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Joseph-Philibert Girault de Prangey
[Daguerreotype Plate Box]
Storage, linden wood, plated iron, iron-gall ink
3 3/4 × 4 5/8 × 7 3/8 in. (9.5 × 11.7 × 18.7 cm)
Metropolitan Museum of Art
Gift of W. Bruce and Delaney H. Lundberg, 2017, Accession Number: 2017.175.3
Girault de Prangey produced the world’s first photographic archive, a private visual resource comprising 1,000 daguerreotypes he made in the eastern Mediterranean between 1842 and 1845. Working with plates that were larger than standard size at the time, he was able to make two or more exposures on a single plate, which he then cut down into unprecedented formats. He carefully labelled and stored the finished daguerreotypes according to size in custom-built wooden boxes, occasionally recording when he utilized them as the basis for a painting or a published print. A fastidious archivist, Girault de Prangey inventoried his collection at least twice, in 1865 and 1880, as evidenced by inscriptions on the box lids: the contents were found to be "exact" on both occasions.