[Identification table and classification codes for Daguerreotype Hallmarks]

[© 2014 by G.Chiesa & P.Gosio]

In the course of the researches jointly developed by the authors of this book,  it was possible directly to observe,  analyze and compare hundreds of antique daguerreotype plates. One of our most important achievements consists in the identification of many hallmarks used to mark the plates. The reference classification text commonly adopted to date is “The American Daguerreotype” by Floyd and Marion Rinhart, published by the University of Georgia Press so much from 1981. Since then it was possible to collected many other data and documents that allow to propose a contribution far more complete and updated. In this way it is possible to overcome shortcomings, oversights and inaccuracies of the fundamental text of Rinhart.

The table of identification here shown, yet to be broaden and deepen, consist of significant revisions and considerable enrichments compared with the incomplete hallmark table already listed by Rinhart. The ambition is not to expose here an exhaustive catalogue of hallmarks, but to present new comments and additions. Our ambition is not to expose here, but to submit new additions and observations. The identifying work will be more thoroughly conducted when it will take advantage from the cooperation of international institutions and from the contribution of private researchers, overcoming the limited vision of individual experiences.

The goal is to establish a flexible classification scheme, opened to further developments, which lets record each subsequent new element in a scheme which would not get shocked every time. We have therefore rejected a list in numerical sequence, but instead employed a sort of a sequence of alphabetical codes. The authors want to introduce here an identification code that can easily understood and adapted to allow any subsequent modifications, additions and updates. A simple sequence number maintains a validity limited to the publication in which this code appears and is intended to be fail in time.

The solution here adopted should be allow a simple classification and an immediate identification of the hallmark, also preserving furthers developments and variations. The correlation between the shape of each hallmark and his ID code is designed to remain fixed even in the case of future developments. The graphics of the marks shown here was made usually tracing the digital design upon the shape imprinted on the daguerreotype plates. This was performed by overlaying the graphic design to the original image. It was often possible to identify and use a typeface that is equivalent to the original one. The character shapes used for hallmarks here represented, are the most similar to the original imprint that we can find and come from a selection of nearly two thousand models of fonts.

Sometimes the poor quality of the marks imprinted on the original plates force to some approximations. Some hallmarks, while observed in identical shape on a number of plates, are still incomplete. In this case we have chosen to adopt the depiction commonly held as most reliable from  conservators of museums and private collectors or what we can derive from the accurate observation and comparison between imprints with the same hallmarks. Some hallmarks are composed by different layered impressions. The mass value is generally impressed separately from the manufacturer's brand. Sometime we can also see, on the same daguerreotype plate, the hallmarks of the producer, the importer, the distributor or the daguerreotypist. The combination of imprinted signs multiply the markings that you can detect. To identify the references we have greatly used the contribution of the Craig’s Daguerreian Registry (www.daguerreotype.com).

As the frequency of some recurrences may strengthen the belief that a particular hallmark was characteristic of a precise geographical area of use, but unfortunately we can’t achieve indisputable certainties. The production area is not necessarily the area of use. Especially in the early period, the French plates were massively exported in America and in the rest of Europe.

The identification table proposed by Chiesa & GOsio, follows the alphabetical policy. A list merely based on the LastName or on the brand is not practicable because this is not always known and recognizable, as when you can see a simple couple of letters no further identifiable. Therefore, the code sequence is created following an integrated set of parameters.

The identification code consists of six characters in capital uppercase letters, except in the case where the name of the manufacturer is absolutely unique and recognizable. In this case we use directly the brand name.

The employed characters have function of denotation and are used to describe the most evident and specificelements of the hallmark, as figures or letters. This makes possible to maintain listed side-by-side substantially similar markings (stars, lambs, eagles…). Variants give rise to adding a sequence number (hyphen followed by 1,2, 3 ...). If in the future should be necessary to insert a new hallmark code you will use a combination of alphanumeric characters that lists the hallmark according the corrected alphabetical pattern and following the similarity shape order. The descriptive classification code is accompanied by a brief description in English.

Another important coding rule is the distinction between direct positive imprints (engraved) and negative imprints with the figure rising in relief from the rectangular or oval background. The punch leaves a sign for impression that enters and engraves the plate, non in relief, but sinking in the metal. The imprint looks like a negative picture, opposed to a drawing on paper. The graphical representation must therefore be consistent with this feature. The shapes of the hallmarks so far used in various publications were often made by subjective representation.

[© 2014 by G.Chiesa & P.Gosio]

[Identification table and classification codes for Daguerreotype Hallmarks]

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