Francis Frith was born at Chesterfield, Derbyshire, England in 1822 to a Quaker family. A successful grocer, and later, printer, Frith fostered an interest in photography, becoming a founding member of the Liverpool Photographic Society in 1853. Frith sold his companies in 1855 in order to dedicate himself entirely to photography.
From 1856 to 1860 Frith made three photographic expeditions to Egypt and Palestine. His work appeared in books published by the London firms of James S. Virtue and William Mackenzie between 1858 and 1865, and as stereographs published by Negretti and Zambra in 1862.
In 1859, Frith established F. Frith and Company at Reigate in Surrey, which produced and distributed photographs and stereographs for albums and book illustrations. The company also made international travel views from Italy, Scandinavia, Switzerland, Japan, China, and India, as well as an extensive body of work in Great Britain in the late nineteenth-century. One of the first mass-producers of photographs in England, F. Frith and Co. closed in 1960.
Frith died in Cannes, France in 1898.
Van Haaften, Julia, Egypt and the Holy Land in Historic Photographs: 77 Views by Francis Frith. New York: Dover Publications, Inc. 1980.
Wilson, Derek, Francis Frith’s Travels: A Photographic Journey through Victorian Britain. London: J.M. Dent & Sons, Ltd., 1985.
The Frith collection at Eastman House is divided into two groups: the early Middle Eastern photographs made by Frith which are housed in the library, and the later works produced by his company that are held in the photo collection. This portion of the Frith collection contains international views from F. Frith and Co., and possibly some images that may be attributed directly to Frith. Cataloguing is yet to be completed.
Frith’s Egyptian and Middle Eastern photographs (546 photographs) are mounted in fragile oversize books. (Librarian assistance is required for handling all of these books.)
Each book is complete with its original views.
In several of these books Frith himself writes about his experiences. Other books, such as Egypt, Sinai, and Jerusalem and Egypt, Nubia, and Ethiopia were authored by historians who explain the symbolic significance of the architecture and hieroglyphs pictured in Frith’s views. In The Queen’s Bible, 1862-1863, titles to Frith’s photographs have often been changed from their previously published titles in order to better illustrate Biblical history.
Frith’s Egyptian and Middle Eastern albums came from a variety of sources, including gifts from Alden Scott Boyer and Mrs. Alden Scott Boyer.
Amelia Hugill, Curatorial Assistant