May Dodge, Patron of the Arts

While her brothers William and Cleveland attended Princeton University and then moved to New York City to work in the family business, Mary (May) Melissa Hoadley Dodge (1861-1934) chose to move away from the family, finally settling in England. As the daughter of William Earl Dodge, Jr. (1832-1903), the developer of the largest copper mining and copper wire manufacturing companies in America, May Dodge had significant funds at her disposal, which she used to sponsor many causes.

In the early 20th century, May became acquainted with Francis Meynell (1891-1975), a printer and poet, whose work she collected and sponsored. When Meynell got married, she gave him a small printing press as a wedding present, on which he printed a limited edition of his mother’s poems and dedicated the book to Mary Dodge. This was his first imprint, “Romney Street Press,” and the beginning of a career that led to Meynell being knighted in 1946.

Together with her companion Countess Muriel De La Warr (1872-1930), May continued to support Meynell’s projects, supplying the capital to establish a new imprint, Pelican Press, in 1916. Even when he was fined £2,000 pounds for libel, after publishing a controversial cartoon of J.H. Thomas as Judas, Mary found a way to slip him the money to pay the fine.

Although she rarely gets credit, it was in large part thanks to her encouragement and financial assistance that Meynell’s career thrived. He went on to found Nonesuch Press in 1923, designing and publishing its books for the next 12 years.

Typography: the written word and the printed word, some tests for types, concerning printers’ flowers, the pioneer work of the Pelican Press, the points of a well-made book, a glossary of printers’ terms, type specimens, a display of borders and initials (London: Pelican Press, 1923). Graphic Arts Collection 2009-1615N

Alice Meynell (1847-1922), Ten poems, 1913-1915 (Westminster: Romney Street Press, 1915). “Dedicated to M.H.D.” Edition 50 copies.

Elmer Adler, The Craft of printing: notes on the history of type-forms, etc. Graphic Arts Collection GARF Z124 .C74 1921

Strickland Gibson, English printing 1700-1925; a note by Strickland Gibson. Graphic Arts Collection 2009-0517N846

Francis Meynell, The Holy Bible: reprinted according to the Authorised version 1611. Graphic arts Collection Oversize 2005-0019Q

Audubon tries to collect from Astor

John Syme, John James Audubon (White House)

January 12, 1861, The Brooklyn Daily Eagle
“The following apocryphal item is going the rounds of the papers:

Among the subscribers to Audubon’s magnificent work on ornithology, the price of which was 1,000 dollars a copy, appeared the name of John Jacob Astor. During the progress of the work, the prosecution of which was exceedingly expensive, M. Audubon, of course, called upon several of his subscribers for payment. It so happened that Mr. Astor (probably that he might not be troubled about small matters) was not applied to before the delivery of the letterpress and plates.

Then, however, Audubon applied for his thousand dollars; but he was put off with one excuse or another. “Ah, M. Audubon,” would the owner of millions observe, “you have come at a bad time; money is very scarce; I have nothing in the bank; I have invested all my funds.”

At length, for a sixth time, Audubon called on Astor for his thousand dollars. As he was ushered into his presence he found Wm. B. Astor, the son, conversing with his father. No sooner did the rich man see the man of art, then he began, “Ah, M. Audubon, so you have come again after your money. Hard times, M. Audubon—money scarce.”

But just then, catching an inquiring look from his son, he changed his tone: “However, M. Audubon, I suppose we must contrive to let you have some of your money if possible. William,” he added, calling to his son, who had walked into an adjoining parlor, “have we any money at all in the bank?”

“Yes, father,” replied the son, supposing that he was asking an earnest question pertinent to what they had been talking of when the ornithologist came in, “we have two hundred and seventy thousand dollars in the Bank of New York, seventy thousand dollars in the City Bank, ninety thousand in the Merchants, ninety-eight thousand four hundred in the Mechanics, eighty three thousand—” “That’ll do, that’ll do,” exclaimed John Jacob, interrupting him; “it seems that William can give a cheque for your money.”



John James Audubon (1785-1851), The Birds of America: from original drawings by John James Audubon … (London: Pub. by the author, 1827-38). Oversize EX 8880.134.11e. The Princeton copy “was presented … in 1927 by Alexander van Rensselaer (Princeton, class of 1871), a charter trustee of the University. It had formerly belonged to Stephen van Rensselaer (Princeton, class of 1808) of Albany, New York, one of the original subscribers to the work. The latter’s name appears as no. 32 in Audubon’s list of subscribers.”




