“For bibliographers the most disheartening feature of such studies is the nature of the evidence. Contrary to the rules of bibliography, any source but a complete copy of the book is used. Old descriptions in in­ventories or catalogues, advertisements of booksellers or printers, and copyright entries are often unreliable and easily misinterpreted. No careful scholar presents data from such sources without warning his readers or before seeking verification elsewhere. Some writers have been tempted to embroider and fill out the data, fictionalizing printing his­tory while showing off their knowledge of it. Only if properly handled can such data yield useful results.

We can follow his path and adapt his advice to lost photographs. The most famous photographic subject on earth is probably Abraham Lincoln.  The temptation of impatient wishful thinking has misled several collectors, conservators, curators and auctionneers during the past 68 years, transforming the hunt into a mine field.

Since the early 1960s every portraits which could be of Lincoln has been searched, scrutinized, dozens of announcements have been made in the press, on rados and televisions. All families of people who had meet with Lincoln have been visited. Only three candidates, three purported portraits came to a large public knowledge in 1966, 1977 and 1998…

2017. An anonymous image unearthed during a busy New York photo fair, During the AIPAD Photo week, after having been offered for several months on internet. “The sitter is a Lincoln’s doppelganger” raised as a question. But this plate is a daguerreotype. Paradox: — How could a lincolnian portrait precede Lincoln changing appearance by growing a beard?

Access to the first article : PWT 30-2018 Long Lost Clyde Daguerreotype