An obvious question, when looking at the enormous labour of love which is the catalogue of the second collection, is 'Why bother?'.

Why bother to produce such detailed and accurate drawings, for which the time each took to complete ensured that only five or so objects could be recorded per working day? This workrate (which is actually extremely fast when one considers the quality) meant that by the last years of Pitt-Rivers' life there was a huge backlog and may have resulted in many tens or hundreds of Pitt-Rivers' acquisitions not being recorded in the catalogue at all, or only (as in the last few pages of volume 9) listed in group textual entries.

By the late nineteenth century it must have been clear that photography would have been a quicker and possibly accurate means of recording the appearance of objects. Photography at that time did have one distinct disadvantage, it was not in colour. However, it is clear that the drawings were preferred over the photographs. The reasons for this are not clear. This webpage seeks to explain what photographic techniques might have been employed and therefore at least make the mechanisms that would have to have been employed if photography had been used clearer.


Pitt-Rivers caused the catalogue of the second collection to be produced at a time when photography was increasingly used for such purposes. He himself (or his family did, soon after his death) caused a catalogue to be made of his art treasures. He employed a firm of photographers to produce a purpose-made album. He also used photographs in some of his books (notably that about his Benin collection).

Add.9455vol3_p1120 /1

It is not entirely true to say that objects in the catalogues are always drawn. There are several examples of photographs being over-painted in the catalogues, though they are rare, from page 1120 on, starting in May 1895 shortly after G.F. Waldo Johnson took over the preparing the entries and illustrations. Add.9455vol3_p1120 /1 for example shows a canoe prow which for the purposes of being photographed has been placed on a plinth in front of a sheet. It is not known whether the photograph was taken at Rushmore or Farnham Museum or from the dealer's original catalogue (Eva Cutter). Add.9455vol3_p1122 shows a photograph of a North American Plains coat similarly over-painted, having been pinned up on a back-curtain.

In one of Pitt-Rivers' workbooks held by the National Archives [workbook 39/10] there are notes written by W.S. Tomkin, one of Pitt-Rivers' assistants who principally worked on his archaeological investigations and accompanied Pitt-Rivers on his tours as Inspector of Ancient Monuments. The attribution to Tomkin was made by Michael Thompson in 1960.


W.S. Tomkin was one of Pitt-Rivers' assistants. His background is unknown although he appears to have specialised in producing maritime artwork after he left Pitt-Rivers' employment. [1] His full name appears to have been William Stephen Tomkin and his dates 1861-1940:

... William Stephen Tomkin (1861-1940) British). Tomkin was a highly proficient watercolour painter of marine subjects. He initially worked as a draughtsman for General Pitt Rivers, who was Inspector of Ancient Monuments. Tomkin exhibited "Wind Against Tide" at the Royal Academy in 1909. ... British Old barges signed and dated 'W.S. Tomkin 1925', watercolour over pencil ...[2]

Several of his maritime works were sold by Bonhams on 14 September 2004.

Tomkin worked for Pitt-Rivers from around 1882 until 1890. He was employed as a sub-assistant and earned £84 per annum. Thompson and Renfrew suggest that Tomkin might have contributed to volume 2 of the second collection catalogue, though he is not named and did not sign the book to confirm this. Thompson says of him

The most interesting [assistant] in many ways was Tomkin, who has left us those charming drawings of Pitt-Rivers acting as scale when he was on tours of inspection. He was evidently a skilled draughtsman and the accounts show that he was sent on courses at the Polytechnic in London in 1889 for photography and drawing. Perhaps this was where he made the contacts that secured him a job with a printing house soon after'. [Thompson, 1977: 95]

Tomkin has obviously been sent off to the Polytechnic to learn how to photograph. It is clear from other accounts (see above) and from a date against a calendar for 1889 that this diary and information relate to Tomkin's activities in 1889.

