La revue spirite, the leading journal of 19th-century French spiritualism, was founded in 1858 by Allan Kardec (pseudonym of Hippolyte Léon Denizard Rivail 1804-1869) and after his death, Pierre-Gaetan Leymarie (1817-1901) took over as editor. Leymarie was not only a fake medium but also active in the bogus practice of spirit photography, using the respected journal to advertise and promote it.
Leymarie formed a partnership with the photographer Édouard Isidore Buguet (1840-1901) along with an American medium Alfred-Henri Firman. They sold their manipulated prints through La revue spirite, where Leymarie printed glowing reviews. This lasted for several years until the French police caught on to their scheme.
In April 1875, an undercover officer went to Buguet’s studio on the pretense of having his photograph taken. During the session, props and other tricks were discovered and Buguet was arrested. Leymarie and Firman were also charged with fraud.
A sensational trial followed, in which many respected men and women testified on the men’s behalf. Eventually, Buguet confessed and was sentenced to one year in prison and a fine of 500 francs but escaped before he served any time. Leymarie was sentenced to one year and Firman six months, after which both returned to successful careers in the spiritualism business. La revue spirite continues to be published.
The Graphic Arts Collection recently acquired a rare first edition of Proces des Spirites, Edite par Madame P.G. Laymarie, which is the account of the 1875 trial, complete with the passionate testimony of the Parisian elite compiled by Leymarie’s wife Marina. La photographie spirite et l’analyse spectrale comparées (1875) has also been acquired, offering a contemporary account by L. Legas, the president of the Belgian spiritualist group La Vérité.
Various photographs by Buguet found on google image.
Procès des spirites. Edité par Mme P.G. Leymarie (Paris: Librarie Spirite, 1875). Graphic Arts Collection 2017-in process
L. Legas, La photographie spirite et l’analyse spectrale compares (Paris; Legas, 1875). Graphic Arts Collection 2017-in process
See also: Henri Sausse, Biographie d’Allan Kardec (Paris: Pygmalion, 1993). (F) BF1283.K228 S287 1993