Mikhail Kotsov’s “Chudak”

Chudak = The Oddball or Poor Guy (Moscow: Ogonek, 1928-1929). Graphic Arts Collection GAX 2019 in process. No. 1 (1928), nos. 2-50 (1929); 23.0 x 30.0 cm; each issue pp. 16.

Together with Thomas Keenan, Slavic East European and Eurasian Studies Librarian, the Graphic Arts collection recently acquired 50 of 56 rare issues of the satirical Soviet magazine Chudak (The Oddball), including the banned and retracted issue no. 36. No other library has these physical volumes, with the exception of two issues at Cambridge University. Issue no. 36 is not held at either the Russian State Library or the Russian National Library.

Given the lack of information on this ephemeral publication, our dealer’s note is quoted at length:

“During its brief and troubled, yet brilliant existence, Chudak brought together the Soviet Union’s sharpest satirical talents, both writers and caricaturists. Its literary staff and contributors included the team Ilf and Petrov, Kataev, Mayakovsky, Zoshchenko, Demyan Bedny, Gorky, Olesha, Svetlov, Arkhangelsky, Volbin, Zabolotsky, Ryklyin, Tvardovsky, and Utkin. Among its illustrators were Deni, Efimov, Bodraty, Kozlinsky, Ratov, Radlov, Malyutin, Deyneka, and the Kukryniksy.

This eminent ensemble was led by editor-in-chief Mikhail Koltsov, one of the foremost Soviet journalists of the 1930s and the inspiration for the character Karkov in Hemingway’s For Whom the Bell Tolls. Like its Leningrad-based contemporary Revizor, Chudak was born of the Central Committee’s April 1927 decree “On Satirical and Humorous Magazines,” which aimed to rein in rogue publications by replacing staff, merging enterprises, or shutting down papers outright.

As a consequence of this campaign, Koltsov inherited editorship of the satirical magazine Smekhach (February 1924–December 1928), which had seen its staff and readership gutted. Together with Ilf and Petrov, Vasily Reginin, Grigory Rylkin, and the others, Koltsov envisioned a complete rebranding of the magazine. He described this new publication in a letter to Maxim Gorky, who would pledge his support and contribute to the first issue:

“We have gathered a good group of writers and artists, and we have decided–whatever it takes–to give our magazine a new identity, completely breaking with faded satirical traditions. We are convinced that, contrary to all the yammering about ’the official seal’, a good satirical journal can exist in the USSR, excoriating bureaucratism, sycophancy, philistinism, duplicity, and active and passive sabotage.

The title Chudak did not come about by accident. We picked up this word as if it were the gauntlet that the average man bewilderedly and aloofly throws when he sees a deviation from himself, from the safe path: “He believes in Socialist Construction? There’s an Oddball!” “He’s subscribed to a bond drive? That’s an Oddball” “He thinks nothing of a good salary? What an Oddball!” We paint this disparaging name in romantic and vivacious colors. Chudak is no voice of acrimonious satire; it is sanguine, healthy, and happy. Neither is Chudak a high-toned abuser; to the contrary, it scrappily defends the many unjustly abused and willingly turns its bristling quill against the juries of skeptics and whiners.

Issue no. 36

Chudak was considered bolder and more literary than its competitors, corresponding with caliber of its contributors. However, it rode the line of political acceptability and eventually overstepped its bounds. The 36th issue (September 1929) incited the Party’s wrath by lampooning the “Leningrad Carousel” of officials in charge of an anti-Trotskyist campaign. This triggered the Central Committee decree of September 20, 1929, “On the Magazine Chudak,” which decried the “blatantly anti-Soviet character” of the material and removed Koltsov from his post. It further “charge[d] the OGPU to urgently investigate the matter of the insertion of these materials into the magazine Chudak and take measures to retract issue No. 36 of the magazine.

Koltsov was forced to issue a groveling apology (not without finger-pointing; he alleged that he had succumbed to hysteria propagated by the general press). While he was reinstated a month later due to the intervention of Kliment Voroshilov and Lazar Kaganovich, this was too little too late. The rival, state sponsored satirical magazine Krokodil had used the intervening time to organize a hostile takeover. Chudak was forcibly merged with Krokodil in February 1930.

Chudak’s literary legacy includes poems by Mayakovsky (“Govoriat” in No. 3, “Mrachnoe o iumoristakh” in No. 5, “Chto takoe” in No. 9, and others) and more than 70 pieces by Ilf and Petrov under their own names or a variety of pseudonyms, such as “F. Tolstoyevsky.” Many unsigned works have also been attributed to the duo.

