Recommended reading

This is not an exhaustive list, but a selection of what we believe to be the best books with a general focus that, taken together, would make a small but excellent reference library for any collector of cased images. Though the ranks of daguerreotype collectors has certainly expanded in the past ten years — a decade punctated by a number of historic auctions and now enlivened by the Internet — many important books covering the daguerreian era (1839-1865) have, paradoxically, gone out-of-print and can be costly to acquire. For out-of-print titles, the prices listed here are typical of the range (resulting from condition and other factors) that appear on used and out-of-print book sites such as alibris,, and As a convenience for those who wish to purchase specific in-print titles, we provide direct links to the appropriate pages at In-print prices listed here are retail prices; discounts are often available at

NEW! The Origins of American Photography, 1839-1885: From Daguerreotype to Dry-Plate by Keith F. Davis. Yale University Press, 2007. 358 pp. The long awaited publication of the daguerreotypes in the Hallmark Photographic Collection at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City. In print; $65 hardcover. Purchase from

The American Daguerreotype by Floyd and Marion Rinhart. 1981. 445 pp. Two decades after its publication, the Rinharts' detailed chronological account remains the most rewarding history of its kind, loaded with detail and vibrant with the excitement of the "Pioneer Days". American preeminence, via sheer gusto and technical creativity of the early operators, asserted itself surprisingly early. The relationships between the major players is investigated. Includes a tabulation of hallmarks found on extant daguerreotypes and a chapter on daguerreotype cases. Many black and white reproductions; some in color. Out-of-print; $125-300 hardcover.

The Daguerreotype in America by Beaumont Newhall. New York Graphic Society, 1961. 176 pp. An enduring historical account. Elegant prose distinguishes this succinct account, by an author who is especially gifted in recalling the travels and tribulations of the first photographers. Numerous black-and-white plates, with an emphasis on historical portraits. Out-of-print; $60-100 hardcover, $20 or less for the the Dover paperback reprint.

America and the Daguerreotype by John Wood. University of Iowa Press, 1991. 273 pp. One of America's leading art historians, John Wood might be thought of as the Poet Laureate of the daguerreotype — and this is evidenced by his compelling prose in the opening chapter ("The American Portrait"). He tackles the powerful emotions aroused by what is perhaps the most potent form of photography. As editor he is equally successful in presenting the writings of scholars who have much to tell us; postmortems, occupationals, and the California Gold Rush are among the topics covered. In print; $39.95 paperback. Purchase from

Silver & Gold by Drew Heath Johnson and Marcia Eymann, eds. University of Iowa Press, 1998. 226 pp. Catalog of the exhibit at the Oakland Museum of California. An extraordinary survey of daguerreotypes, ambrotypes, and tintypes from the California Gold Rush. Hardback and paperback editions appear to have gone out-of-print. Purchase the hardcover edition or the paperback edition from resellers.

The Daguerreotype, A Sesquicentennial Celebration edited by John Wood. University of Iowa Press, 1989. 229 pp. Superb selection of plates, handsomely reproduced; numerous masterpieces; many in full color. Nine perceptive essays by leading scholars. Out-of-print; $175-$245 hardcover.

The Scenic Daguerreotype, Romanticism and Early Photography by John Wood. University of Iowa Press, 1995. 222 pp. Revelatory in its thesis connecting the first photographs of landscapes with the paintings of Constable, Friedrich, and Daguerre. Reproductions include some fine 20th Century daguerreotype landscapes. Entirely in black and white. In print; $59.95 hardcover. Purchase from

Mirror Image. The Influence of the Daguerreotype on American Society by Richard Rudisill. University of New Mexico Press, 1971. 342 pp. Deftly employs numerous paragraph-long quotes from the daguerreian era; these original observations and anecdotes include some humor, lightening a lengthy account. Concludes with an excellent annotated bibliography. Out-of-print; $125-$300 hardcover.