He prepared some of the drawings in Pitt-Rivers' private publications on Excavations on Cranborne Chase etc. [Pitt-Rivers 1892, xv] He had to redraw both skulls and coins for the first Cranborne Chase volume because Pitt-Rivers was not happy with the accuracy of his first attempt. [Bowden, 1991: 104]

He left Pitt-Rivers' employment a year after his photographic training and went to work for Waterlow Brothers Ltd. Bowden suggests that he was forced to leave the General's employment because he could 'not afford to marry on the 'pittance' he was paid'. [Bowden, 1991: 106]

It would appear from the contents of his notes, given in their entirety below, that Tomkin was not only learning how to photograph outside during the ancient monument inspections, but also how to photograph objects. This, therefore, gives us a brief insight into the techniques employed. Although it is extremely unlikely that Tomkin was the one to produce the photographs used in the catalogue of the second collection, presumably that photographer used roughly the same techniques.

It is also not clear exactly where Tomkin was taught except it was in London and known as the "Polytechnic".

Photographic notes

The notes can be found from page 27 on of the tenth workbook. The rest of the workbook was possibly written in 1888, when the sites investigated and set out in the workbook were surveyed, though this is not confirmed within the contents.  Note that the original notebook pages appear to have been numbered in reverse, for example despite numbers of pages going up, dates retreat, also continuation of notes appear before the start. This occurs in other workbooks, one presumes they were numbered [on the page by PR or one of his assistants] after use where this wasn't noticed and that the National Archives have followed suit. Note that the notebooks themselves appear to be the usual kind that have identical covers back and front, which might make this error easier to understand. In order to make Tomkin's account of his training more readable this reversal has been reversed (i.e. you see them as he wrote them), and the page numbers have not been given. To see the actual transcription of the notes please go here. Note that the following account also omits the notes about travelling expenses to get to the Polytechnic and timings which are all given in the full transcription.

Tomkin's Notes on Photography [National Archives Pitt-Rivers workbooks 39/10 pages 27-60

In taking off the cap be careful that the movement is done quickly (avoiding jerking) and moved upwards
In doing this stand clear of the camera and stand
It is as well to release the cap before exposing the opening

(Lens required 8 in. Ross portable symmetrical)

Lighting Near subjects 30 ft
For out door work best suited to a subject depends on the distance from the camera
Near subjects best taken minus sunlight
If sun is shining move objects to shade where possible
In bright weather the best time is early in the morning or late in the evening
If possible have a background abut 12 ft from the object
If possible shut out top light also on one side
It is advisable to shade top of lens to cut away light from above
In dull weather or even in sun good work can be done with near subjects

Moderate distances
Objects should always be taken with diffused sunlight such as is given when the sun is behind a thin white cloud.
Time most suitable before 11 and after 3
Avoid strong light upon foliage when view to camera
The sun may be behind the camera or to one side not too high in the sky
Air quite clear and free from mist

Distant subjects beyond 100 yds
Always taken in full sunlight with the sun shining on the view Time of day not so much an object as in the last [Linked by line to above 'Air quite clear and free from mist' Ditto more particularly in this [illegible]

The following table of exposures will hold good
Good summer light no sky or white clouds, sun 28 [degrees] above horizon whether shining on the whole of the subject or not using the so called instantaneous plates
Whatten and Wainwright 38 Gt Queen St. for best plates
Full aperture of portable symmetrical line
10 ft   4 seconds
10 ft to 30 ft     2 seconds
30 ft to 100 ft    1 second
100 ft to 100 yds    1/2 second
100 yds to 1/4 mile    1/4 second
Beyond this    1/8 second
The distance is always measured for exposure from the nearest prominent portion of the subject which is not in sunlight or from [blank]

