A Lancaster researcher has helped to shed light on long-lost John Ruskin photographs.
Professor Stephen Wildman, the Director of the Ruskin Library, has helped photography collectors Ken and Jenny Jacobson in their research into a collection of early photographs, formerly belonging to John Ruskin.
The box of daguerreotypes – one-off photographic images captured on silver-coated cooper plates – includes nearly 100 of Venice, either bought or taken by Ruskin between 1845 and 1852. The collection also has scenes of France, Switzerland, Italy, and probably the earliest surviving photographs of the Alps.
Professor Wildman helped to identify some of the daguerreotypes, finding, for example, that one photograph formerly thought to be of Lucerne is in fact of Bellinzona.
The photographs were put up for auction in 2006 by an elderly man living in Cumbria, who said they had been in his family for over 70 years, probably acquired in 1931 at the sale of Ruskin’s former home at Brantwood, Coniston. The collection was miscatalogued and valued at only £80, but two buyers suspected that they might be Ruskin’s missing photographs and the Jacobsons finally won the auction at £75,000.
Having won, the Jacobsons visited Lancaster University frequently to look at the Ruskin Library’s collection of daguerreotypes. They also made extensive use of archival material at the Ruskin Library such as the Coin Book, which contains a list of Ruskin’s daguerreotypes.
Professor Wildman said: “Together, the collection of over 300 daguerreotypes represents one of the most important collections of historic photographs known to exist. Ken and Jenny Jacobson have done a wonderful job in writing their book, and we are very pleased that the archive held by the Ruskin Foundation here at Lancaster – the largest of its kind in the world – has been of such use.”
Ken and Jenny Jacobson acknowledge Professor Wildman’s valuable help in their recently published book, Carrying Off the Palaces: John Ruskin’s Lost Daguerreotypes – which includes a fully illustrated catalogue of all 325 of Ruskin’s known daguerreotypes.
The Ruskin Library holds 125 of Ruskin’s daguerreotypes – more information about the library and its exhibitions can be found here.