The Daguerreotype in England:
Some Primary Material Relating to Beard’s Lawsuits

by R. Derek Wood

History of Photography, October 1979, Vol. 3, No. 4, pp. 305–9

In the October 1978 issue of History of Photography, Pauline Heathcote, in an interesting article on Alfred Barber (1809–1884), the first professional photographer in Nottingham,(1) has drawn attention to the legal action taken against Barber by Richard Beard in January 1843. She rightly notes that his lawsuit by Beard against Barber has hitherto ‘escaped general documentation in the annals of photographic history, having been overshadowed by his [Beard’s] protracted action against John Egerton which lasted from 1845–49’. She has also been able to point to a further two legal actions brought by Beard against Antoine Claudet and against ‘Edwards’, because they were reported briefly in The Times in July 1841 and November 1842. In addition, Beard also brought two more actions, in 1843 against Edward Holland of Yorkshire, and against Robert Bake and William Chapple of Truro, Cornwall.

Ten years ago, while researching the history of the calotype, the present author found that legal records preserved at the Public Record Office in London provided unique source material. Information relating to Talbot’s calotype patent lawsuits was published in 1971 (2) (3),  but research on the daguerreotype patent cases remained unpublished. What follows here represents the basic records of the daguerreotype cases, and that much, at least, will not ‘escape general documentation’.

Richard Beard (who on 23rd June 1841 purchased the patent rights for the daguerreotype originally sealed by the patent agent Miles Berry) brought six cases against professional photographers, generally over infringement of the patent because the photographer was using the technique without a licence, or (as with Alfred Barber) because of a dispute after a licence had been obtained.

The two most important cases concern well–known photographers in London, Antoine Claudet and the firm of Egerton. The other four cases were against Edward Josephs (also known as Edward Joseph Edwards) of 54 Liverpool Street (off Broad Street), London; Alfred Barber of Nottingham; Edward Holland of Yorkshire; and Robert Bake with William Chapple of Truro, Cornwall. All the cases were pursued in the Court of Chancery, in which (unlike the Courts of Common Law, i.e. Common Pleas and King’s Bench) the procedure and presentation of evidence was dealt with in writing, not verbally. The records of Chancery, therefore, provide valuable primary source material, not merely on legal cases for their own sake, but much more importantly on professional photography of the period.

The Economics of the First Studios

Examples of information retained by these records are the financial accounts of Antoine Claudet’s studio off Adelaide Street, London, for the period 24th June 1841 to 16th July 1842. Expenses for building work and fitting out the studio during this time had been 428. 16s. 5d. Total wages paid were 330. 12s. 10d., and 195. 4s. 6d. was spent on advertising. Claudet had imported from France 3410 plates at a cost of 425. 12s. 3d. while the cost of plates actually used during this period, along with the cost of frames and boxes used, totalled 794. 4s. 8d. During this 55 week period of June 1841 to July 1842, the number of portraits taken in Claudet’s studio was 1812, for which the total fees received were 1913. 15s.

The price asked by Beard for a licence was more than 1000. Alfred Barber was asked to pay 1200: 500 to be paid immediately and the remainder in three quarterly instalments by Bills of Exchange of 240 each. With this method of payment, the total became 1220. William Gill (probably a relative of Barber’s wife) recalled that when he and Barber spoke to Richard Beard at his studio at the Polytechnic Institution in Regent Street, London, on the 2nd September 1841, Beard said he ‘had no doubt that before the Bills [of Exchange] became due he [Barber] would take the money three times over’. Barber himself neatly put it that he was ‘beguiled’ by Beard over the amount of profit to be made.(4)  We have just seen that in Antoine Claudet’s studio 1812 portraits were taken over a 55 week period, and the regular charge for each was 1. 3s. 6d. It is unlikely that any provincial daguerreotypist would have been able to obtain more business than Claudet’s studio at a prime site in London, nor more than Beard and Johnson’s Polytechnic studio where, in July 1841, a customer would be charged 1. 8s. 6d. or 1. 13s. 6d. Bake and Chapple in Truro charged 10 shillings for a portrait in August 1843, while E. J. Edwards (i.e., Edward Josephs) in August 1842, in an off–centre area of the commercial city of London, charged 15 shillings (10s. for the daguerreotype plus 5s. for the mount). (5)

Obviously, it would be unrealistic for a photographer to pay 1000 or more for a licence. No doubt some of Beard’s contemporaries, noting simply the high sums asked for licences, might suppose he made a fortune. If he did actually receive many of these large fees that would have been quite true, but even when an agreement to pay such a fee was signed, as with Alfred Barber, it was still far from certain that the money would finally reach Beard if the photographer had few customers. He may have been prosperous on paper only, or from other business activities, but it is worth while remembering that Beard did, in due course, become bankrupt. (6)