The nearest [illegible] portion of the sun is not shining,
In bright sunlight the exposures are much shorter
1/2 second for an object 10 ft away
1/2 second for an object 10 to 30 ft
1/8 second for an object 30 to 100 ft
1/10 second for an object beyond this
With each smaller sized stop the exposure is doubled
When sunlight falls from 25 [degrees] to 16 [degrees] the exposure is doubled
16 [degrees] to 8 [degrees quadrupled
Always let your lighting and exposure suit the principal object
Always be guided in the exposures by the [illegible] portions of the subject
During the winter months double this table of exposures
In places where the light is shut out the exposure can be lengthened

Interior Work
Moderate sized objects such as vases &c about 3 ft from wall Light to fall on it generally at 45 [degrees]
Avoid top lights
Background of course to suit object
Brown paper suitable for light objects
Reflected lights
Shut out other lights opposed to the principal source of light.
Keep lens shaded
It is advisable to have a changing box containing as many as 18 plates

Developement [sic]
1 Solution Pyrogalic Acid
2 Solution Bromide of Potassium
3 Solution Ammonia

No 1 used is Sulpho Pyro which is supplied by the Platinotype Co 29 Southampton Row 10 oz bottles 2/2 per bottle 10 per cent solution

No 2 1 oz of Bromide of Potassium
10 oz of water

No 3 Ammonia
1 oz of strong ammonia 88 and 9 oz of water

Formula for Mixed Developers
A Formula for near objects up to 30 ft from the camera such as carvings statuary details objects in showing relief &c All subjects of whatever nature which display strong contrasts Pyro 10 to 20 minims [3]
Whatever quantity of Pyro is [illegible] take 1/2 quantity of Bromide and 1/2 to 2/3 of ammonia The greater quantity in cold weather
These amounts to be made up to 1 fluid oz with water
For near objects 10 ft away 10 minims of pyro would be sufficient
3 ozs for 7 1/2 x 5

at 15 to 20 ft 15 minims
20 to 30 ft 20 minims
In cases of very strong contrast always use small quantities of [illegible]

B Formula for open subjects 30 ft to 100 yds such as landscapes architecture &c copying plans and drawings subjects which display only slight contrasts
Pyro 20 to 40 minims per oz
Bromide equal
Ammonia 1/2 to 2/3
to be made up to [illegible] oz with water
As the distance increases increase the strength of the developer
Subjects under weak lighting require stronger developer than if strongly lighted

C Formula for distant landscapes all subjects shewing very slight contrasts
Pyro 40 to 80 minims
Bromide and Ammonia 1/2 to 2/3
Made up to 1 oz with water

For 7 1/2 x 5 plate you require 3 oz of developer
Alum bath to be used after developing
2 oz of alum to 1 pint of water

Fixing bath
4 ozs of Hypo sulphite of soda to 1 pint (20 ozs) of water

Exterior views
No 1 plate view of Lodge on Putney Heath about 200 ft distant (weak light) exposure about 6 seconds No 2 stop used [Added] Successful
No 2 plate same view but nearer by about 50 ft exposure about 5 seconds
No 3 plate same as no 2
No 4 plate specimen of object interior work terra cotta 5 ft 4 in from object to lens exposure 10 seconds full
No 5 plate as No 4 in every respect but with exposure of 20 seconds (Light the same)
No 6 plate Bronze statuette against white or light background. 5 ft from object to lens. Light failing so exposed for 4 minutes.
underexposed [Added] 3 or 4 times as long

Developement [sic] % [Added] 10 per cent solution
Bottle A Pyro
Pyro 1 oz
Citric acid 60 grams = 1/8 oz
Water up to [insert] 9 1/8 [end insert] 10 ozs [fluid ozs]

Bottle B Bromide
Bromide of Ammonia 1 oz
Add water up to 10 oz.