However, their most important writings were the unfinished, serialized novellas Neobyknovennye istorii iz zhizni goroda Kolokolamska (Unusual Tales from the Life of the City Kolokalamsk) and Tysiacha i odin den’, ili Novaia Shakherezada (A Thousand and One Days, or the New Scheherazade), both of which foreshadowed their classic book Zolotoi telionok (The Little Golden Calf).

See additional information on Koltsov:

Wood engraving via woodpeckers

Carl Browne. Massillon Museum collection

On January 15, 1890, the Los Angeles Herald printed an article on local artist Carl Browne (1849-1914), in the hope that charges of blackmail would be dropped (which they were). The author goes on to describe Browne’s creative wood engraving technique of coating a block design with aromatic herbs and leaving it in a tree, tempting woodpeckers to cut the image with their beaks.

It is hoped [that] the charge of blackmailing against Carl Browne, the illustrious artist, will not be pressed. He may be guilty as charged in the indictment, but a man who has already done as much for art ought not to be required to go to the penitentiary too. Mr. Browne adorns everything that he touches, particularly if it is white; he leaves nothing as he finds it, unless it is very heavy indeed. Before his time art knew nettling of the reversible landscape, the five-legged cow, the stream which runs up hill and the house which has had its haircut.

It was he, too, who invented (under Providence) the new method of wood engraving heretofore described in this paper. The block is smeared with worm oil and the design drawn upon it with ink of [asafoetida]. When the picture is complete the block is hung up in a tree and the woodpeckers, attacking the light parts, leave the dark ones in high relief ready to print them.

Mr. Browne’s perspective has been highly extolled by Professor Davidson, one of the closest observers of earthquake phenomena that we have among us. but it is in his coloring that he comes out really strong. Nothing could be finer than the subtle harmonies which he produces with an arsenic-green sky brooding upon a carmine forest, beyond which a yellow sea rises steeply to the horizon, bearing two or three blue ships—a favorite subject which he has now the skill to paint with his eyes shut. Professor Holden of the Lick observatory said of one of Mr. Browne’s nocturnes, in which a noble range of black-and-tan mountains serves as a background to a constellation of liver-and-white stars, that he never saw anything so strange.

But this artist’s greatest work is doubtless his panorama of “Hamlet’s Soliloquy,” in which the spectator stands in the middle of Hamlet and sees the soliloquy retiring by the country roads toward all the points of the compass, thoroughly beaten and subdued. This painting was at one time exhibited as “The Battle of Gettysburg, ” and was highly commended in art circles in Calistoga. Afterward it was shown as “Penelope at Her Loom,” and is now, I believe, attracting considerable attention in the East as “The Petrified Forest.”

–Morning Press, Volume XXVI, Number 156, 16 January 1890 and Los Angeles Herald, Volume 33, Number 95, 15 January 1890

Although Browne’s various newspapers and lithographs have survived, none of the panoramas are known to exist. If you hear of one, please write.

A Treatise on Female Ruin

The Ladies Petition for Two Husbands, January 1, 1784. Engraving. Published by John Sharpe. British Museum

In 1784, John Sharpe published this satirical print making fun of Martin Madan (1726-1790) and his recent book: Thelyphthora: or, A Treatise on Female Ruin, in its Causes, Effects, Consequences, Prevention, and Remedy: Considered on the Basis of the Divine Law under the Following Heads, viz. Marriage, Whoredom, and Fornication, Adultery, Polygamy, Divorce … (London: Printed for J. Dodsley, 1780-1781). RBSC Miriam Y. Holden Collection HQ19 .M26 []

Dr. Madan, sitting on the right, accepts each woman’s petition for a second husband, “For One alone Cannot our want’s supply. Nor Half our Wishes Gratify.” Madan’s advocacy for polygamy caused such protest that he was forced to resign his chaplaincy of the Lock Hospital.

A number of other satirical prints followed, although Sharpe’s was the only instance of a woman with two husbands, rather than a man with multiple wives.

Edward Williams (1755-1797?) after Thomas Rowlandson (born 1756 or 1757, died 1827), Polygamy, July 1, 1802. Stipple engraving. Graphic Arts Collection GA 2014.00818. Gift of Dickson Q. Brown, Class of 1895.