Photography was born when times were hard. It would be surprising if the growth of photography had not been affected by the prevalent economic difficulties in England during the early 1840s. Hope is hardly a word that characterizes this period, although hopes were certainly expressed in the railway mania of the times, and there seems little doubt that some people, at any rate, entertained high hopes that photography could become a great business to go into — but was it? One daguerreotype portrait cost a little more than the average urban weekly wage, but such a statistic demonstrates nothing except that there can be no simple characterization of the economic situation of the first studio photographers. They were later to benefit during the boom time of mid–Victorian prosperity, but those sunny years did not really begin until the early 1850s. Not only technical invention is involved in the progress of photography, but also business enterprise. A good deal of attention has been given to technical and artistic innovators in photography, but much less to the businessmen and developers of the portrait trade.

Legal Records

For the historian the most important of the documents of the Court of Chancery listed below are the Pleadings (consisting of the plaintiff’s ‘Bill of Complaint’ and, usually, the defendant’s ‘Answer’) and affidavits. Also of interest, but not so outstanding, are the formal accounts of the hearings in court and the decisions made by the Vice–Chancellor, as recorded in the Decree and Order Books.

Chancery Cause Books are often of interest only during preliminary searches, although they can sometimes provide useful information on the progress of the action. The Six Clerks Cause Books used in the Court of Chancery before September 1842 give only the dates of filing of the Bill of Complaint and the Answer, and are listed below for the sake of completeness.

Records of the Courts of Common Law (i.e. Court of Common Pleas, Court of King’s Bench) were not searched because during this period of the 1840s they do not (unlike documents filed in the Chancery) provide material of primary interest. If lawsuits pursued by Beard in the Courts of Common Law (against, at least, Egerton, Claudet and Barber) should ever be felt to be of interest for their own sake as photographic legal history, then the potential researcher (7) might consider it worthwhile to carry out these laborious and time–consuming searches at the Public Record Office. However, in general, contemporary published reports provide as much, or more, information than that available from the original manuscript records of Common Law cases.

Richard Beard v. Antoine Claudet
Court of Chancery, 1841 to 1844 (also Queen’s Bench)

(a) Six Clerks Cause Books (3rd ser — Clerk Pollen).  IND 4160 (p. 16 of supplementary rear pages); and IND 4161 (entry in Hilary term, 1842).

(b) Decree and Order Books: C33/905/1056v; C33/906/1321; C33/912/1154; C33/913/1900v; C33/929/384.

(c) Proceedings (or Pleading) : C13/Bundle 435/B19 (original Bill filed 6th July 1841); C13/Bundle 456/B5 (supplementary Bill filed 7th March 1842).

(d) Affidavits: a total of 21 affidavits were filed.
C31/618 — Part 2 contains 19 of these affidavits (8th July 1841 – four affidavits; 12th July 1841 – six affidavits; 13th July 1841 – five affidavits; 14th July 1841 – three affidavits; 21st July 1841 – one affidavit). C31/633 contains one affidavit, filed on 5th May 1842. C31/665 contains one affidavit, filed on 24th January 1844.

(e) Reports and Certificates: C38/1803 (1842/B/Part 1); C38/1864 (1844/B/Part1).

(f) Published accounts: The Times (16th July 1841), p. 7; (23rd July 1841), p. 6.
Also Berry (i.e. Beard) v. Claudet in the Court of Queen’s Bench and appeal in the Court of the Exchequer Chamber is reported in London Journal of Arts and Sciences Vol. 21 (1843), pp. 57–59, and very briefly mentioned in The Times (13th May 1843), p. 8; (15th May 1843), p. 7; (17th June 1843), p. 8.

Richard Beard v. Edward Josephs
(i.e., Edward Josephs Edwards)
Court of Chancery, 1842

(a) Six Clerks Cause Book (Clerk Pollen). IND 4161, and Clerk in Court Book (Clerk Gatty) IND 7421.

(b) Decree and Order Books: C33/913/1761 and C33/918/53v.

(c) Proceedings (or Pleading) : C13/Bundle 475/B94.

(d) Affidavits: a total of 22 affidavits were filed.
C31/635 contains 21 of these affidavits (2nd September 1842 – four affidavits; 5th September 1842 – eight affidavits; 6th September 1842 – one affidavit; 9th September 1842 – two affidavits; 12th September 1842 – one affidavit; 13th September 1842 – one affidavit; 30th September 1842 – three affidavits; 7th October 1842 –one affidavit). C31/642 contains one affidavit filed on 2nd November 1842.