French Daguerreotypes by Janet Buerger. The University of Chicago Press, 1989. 256 pp. Particularly persuasive when examining the dialogue that this new way of seeing the world encouraged between the realms of science and art. Reproductions are drawn from the Cromer Collection at the George Eastman House. Highlights include many by Claudet, a Frenchman based in London, and by Warren Thompson, an American who moved to France. In print: $80 hardcover. Purchase from

Le daguerreotype francais. Un objet photographique by Quentin Bajac and Dominique Planchon-de-Font-Reaulx. Editions de la Reunion des musees nationaux, 2003. 432 pp. Catalog of the landmark exhibition at the Musee d'Orsay, Paris, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Text in French. This book is not easily obtainable in the United States. A CD-ROM edition of the catalog contains English translations of much of the book's text and reproductions of the images that were in the New York showing of the exhibition. The CD-ROM is in print: $29.95. Purchase the CD-ROM from

The Spirit of Fact:The Daguerreotypes of Southworth & Hawes, 1843-1862 by Robert Sobieszek and Odette Appel. David R. Godine and the International Museum of Photography at the George Eastman House, 1976. 164 pp. A catalogue style presentation of 107 daguerreotypes by Robert Southworth and Josiah Hawes, two Titans of the era. A representative sampling of their work; all in black and white, which does not record the distinctive tonality, but still worthwhile. Out-of-print; $50-$85 hardcover.

(Well after publication of this key work, a remarkable trove of "S & H" plates was uncovered and sold at Sothebys as the "David Feigenbaum Collection"; if you enjoy "The Spirit of Fact", you would probbaly find it worth acquiring the catalogue from this Sotheby's sale of April 27, 1999. About $20, on-line.)

Young America: The Daguerreotypes of Southworth & Hawes, Grant B. Romer and Brian Wallis, eds. Steidl, George Eastman House and International Center for Photography, 2005. 552 pp. In print; $120 hardcover. This is now the definitive catalog of the works of Southworth & Hawes. Purchase from

The Silver Canvas: Daguerreotype Masterpieces of the J. Paul Getty Museum by Bates Lowry and Isabel Lowry. J. Paul Getty Museum Publications, 1998. 256pp. Perhaps not every example in this volume is a masterpiece, but who's to quibble with so many fine full color reproductions. French plates are given particular emphasis. In print; $39.95 paperback. Purchase from

American Daguerreotypes from the Matthew R. Isenburg Collection. Published by Yale University Art Gallery, 1989. 126pp. This is the catalogue for an exhibition that took place in New Haven in 1989-1990. Isenburg's is almost certainly the grandest of all privately held daguerreotype collections. This volume reproduces approximately half of the 133 plates featured in the exhibition, many in full color; highlights include some of the finest work of Southworth & Hawes, and a superb selection of daguerreotypes from the California Gold Rush. Out-of-print; $65-$80 hardcover.

Secrets of the Dark Chamber by Mary Foresta and John Wood. Smithsonian Institution Press, 1995. 324pp. Illustrated catalog of another landmark exhibit of American daguerreotypes. While the selection of plates is exceptional, the reproductions vary in quality. Concludes with an extensive reprinting of original essays and announcements, the very words of the original observers and practitioners. Out-of-print; $100-$250 and up. When this was written, we had a limited number of new, still-shrinkwrapped copies of this title; to purchase one, contact us for information on current price and availability.

Photography's Beginnings: A Visual History by John B. Cameron and William B. Becker. University of New Mexico Press, 1989. 176 pp. Featuring the collection of William Becker. Gorgeous reproductions of early photographs, ranging from an 1840 daguerreotype by Robert Cornelius to circa 1915 autochromes. Approximately 65 daguerreotypes, ambrotypes, and tintypes included in Becker's eclectic, engrossing selection. Although officially out-of-print, a limited number of copies are still available from the author; $48 hardcover.

The Daguerreotype: Nineteenth-Century Technology and Modern Science by M. Susan Barger and William B. White. Smithsonian Institution Press, 1991. 252pp. Details the authors' groundbreaking material science research examining the daguerreotype at the microscopic level, with some startling conclusions regarding chemical cleaning. Not the final word, but an engrossing, landmark analysis nonetheless. In print (in a softcover reprint published by Johns Hopkins University Press); $26.95 paperback. Purchase from

Nineteenth Century Photographic Cases and Wall Frames, 2nd Edition by Paul K. Berg. Paul K. Berg, publisher, 2003. 581pp. The most comprehensive catalog of thermoplastic, leatherette, and other cases used to house daguerrreotypes, tintypes, and ambrotypes in the mid-nineteenth century. This is the standard reference when identifying cases, their rarity, and their approximate value. Mr. Berg has pulled out the stops for this newly-published revision, adding many new items and including some fine color plates. The second edition is available from the author. $60.

Craig's Daguerreian Registry, revised Edition by John S. Craig. John S. Craig, publisher, 2003. 1186pp. A detailed biographical and geographical listing of the known daguerreotypists in antebellum America, available both on-line and in book form. A useful compendium, with the on-line version evolving as new information comes to light. The recently published, two-volume, revised edition is available for purchase from the author's web site (item #90002). $120 paperback.