Note, the wife is the well-dressed woman on the right and the mistress (or second wife) is on the left with the child.


George Moutard Woodward (ca. 1760-1809), Five Wives at a Time or an Irishman Taken In! June 7, 1808. Etching. Bound in Caricature Magazine, volume 1. Graphic Arts Collection Rowlandson 1807.51F. Gift of Dickson W. brown, Class of 1895.

“Why Jack you terrible Turk I could not believe it if I had not seen it – Five Wives at once – why you will get yourself into a pretty scrape! What could induce you to commit such a rash action.”

“Why you must know Uncle, out of so many I was in hopes to have met with a Good one – but by St. Patrick, I have been taken in –!!”

Note: wife number five is reading this book: Mrs. Thomson (active 1788), Excessive Sensibility or, the History of Lady St. Laurence. A novel (London: printed for G. G. J. and J. Robinson, 1787).

A Critical Dictionary of English Literature and British and American Authors (1899) lists four novels by Mrs. Thomson: The Labryrinths of Life, Novel, 12mo. 2. Excessive Sensibility; a Novel, 12mo. 3. Fatal Follies; a Novel, 12mo. 4. The Pride of Ancestry, 1804, 4 vols. 12mo.


See also: Théodore De Bèze, Tractatio de Polygamia in Qva et Ochini Apostatæ Pro Polygamia, et Montanistarvm ac Aliorum Aduersus Repetitas Nuptias Argumenta Refutantur: Addito Veterum Canonum & Quarundam Ciuilium Legum ad Normam Verbi Diuini Examine (Genevæ, 1591). 2 vols.

Document URL: <>

A hypochondriac’s choices

Thomas Rowlandson (1757–1827) after James Dunthorne II (ca. 1758–ca. 1792/93), The Hypochondriac, March 1, 1788. Hand-colored etching and aquatint. Graphic Arts collection GA 2014.00796. Gift of Dickson Q. Brown, Class of 1895.

This aquatint of a man suffering from hypochondria, depicts various demons and ghosts flying about his head offering the choice of death by stabbing, shooting, poison, slitting your throat, or a serpent’s bite, among others. Given the complicated lineage of the British artist Dunthorne, this print is often attributed solely to Rowlandson although it clearly lists Dunthorne as the designer.
James Dunthorne I (British painter, 1730-1815)
James Dunthorne II (English portraitist and caricaturist, born ca. 1758, died 1792 or 1793)
John Dunthorne I (British painter, active 2nd half of the 18th century)
John Dunthorne II (British painter, active 1783-1794)
John Dunthorne III (British painter, 1770-1844)
John Dunthorne IV (English painter, 1798-1832)

We agree with the Metropolitan Museum of Art that the artist who collaborated with Rowlandson here was James Dunthorne II, also known as the Colchester Hogarth. Judy Crosby Ivy, writing for the DNB explains:

Two other artists named Dunthorne (mistakenly identified in the Dictionary of National Biography and in the standard references as John) lived and worked in Colchester and may have been distantly related to the East Bergholt Dunthornes. James Dunthorne (c. 1730–1815), portrait and miniature painter and map-maker, was apprenticed to Joshua Kirby in 1745 for £25. He was also possibly the topographer responsible for several drawings of historic Essex buildings and tessellated pavements reproduced in various antiquarian publications in the 1760s and 1770s. James Dunthorne had nonconformist and whig connections and may have been related to John Dunthorne, a dissenting pastor in Colchester. He and his wife Elizabeth had nine children, the eldest of whom, James Dunthorne (c. 1758–c. 1794), painter and surveyor, was known as the Colchester Hogarth and exhibited several genre scenes at the Royal Academy between 1783 and 1792. Works by both father and son are in the Colchester and Essex Museum and in the British Museum, department of prints and drawings. —

See also

Perhaps it was Dunthorne who wrote:
The mind disemper’d – say, what potent charm,
Can Fancy’s spectre-brooding rage disarm?
Physics prescriptive, art assails in vain,
The dreadful phantoms floating cross the brain!
Until with Esculapian skill, the sage M.D.
Finds out at length by self-taught palmistry,
The hopeless case – in the reluctant fee,
Then, not in torture such a wretch to keep
One pitying bolus lays him sound asleep.’

See also: Resumé by Dorothy Parker

Razors pain you;
Rivers are damp;
Acids stain you;
And drugs cause cramp.
Guns aren’t lawful;
Nooses give;
Gas smells awful;
You might as well live.