(e) Reports and Certificates: C38/1805 (Reports 1842/B/Part 3).

(f) Published accounts: The Times of 14th November 1842, p. 6 reports a hearing in the Rolls Court concerning Edwards breaking an injunction granted against him two months earlier. Two advertisements by Edwards, The Times (22nd September 1842), p. 1; (27th September 1842), p. 1.

Richard Beard v. Alfred Barber
Court of Chancery, 1842 to 1843

(a) Cause Book: C32/16/B41 (1842).

(b) Decree and Order Books: C33/919/593; C33/923/2027v.

(c) Pleading: C14/Bundle 4/B41 (1842).

(d) Affidavits: a total of 10 affidavits were filed.
C31/642 contains four of these affidavits (9th January 1843 – two affidavits; 10th January 1843 – two affidavits. C31/646 — Part 2 contains six affidavits (19th January 1843 – two affidavits; 23 January 1843 – one affidavit; 24th January 1843 – two affidavits; 26th January 1843 – one affidavit).

(e) Reports and Certificates: None.

(f) Published accounts: The Times (30th January 1843), p. 6 and Repertory of Patent Inventions (enlarged series), Vol. 1 (March 1843), pp. 185–7; P. F. Heathcote, History of Photography, Vol. 2 (October 1978), pp. 315–24.

Richard Beard v. Edward Holland
Court of Chancery, 1843

(a) Cause Book: C32/16/B115 (1843).

(b) Decree and Order Book: C33/922/1697–1698.

(c) Pleading: C14/Bundle 45/B115 (1843).

(d) Affidavits: a total of two affidavits were filed.
C31/654 contains two affidavits (4th July 1843 – one affidavit; 5th July 1843 – one affidavit).

(e) Reports and Certificates: None.

(f) Published accounts: None.

Richard Beard v. Robert Rankine Bake and William Chapple
Court of Chancery, 1843

(a) Cause Book: C32/16/B162 (1843).

(b) Decree and Order Book: C33/923/1995v–1997v.

(c) Pleading: Bill only filed on 10th August 1843, no Answer filed. C14/Bundle 48/B162 (1843).

(d) Affidavits: a total of six affidavits were filed (Beard’s side only).
C31/654 — Parts 1 and 2 (11th August 1843 – two affidavits; 18th August 1843 – four affidavits).

(e) Reports and Certificates: None.

(f) Published accounts: None.

Richard Beard v. John Egerton (and Jeremiah Egerton and Charles Bates)
Court of Chancery, 1845 to 1846
(and also in the Court of Common Pleas until 1849).

(a) Cause Book: C32/17/B54 (1845).

(b) Decree and Order Books: C33/940/819; C33/942/1616; C33/953/2106.

(c) Pleading: C14/Bundle 337/B54 (1845); consists of the Original Bill filed 8th March 1845, Supplementary Bill filed 17th August 1846, and two Answers filed 3rd May 1845 and 10th November 1846.

(d) Affidavits: a total of 23 affidavits were filed.
C31/685 — Part 2 contains five of these affidavits (8th March 1845 – one affidavit; 10th March 1845 – one affidavit; 11th March 1845 – one affidavit; 12th March 1845 – two affidavits). C31/691 — Part 1 contains nine affidavits (7th May 1845 – two affidavits; 20th May 1845 – five affidavits; 21st May 1845 – two affidavits). C31/694 —Part 2 contains one affidavit, filed on 4th June 1845. C31/715 contains eight affidavits (2nd September 1846 – five affidavits; 17th September 1846 – two affidavits; 19th September 1846 – one affidavit).

(e) Reports and Certificates: C38/1898 (Taxing Report filed 1st August 1845).

(f) Published accountsThe Times (30th May 1845), p. 8; (3rd June 1845), p. 8 and an advertisement on 16th June 1845, p. 1. The case heard later in the Court of Common Pleas was very fully reported in Common Bench Reports, Vol. 3 (1848), pp. 97–132; Vol. 8 (1851), pp. 165–216.
Reports also appeared in Repertory of Patent Inventions (enlarged series), Vol. 6 (1845), p. 256; Vol. 8 (1846), p. 47; Vol. 14 (1849), p. 293 and in London Journal of Arts and Sciences (conjoined series), Vol. 28 (1846), p. 368; Vol. 31 (1847), p. 64; Vol. 34 (1849), p. 438.
Very brief reports also appeared in The Times (28th May 1846), p. 8; (3rd July 1847), p. 7; (6th November 1847), p. 7; (15th January 1849), p. 7; (19th January 1849), p. 7; (22nd January 1849), p. 7; (26th June 1849), p. 7; (26th July 1849), p. 7.

