It was not until about 1861 that photograph albums became available in England, and the Ricardo album dates from that period. The need for albums arose because there was then a huge craze around the world, which started in France, in 1859, for collecting cartes-de-visite (literally, “visiting cards”). These were portraits printed on thin paper, approximately 57 × 89 mm (2 1/4 × 3 1/2″), mounted on a thicker paper card, approximately 64 × 100 mm (2 1/2 × 4″). Cartes-de-visite could be put in carte-de-visite albums produced with slots which accommodated them. In England alone, during their heyday (called “cartomania”), hundreds of millions of cartes-de-visite were sold annually. They could be acquired at stationers, booksellers, railway stations, photographic clubs and photographers’ studios, and they were traded and exchanged among visitors and friends. Unmounted paper portraits, that were similar in size to cartes-de-visite, but were applied to the pages with glue, were for a different type of album. The Ricardo album is that style of album.
In the early 1860s, Victorian albums functioned like society albums, rather than family albums. They might include portraits of royalty, gentry, statesmen, clergymen, scientific and literary men, theatrical and operatic celebrities, and one’s family and friends. Essentially, they reflected their owner’s interests. They were both public and personal. The Ricardo album mostly has photographs of people who were a part of the lives of the Ricardos and includes few photographs of family members. The album also gives us some intimate glimpses into the Ricardos’ family life at Ray Mead Cottage with their friends. To be fair, however, it is predominantly Albert Ricardo’s interests which shape the whole album. There are many photographs in the album of Albert Ricardo’s fellow cricketers in the I Zingari team, who were aristocratic gentlemen amateurs; some of whom also performed with him in amateur dramatics, and many of whom were members of the Guards regiments serving in the Household Brigade at Windsor Castle, which was only four miles from where the Ricardos lived. Denne Park, Badminton, and Croxteth Hall, which had grounds on which Albert Ricardo’s fellow cricketers played, are among the country houses in the album.
The Ricardo album is of particular interest because the people and places have been identified, and the photographs have remained together. Were it not for that, much of their meaning would be lost: Something has to survive in context! The Ricardo album is itself a representation of the Victorian era. In addition to depicting the world of the upper class in the late 1850s and early 1860s, it is a visual record of architecture, fashion, sport and theatre. The Ricardo album contains some of the earliest cricketing photographs, some of the earliest photographs of theatrical performances, photographs of several individuals, who, during the 19th century, played prominent or interesting roles, and it contains rare photographs of Japan. Besides all of this, we can reconstruct something of the life of a family which is, at the core, the driving force of the album. The Ricardo album is like a message in a bottle that links the future we know and the past that Charlotte Ricardo has preserved for us.
It is hoped, moreover, that the text captions provided will render it easier for users of this website, who are interested in such matters, with any research they may undertake, by relieving them from a large amount of preliminary detail. I need hardly say I shall be very thankful for any corrections or additional information.
A note about the photographs:
Almost all of the photographs in the Ricardo album are albumen prints. The 8 large theatricals, the photographs taken in Japan, and a few others, are calotypes. Of the 268 photographs in the album, there are over 120 studio portraits that are carte-de-visite size; more than 40 of them were taken by Camille Silvy, who Sir Cecil Beaton called the “Gainsborough of commercial photographers.” The album also contains more than 40 portraits by Messrs Day of Piccadilly, as well as portraits by Southwell Brothers and A.A.E. Disdéri. The remaining photographs, in most instances, are the work of gifted, anonymous amateurs, and some as yet unidentified studio photographers.
Susan C. Djabri (M.A. (Hons) Edin. in English Language and Literature) graduated from the University of Edinburgh in 1959. She worked as an interviewer on a topical affairs programme, Scope, at BBC Radio Scotland 1959-1960, and as a research assistant in the Information Research Department of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office 1961-1971. After her marriage to Waddah Djabri, a Syrian consulting electrical engineer, in October 1971, she lived in Beirut, Lebanon and Saudi Arabia; and had two sons born in 1972 and 1974.
Since moving to Horsham, Sussex in 1992 she became a volunteer at Horsham Museum, organiser of the local history group of Horsham Museum Society and Hon. Editor of the local history journal, Horsham Heritage. She wrote or edited a number of books for Horsham Museum and Horsham Museum Society on Thomas Medwin, the Shelley family and their estates, the letters of Bysshe and Timothy Shelley, and the diaries of Sarah Hurst, and a series of booklets on the Horsham Tithe and Enclosure maps. Commercial publications include two photographic books on Horsham for Tempus Publishing in 2001 and 2006; and a book with Horsham Photographic Society called Horsham Through Time for Amberley Publishing, in November 2009. A revised and expanded edition of The Diaries of Sarah Hurst was also published by Amberley in May 2009. Recent publications include Waking the Dead – a guide to Denne Park Cemetery (2010), Keeping House in Horsham in 1760 – the Diary and Account book of Elizabeth Smart (2012), Samuel Evers’ Journal and the story of his life (2013), and a revised edition of George Coomber’s Bygone Corn Mills in the Horsham Area (2014), all published by the Friends of Horsham Museum.
FROM THE CURATOR
I would like to thank historian Susan C. Djabri for writing the majority of the text captions. The website would not be, had it not been for her valuable contribution. I would like to thank photographer Edis Jurcys for his splendid photo documentation. Sincere thanks to Amanda Marier for editorial support. I would like to thank David Morrison who was merciful enough to sell me the album. I would like to thank visual artist Matthew Hollett for his design of the website. (I’m so pleased!) Special appreciation is extended to Paul Frecker for his help with attributions. I am also thankful for the insights offered by Erika Togo, Carolyn McCabe, Michelle Brannon, James Pratt and photography professor David K. Brunn. Assistance provided by Noel Chanan in identifying William Lake Price as the photographer of “Lady Craven’s Carriage” was greatly appreciated.