Bottle C
Liquid Ammonia 1 oz
Water up to 10 ozs

A 40 minims (drops)
B 30 ditto
C 60 30 ditto
Fill up to 2 oz [insert] 3 ozs [end insert]
Ammonia to be varied according to rapidity of development begin with say 30 minims Develope [sic] until the [illegible, possibly darkest] parts (which are light) are almost jet black
If overexposed diminish 3 [insert] C [end insert] and increase 2 A
Begin with too little ammonia 1/2 quantity say

1 Developer
2 Check Development
3 Assists development
[insert] Be careful to wash [end insert]

Saturated solution of Hypo Immerse plate till all whiteness disappears 1 to 5 minutes

Use Hypo over and over again

20 [illegible]

[insert] It [end insert] washes off all un-decomposed silver salts
Wash negative 1 hour [insert] and over [end insert] in running water
(Not all night) to
to remove every trace of Hypo
Alum bath to be used if found necessary (frilling)
Thoroughly dry
This is absolutely necessary

Print till up in different light in the open air till just spoiled

No 1 Thoroughly wash prints changing water often turning each print over separately till no milkiness
10 minutes
Remove soluble salts

No 2 wash 2 or 3 minutes in water which has 1 tablespoon common soda
Wash once in clean water

3 Take 15 gum Chloride of gold bottle put into large bottle with 15 drams [4] of water shake up till bottle breaks We leave [?] now at a 10% p chloride of gold solution
Take 1 dram of this to about [insert] 10-12 [end insert] 12-14  half plate prints and put into tray with enough water to cover the points add 30 grs of Borax to 1 dram of chloride of gold solution
put prints in one by one separately carefully and keep moving turning over and over

1/4 hour to 20 mn Soon till all redness disappears and purple results

When finished place prints in water bath (still sensitive) Remember dull [insert] white [end insert] light to be used

4 Fixing
4 oz Hypo to pint of water fresh every time

Keep one dish entirely for Hypo
Avoid Hypo until toning is done
Wash prints in this fixing bath 1/4 hours turning over and over Do not let hand which is touching Hypo solution get near other prints
5 Wash prints for 3 hours in running water

Glenfield patent starch [5] mix with boiling water till like jelly when cold rub well in to back of print
avoiding lumps and put under pressure

Bromide of Potassium 1/4 lb
Ammonia (strong) 1 lb 880
Hypo sulphite of soda 7 lbs (stone jar)
Pulverised Alum 2 lbs
Pulverised Borax 1/4 lb
Tube of Chloride of Gold 15 gram

For developing
For Hypo specialty 1
2 Porcelain dishes 11 x 9 deep
Deep papier-mache for developing 7 1/2 x 5
For toning &c for Fixing alone porcelain
1 12 x 10 deep dish
2 13 x 11 deep dish

Measures glass
10 oz 4 oz 2 drams

Houghton 89 Holbourn [6]
10 x 8 front opal glass with yellow fabric for oil (make allowance for more air)

Printing fumes
3 whole plate with glass beds and felt pads

7 1/2 x 5 cutting glass plate glass abt. 1 ft sq for cutting point.

1/4 [illegible] Sensitised paper
finely ground focussing screen glass

June 28th Ordinary Plates
Views of Battersea Park
[Added on side] Plates successful
Plate 1 exposed about 15 seconds no 4 stop
Plate 2 ditto 20 seconds same stop Good light in both cases Bridge in B. Park Strong sunlight 4 stop about 15 seconds
Plate 4 View on lake with foreground of water plants &c Exposed abt 20 seconds stop no 4 strong light
Plate 5 Interior exposure terra cotta objects exposed 2 minutes
Plate 6 Interior exposure terra cotta vase exposed 2 minutes Light very good

Plate 1 view from back of Gros Gardens no stop used
Plate 2 Mr James [7] taken in the dining room G.G. 3 seconds

"Instantaneous plate
July 1st Monday
Plate 1 King John's House new from Garden above similar to sketch Good light abt 5 oclock stop no 4 exposure 1 second
Plate II  K.J.'s Hs  new from near Entrance gate Light &c same as above