rollschapel, London, aquatint by S. Ireland 1800

Figure 1. The specification of the daguerreotype patent [No. 8194] was enrolled by Miles Berry in February 1840 (8) at the Chancery Rolls Chapel Office in London. This aquatint etching by Samuel Ireland shows the Rolls Chapel and Rolls Chapel Offices of the Court of Chancery in 1800.  In the 1830s, when the ‘Office for Patents’ agency of Newton & Berry at 66 Chancery Lane was only a few minutes walk away, Chancery records were crowded into every available space, ‘the very seats of the Chapel being in fact cases for records ... on the ground floor are the Patent Rolls, in a spot so dark that no one can see to read’.  The house on the right of the figure was therefore available to the public for reading and copying the patent rolls.(9)

References and Notes

1.  Pauline F. Heathcote, The first Ten Years of the Daguerreotype in Nottingham, History of Photography, Vol. 2 (October 978), pp. 315–324.

2.  R. Derek Wood, Gallic Acid and Talbot’s Calotype Patent, Annals of Science, Vol. 27, No. 1 (March 1971), pp.47–83. See especially the documentation in Footnote 8 (on p. 48), Footnote 19 (on p. 52) and Footnotes 61 and 62 (on p. 63).

3.  R. Derek Wood, The Involvement of Sir John Herschel in the Photographic Patent Case, Talbot v. Henderson, 1854, Annals of Science, Vol. 27, No. 3 (September 1971), pp. 239–64. See especially documentation in Footnote 5 (on pp. 243–244) and Footnote 35 (on p. 261).

4.  Affidavits by Gill and Barber, filed 19th January 1843; Public Record Office, London, C31/646 Part 2.

5.  Prices given here are those paid on the occasion of a visit to the appropriate photographer by a fake member of the public who, after having his portrait (or ‘likeness’, as it was called) taken, swore an affidavit about his visit for the legal case brought afterwards by Beard. The figures are valuable as the price of a regular portrait taken at the studios, even though information on the frame and size is not known.

6London Gazette (12th October 1849), p. 3063; (7th June 1850), p. 1632.

7.  Aside from matters concerning the daguerreotype, I would recommend potential researchers in the history of photography to spend time at the Public Record Office, not so much on unrewarding Common Law records, but on a group of documents which provide a rich source, covering 50 years of professional photography, from 1862 to 1912. During this period in England the copyright of photographs was not an automatic right but had to be registered at the copyright office of Stationers’ Hall in London. The Registers of these photographs are now preserved at the Public Record Office in the class Copyright 3. The original application forms made out by the photographer were from the 1870s onward always accompanied by an original print (Public Record Office, class Copyright 1). During the 1860s and early 1870s only about one in 12 of the applications have the original photograph attached to the form. The application forms and the Register always give a brief description of the photograph. An example of the value of these registrations, even when a print is not filed, can be demonstrated by the fact that it is possible to compile a descriptive dated list of photographs registered by Julia Margaret Cameron. Between 1864 and 1875 she registered 486 photographs, but did not deposit any prints [later research by the author revealed total of 508 registrations, see the online article ‘Julia Margaret Cameron’s copyrighted photographs’, or download it as a 232KB Acrobat Reader (PDF) file:  download by clicking [here].]

8.  Berry obtained the patent for the daguerreotype in the usual way by first ‘sealing’ the title to the patent by obtaining on 14th August 1839 a writ of the Privy Seal (Privy Seal Patent Roll — 3 Victoria, 6th Part: C66/4575/No. 4, Public Record Office, London), and at the statutory time limit of six months, 14th February 1840, ‘enrolled’ the detailed specification of the Patent at the Chancery Rolls Chapel Office (Roll of Specification, C73/100/No. 10, Public Record Office, London). The situation with this patent was extremely unusual because the technique had been published and was public knowledge during almost the whole of this six–month period before it legally became available.

9.  H. C. Maxwell Lyte, ‘The Rolls Chapel’, 57th Report of the Deputy Keeper of the Public Records, London (1896), pp. 19–47.  The legal work carried out in the Rolls Chapel, the procedure for obtaining a patent, and the work of the Six Clerks Office of the Court of Chancery, is described in Second Report of the Deputy Keeper of the Public Records, London (1841).


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