The return of the White Sun

After many long years renovating and reconfiguring Firestone Library, Isamu Noguchi’s White Sun has returned to the Firestone front lobby. Created in 1966 and installed in 1970, Noguchi’s beautiful work is part of Princeton’s Putnam Collection of Sculpture, under the campus art collections managed by Lisa Arcomano.

The Putnam Collection of Sculpture is a memorial to John B. Putnam, Jr. ’45, Lieutenant U.S.A., who was killed in World War II. It consists of the works of twenty major twentieth-century sculptors purchased in 1969 and 1970 through a fund given by an anonymous donor.

These sculptures were selected by a committee of alumni who were directors or former directors of art museums: Alfred H. Barr, Jr. ’21 (Museum of Modern Art), Thomas P. F. Hoving ’53 (Metropolitan Museum of Art), P. Joseph Kelleher Ph.D. ’47 (The Art Museum, Princeton University), William M. Milliken ’11 (Cleveland Museum of Art).

John B. Putnam, Jr. ’45, who came to Princeton from Cleveland, Ohio, left college at the end of his sophomore year to enlist in the Army Air Corps. He made a brilliant record as a squadron flight leader with the Eighth Fighter Command in England, winning the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Air Medal with six Oak Leaf Clusters. He was killed in a crash in England shortly after D Day in 1944.

Welcome home.

Lectures for the Magic Lantern and Pleasant Readings for Leisure Hours by The Wizard (title copyrighted)

Lectures for the Magic Lantern and Pleasant Readings for Leisure Hours by The Wizard [cover title] (London: Millikin & Lawley, [1874?]). Graphic Arts Collection Q-000611

What do you say while presenting magic lantern slides? Do not improvise. The text has been written out in full thanks to booklets like this scarce, later edition of scripts for all types of Victorian magic lantern shows. Also included are instructions to how fast or slow to move each slide, and an indication of how to handle Dissolving View Lanterns, Comic Slipping Slides, Lever Action Slides, along with equipment such as the Nightingale Whistle and various Musical Boxes.


The author, known as The Wizard, promises that “the monotony of Evenings at Home is charmed away” through the amusement and instruction of the magic lantern. The seal of approval is made in a report that the Prince of Wales (later Edward VII) ordered a magic lantern, lantern slides, and a copy of lectures from Millikin & Lawley, for his children at Sandringham. The report states that he “was much amused at the comical character of the various laughable slides” (p. 26).

Our volume is missing the complimentary blank slide that is to be used for your personal greeting, allowing you to project a unique thank you to your audience.

Congratulations Student Collectors!

From left to right: Katarzyna (Kasia) Krzyzanska ’22, Marina Finley ’19, Ryan Ozminkowski ’19, Sergio De Iudicibus ’20, and Julia Ilhardt ’21.

The Friends of the Princeton University Library gathered at Prospect House on Sunday, April 28 for their spring dinner and for the announcement of the winners of the 94th annual Elmer Adler Undergraduate Book Collecting Prize.

Among this year’s submissions, the most noticeable feature is an unusually diverse range of subject and format that have fueled the youthful passion of budding collectors. In addition to regular books on various topics and genres, this year’s contest has also attracted collectors of miniature books, Blue ray movies, music box discs, vinyl records, and other types. The judging committee had great joy learning so much from this eclectic range of essays.

A second feature that emerges from these essays is how often collecting is about human relationship. Interwoven with their history of collecting “curios” is frequently a story about their treasured relationship with family members, shared memories, experiences, and interests with parents and grandparents, and friendship with like-minded peers and teachers.

The 94th Elmer Adler Undergraduate Book Collecting Prize is awarded to five student collectors this year for their essays that, in the opinion of the judges, have “shown the most thought and ingenuity in assembling a thematically coherent collection of books, manuscripts, or other material normally collected by libraries.”

Congratulations to our first prize winner: Marina Finley, Class of 2019, for her essay “My Collection of Rubaiyats: A Jug of Wine, a Loaf of Bread and 50 Extraordinary Books of Verse.” Marina curates a collection of diverse editions of the Rubaiyats of Omar Khayyam. The seed of the collection was a gift copy from Marina’s grandmother to grandfather in their adolescent years. The essay highlights twelve of the titles from her collection, bringing out their distinct features in such dimensions as style of illustrations, binding, size, shape, language, and country of publication. Marina’s essay will represent Princeton in the National Collegiate Book Collecting Contest organized by the Antiquarian Booksellers’ Association of America.

