Carte de visite from an album sold for £3200 by Thomson Roddick.

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As the name suggests these are images mounted on a piece of card the size of a formal visiting card: a format patented in 1854 by French photographer Andre Adolphe Eugene Disdéri (1819-89). He devised a method of cheap production of making several portraits on one photographic plate.

These cards are very collectable today, such as the two albums dating from the 1870s that appeared at Carlisle auction house Thomson Roddick (20% buyer’s premium) on June 27. Both were estimated at £60-100.

Packed albums

The best performer, sold for £3200 to an American buyer after bidding opened at £3000, included photos of north African tribesmen, Egyptian scenes by French photographer Hippolyte Arnoux, views from a Chinese opium den and a Japanese Shinto priest.

With ‘some yellowing to portraits and tearing to interior’, it comprised 96 cards in total each measuring 4 x 2½in (10 x 6cm).

The other album featuring 48 cards of the same size showing Chinese and Japanese scenes including a Samurai warrior, with ‘some yellowing to portraits and spotting to interior pages. Spine starting to become loose.’ Bidding opened at £260 and after “fierce bidding from both the room and internet sold for £2200 to a Northern Irish buyer specialising in historic photography”, said the saleroom.

It added: “The two albums belonged to an Edinburgh vendor and they came into our auction room mixed in with a collection of stamps and postcards.”

The carte de visite craze peaked in the 1860s but they were sold into the beginning of the 20th century.