The images were taken between 1849 and 1851 during du Camp’s three year sojourn through Africa and the Middle East and are often considered to be the earliest examples of travel photography.
“In 1852, photographs could not be reproduced on a printing press and each photograph had to be made as a print from the original negative and laid down on the card mounts,” says Paul Mills of the Cape Town saleroom. “A time consuming process, and this is one of the earliest publications to be illustrated with original photographs.”
Du Camp took his journey to ‘the Orient’ with a young Gustav Flaubert. The rich young men each recorded accounts of their trip in their diaries and includes stories of bandit attacks, experimental drug use and encounters with exotic belly dancers – though their accounts often differ on multiple points.
AntiquarianAuctions.com has only 59 of the 125 photographs and text plates that made up the volume Égyptie, Nubie, Palestine et Syrie, which du Camp published in a small edition in 1852.
“Individual prints can sell for $1000 or more,” Mills says, “and the complete work in good condition is very seldom sold these days.”
However, he adds, a complete set was sold at Christie’s Paris for €205,500 (£177,758) including buyer’s premium in April this year.
The collection was consigned by an owner from Cape Town. Despite foxing to many of the photographs and some staining to the mounts, the pictures are estimated to bring between $15,000 and $20,000.