July 2nd "Instantaneous plates"
Plate 3 K.J.'s Hs Staircase Interior exposure 5 seconds
Plate 4 Ditto exposure 10 Good light small lens
Plate 5 Statue of Caesar Augustus at Rushmore about 25ft from Camera stop no 2 used 3 seconds exposure
Plate 6 Statue of Caesar Augustus at Rushmore (second new) similar in every respect as no. 5 [Added] right exposure

Wednesday July 3rd
Packed for London in black relic box unbound nos of journals undeveloped and unexposed plates

July 3rd Instantaneous
Plate 1 (7) Rushmore House Exterior sun not shining stop no 2 exposure about 1 1/2 seconds [Added] undeveloped
Plate 2 (8) View of Gates Rushmore (with storks) same as regards light &c as No 1 undeveloped underexposed
Plate 3 (9) View of statue &c ditto as regards light &c

Saturday July 6th
Instantaneous plates
Pl 1 Mochtons Lodge
Pl 2 view up valley
Pl 3 Foliage Hedgerow
Pl 4 2nd view up valley Evening light
Good exposure in each case
Pl 5 Haystack and waggons Evening light
Pl 6 (1) Upper pond Basted
Pl 7 (2) Rushes ditto
Pl 8 (3)

The evening light of the above was too weak except for detailed subject use no 3 stop

At Grosvenor Gardens A 60 B 30 C 30  Stop Exposure Bronze figure and Egyptian painted tablet taken with small lens no stop used. Light good exposed about 4 seconds Ditto for Tanagra figure and monkeys head
Bronze figure holding vase exposed right time and the development about right. Might have been a little longer

July 10th G.G. [8]
Pl 1 Bronze figure of Faun (Satyr) no 4 stop used good light exposure about 5 seconds
Tanagra figure very much under-developed which causes background to be toned instead of white
Skull also underdeveloped giving same results.

For open subjects such as landscapes, architecture &c
7 1/2 x 5 plates require 3 ozs of developer
Pyro 20 to 40 minims per oz
Bromide equal quantity
Ammonia 1/2 to 2/3 (begin with the smaller quantity)
Pyro 90
Bromide 90
Ammonia 45 to be made up to 3 ozs with water

For distant landscapes and subjects showing very slight contrasts
Pyro 180
Bromide 90
Ammonia 90  at first to be made up to 3 ozs with water

Development continued
For objects not more than 30 ft from camera such as carvings and details in very strong relief and with strong contrasts
Pyro 60
Bromide 30
Ammonia 30 to be made up to 3 ozs with water
For every object not more than 10 ft from the camera Pyro 10 minims

July 11th
Plate 1 Bronze figure of dancing faun Stop 5 used exposure 5 seconds Good strong light [insert] underexposed [end insert]
Plate 2 Bronze fig. of Gundsuma Stop 5 used exposure 5 seconds Good strong light [insert] underexposed 3 times more [end insert]
Plate 3 Terra Cotta Tanagra fig against dark background Stop 5 used exposure 5 seconds Light not so strong
Plate 4 Two Tanagra figures against a white background Stop 5 used exposure 8 seconds Light not so strong
Plate 5 Carved ivory figure on fish. Stop 4 used exposure about 10 seconds no sunlight [insert] exposure and development might have been slightly increased 50%
Plate 6 Two [illegible] figures stop 4 used exposure about     seconds no sunlight

5 same exposure same stop Ammonia to be used starting with full amount

July 12th
3 W & W Instantaneous Nos 1-2 and 3
3 Ilford Plates ordinary [Note along side] This plate (negative) complimented by Polytechnic authorities also by Messrs Waterlow & Sons representative [9]

July 13th
W.&W. [illegible]
Pl/1 Kits Coty House
Pl 2 Kits Coty House front view 2 seconds full aperture
Pl 3 Distant view full aperture

Ilford Plates
Pl 4 Distant view full aperture
Pl 5 Maidstone Museum stop 3 15 seconds
Pl 6 Maidstone Museum stop 3 15 seconds

