Travellers have been writing about this region since the saints trudged Christianity through it’s pagan highways and byways more than a thousand years ago.
By the time Frederic George Stephens arrived for a tour in the 1860’s, Normandy had been so well described he was hard pressed to be original in his reporting. But he was, because Frederic’s book would be illustrated with photography. The first camera photograph had been taken in Burgundy, France in 1826 or 27. Now just thirty years later pioneering photographer Joseph Cundall was able to record the Gothic wonders Frederic loved in Normandy, with exceptional quality.
Frederic, an Englishman, had joined the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood but was so disappointed with his own artistic efforts he destroyed all his work, stopped drawing and painting and became a critic, editor and art historian. These Albumen silver prints were taken for his 1865 publication ‘Normandy, it’s Gothic architecture and history; a sketch‘.
The texture of these early photos gives an other worldly finish to ancient ornate buildings. The only colour is created by age, details are both sharp and unfocused. Small elements remain to reveal nods to the 19th century; a horse and carriage, a market stall. Happily for us the buildings are still recognisable today.
Read the book online at Archive.org
See more of our picture posts here