We all know what this means to us nowadays: an old book which has been photographed and the negatives from these photos used as original copy for an edition printed by offset lithography.

Leaf 18 from James Orchard Halliwell-Phillipps’s 1857 photographic facsimile of The famous victories of Henry the fifth. London, imprinted by Barnard Alsop, and are to be sold by Tymothie Barlow … 1617. Folger PR2411 .F3 1857 copy 2.

But it wasn’t always thus. After the invention of photography but before the full development of lithography there were few options. Here, from The Folger Library’s blog, The Collation, is an account of an 1857 photographic facsimile of The Famous Victories of Henry the Fifth. The label, photographic facsimile is literal: each page is a photographic salted paper print made from a negative. In 1857 they would all look fine, but the ten copies only which were made by James Orchard Halliwell-Phillipps (who annotates each copy to the effect that the negatives have been destroyed) have all faded to greater or lesser extent — as photographs will of course tend to do as the chemicals involved keep on working.

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