Marina is awarded $2,000 and a book donated by Princeton University Press to complement her collection: Music of a Distant Drum: Classical Arabic, Persian, Turkish, and Hebrew Poems translated by Bernard Lewis.

Second prize is awarded to Ryan Ozminkowski, Class of 2019, for his essay “I’m Blu Daba Dee Daba Die: A Story of Movies, Dreams, and Small Towns in California: A Blu Ray Collection.” Ryan curates a sizable Blu Ray movie collection, which started with a Christmas present when he was fourteen years old. His steadily expanding collection of Blu Ray discs has played a significant role in his Hollywood dreams, which Ryan pursues by engaging in movie making and gaining opportunities to work for Hollywood producers.

Ryan receives a prize of $1,500 and a copy of Hollywood Highbrow: From Entertainment to Art by Shyon Baumann.

There was a tie for third prize. Julia Ilhardt, Class of 2021, won with her essay “Records of the Past: A Music Box for the Ages.” Julia’s collection of music box discs began with an exquisitely crafted music box, gifted from her great-grandfather to her great-grandmother seven decades ago. Julia took over a collection of discs, which had been under the care of generations of women in her family, and continued to grow the collection. The discs embody shared experiences, memories, and tastes across generations.


Sergio De Iudicibus, Class of 2020, won with his essay “Riding a Rattling Soviet Bus: the Honesty of Forgotten Recordings.” Sergio has a passion for what he calls unorthodox music recordings which are not necessarily edited to the perfection but have captured the rawness of the occasion, allowing him to visualize the humans, instruments, and equipment by listening closely to the disembodied sound waves.

Both Julia and Sergio receive a prize of $1,000 and a book published by Princeton University Press. Julia is given a copy of Reflections on the Musical Mind: An Evolutionary Perspective by Jay Schulkin. Sergio is given Why You Hear What You Hear: An Experiential Approach to Sound, Music, and Psychoacoustics by Eric Heller.


An honorable mention was awarded to Katarzyna (Kasia) Krzyzanska, Class of 2022. Kasia’s book collection has the distinct advantage of being portable. Her essay is not about ebooks on tablets though—the title is “A Library That Fits in a Suitcase: Collecting Miniature Books.” When she travels in the United States or in Poland, where her family came from, she searches for poetry anthologies, dictionaries, and classic works as small as a matchbox. Kasia prefers to discover them in brick-and-mortar stores than having such books conveniently shipped from online shops. As she wrote, the seemingly unnecessary fuss is part of the joyful experience that she seeks from collecting.

Kasia is awarded the book How to Do Things with Books in Victorian Britain by Leah Price.

All the winners also receive a certificate from the Dean.

Prizes were announced on Sunday by Minjie Chen, chair of the Adler Judging Committee and P. Randolph (Randy) Hill ’72, chair of the Friends of the Princeton University Library. Special thanks to this year’s fellow judges: Claire Jacobus (member of the Friends), Jessica Terekhov (Student Friends member), John Logan (Literature Bibliographer), Julie Mellby (Graphic Arts Curator), and Emma Sarconi (Reference Professional for Special Collections). Princeton University Press generously donated all the books awarded to students.
Congratulations to all the winners!

[Photography by Shelley Szwast]

A Western Gentleman

Thanks to the generosity of Alfred Bush, the Graphic Arts Collection has acquired a new quarter plate ambrotype, approximately 3.25 x 4.25 inches (8 x 11 cm), of a Western gentleman.

The vast majority of ambrotypes in the world are recorded as: Photographer unknown. Portrait of unidentified man. ca. 1880. Richard Benson noted in his exhibition catalogue The Printed Picture:

Most photographers who have worked in the darkroom are aware that negatives can sometimes appear as positives. Often we will lift an underexposed negative out of the fixer, disappointed that it is of insufficient density, and find that it suddenly appears as a positive. This occurs when the silver deposit is illuminated by the overhead light but we see it against a dark background, perhaps the old darkroom trays made of black rubber. The silver, which appears light gray, shows as a positive instead of a negative, since it is much lighter than the background against which we see it. This phenomenon was noticed early on, and some wet-plate photographers turned it to use by intentionally underexposing their plates, then coating the back of the glass with black paint. The resulting pictures—unique, direct-positive images— were called ambrotypes. Usually small, they were put in cases and entered the same market as the dying daguerreotype.

To hear Benson talk further on tintypes and ambrotypes, see: