I’ve recently been involved with surveying the Archive’s lantern slide and glass plate negatives collections – a job which might take a bit longer than originally anticipated (my original naïve guess was that we held a few thousand slides and negatives; a conservative estimate now puts that number to around 26,000!). We are currently working on a proposal to secure funding for the cleaning and conservation of all of our slides. While many of the plates that we’ve looked at so far are copies of figures and illustrations from published texts, this box turned out to be a pleasant surprise.
The box, addressed to A.D. Passmore of Wiltshire, contains 32 slides of buildings, harbours, and waterways of Italy. Although they are reproductions rather than original images, they have been painstakingly hand-painted, making each slide truly unique and one of a kind. Painting slides by hand was done before the advent of colour photography and dates these images to the turn of the 20th century.
Arthur Dennis Passmore was an archaeologist and antiquarian from Swindon. A keen photographer as well, his interest in photography may have stemmed from his father, Richard Keylock Passmore, who worked as a photographer in Swindon during the 1860’s (see this 1864 advertisement from the Swindon Local Studies Library). A.D. Passmore collected and recorded objects from archaeological excavations throughout Wiltshire and even assisted O.G.S. Crawford in a 1923 excavation of Stonehenge.
Whether A.D. Passmore visited Italy and took these images himself is unknown; he travelled throughout the Mediterranean several times between 1909 and 1927, although he may have bought these slides from a photography shop. At any rate, they are beautiful to look at, and we are pleased to have them in our collections. We will keep everyone posted with our progress and will be sharing any more interesting finds that we discover!
For further reading on A.D. Passmore, please see “An Investigation into the Life of A.D. Passmore, ‘A Most Curious Specimen’” by Laura Phillips, published in the Wiltshire Studies Journal, Issue 97, 2004, pages 273-292.