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Félix Teynard (French, 1817-1892) was a civil engineer from Grenoble, a center of Egyptology, who may have learned the waxed paper negative process from Gustave Le Gray. In 1851-1852, he traveled more than a thousand miles up the Nile River on an extended voyage to photograph the architecture and landscape of Egypt and Nubia, creating magnificent views of the country he encountered. His 160 images were the most complete photographic record to date of the Nile Valley from Cairo to the Second Cataract. These waxed paper negatives were printed on salted paper by the Paris firm of Fonteny in 1853-1854 and the book Égypte et Nubie, Sites et monuments les plus intéressantes pour l'étude de l'art et de l’histoire was published by Goupil in 1858. It was intended to be an atlas companion to the 1809-1829 series of Napoleonic guidebooks, Description de l’Égypte, that Teynard acknowledged as having influenced his journey.

Goupil offered Égypte et Nubie for the princely sum of 1000 Francs, more than other published photographs. Few copies sold not only due to its high price, but also because collections of Egyptian photographs by both Francis Frith and Maxime Du Camp were already available. Today, fewer than a dozen copies survive. More than a beautiful travel album, Teynard’s calotypes represent one of the masterworks of nineteenth century photography, and an image of Egypt that Kathleen Howe states “had the force of a dream, the truth of memory, and precision of a plan.” 

Before Fonteny began printing, Teynard marked his negatives boldly with ink to instruct the binder how to trim the prints for mounting. In addition to the mounted prints made for the book, there exist a small number of untrimmed salt prints that must have been printed by Teynard himself as a guide for the printer. These rare survivors with his visible markings, show us Teynard’s refined compositional skills as he employed them.

Recommended reading:
Kathleen Stewart Howe, Felix Teynard: Calotypes of Egypt, A Catalogue Raisonné (New York, London and Carmel: Hans P. Kraus Jr. Inc., Robert Hershkowitz Ltd., Weston Gallery Inc., 1992)


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