July 14th Ilford Plates
Plate 1 Beech tree with figure stop 3 15 seconds no sunlight
Plate II Beech tree 20 seconds
Plate III Trees with figure stop 3 15 seconds [insert] very good P. [end insert]

July 15th
Plate I Ivory Carving  Stop No 4 exposure about 15 seconds No sunlight D90 90 60 [insert] not so well [illegible] as the first exposure [end insert]
Plate II Bronze figure of Grenadier Stop no 4 exposure about 15 seconds no sunlight D 90 90 60 [insert] Details better in this than in first attempt [end insert]
Plate I Carved head of Cleopatra in granite No 2 stop used exposure about 15 seconds Developer 90 90 60 [insert] P. Good [end insert]
Plate II Flint implement no 2 stop used Exposure about 15 seconds Developer 90 90 60 [insert] [2 words illegible] not right otherwise about right
Plate III Bronze figure of Dante 
P. Good No 2 stop used exposure about 15 seconds
Plate IV Bronze figure
P. Good No 2 stop used exposure about 15 seconds
The dullness of the plates exposed for Kit's Coty House and the Maidstone Museum is caused by light getting to them whilst changing in the dark room
This is a fact to be noted. Great care must be taken that no light can get to the plates whatever until they are exposed
4 to 5 on Friday
Fares 2d
To Elliots and Phototype Co. [10] from there to Poly 2d

3 plates of my own (Ilford) used for the Genl's work
Focussing cloth 1s 6d
Operation after printing
Keep two distinct dishes for Hypo. one for fixing negatives and one for printing
Tone prints after printing
Toning to take place as soon after printing as possible
Washing in 3 changes of 5 min allowing 1 gallon of water per change
Keep constantly moving and turning
Toning bath
Should be prepared 24 hours before being used

Proceed as follows -
8 drums of acetate of soda (1/4 lb) dissolved in 80 ozs of water (distilled) then add an (8 grs) ounce of gold ch. solution shake the bottle and add 1 drum of precipitated chalk [insert] 40 grs [end insert] (I ounce to get of this) After 24 hours (after mixing) this is ready for use
Carefully avoid contamination
Solution to be 70 [degrees]
If cold it wont tone
In winter warm
Keep prints constantly moving whilst toning
Return superfluous toning solution to bottle
put away toning dish after use
Tone till a slight amount of red in the shadows only remains

If [insert] warm [end insert] tones [insert] are required [end insert] keep in bath much shorter time
Rinse in water and change and then they the prints are ready for fixing bath
Fixing Bath
1 part (oz) of Hypo
10 ozs of water and 10 minims of strong Ammonia [illegible]
Keep constantly moving in this bath for abt 15 mn take out and give 1/2 doz changes of water (keeping prints moving) and finally wash in running water for about 10 hours
To dry
Lay out on pink blotting paper or better still a clean towel

[illegible, possibly Toning] solution will keep with care for 6 months replenish gold about 2 hrs before use and allow to stand occasionally add abt. a drum of acetate of soda Precipitated chalk to be in the bottom of the bottle
Avoid top lights
Interior painted French grey
Floor covered with carpet
Light to face north or north east
Door with lock
Perfectly firm on foundations
Narrow floor boards
Water tight windows

July 20th
Exposed an Ilford plate ordinary for oil painting indoors with stop No. 2 for about 40 45 seconds (Light failing)
Inserted 3 other plates in dark slides
July 21st
Plate I in dark slide is unexposed
Plate II Selbys House
Plate III Selby's House
Plate IV Ightham Church

Chemicals required
1/4 lb Acetate of Soda
1 ounce precipitated chalk
Van der Weyde 182 Regent right hand side going up 870 [11]
July 22nd 1d 1d to "Polytechnic"
2d to W. & M. from there to Phototype Company 2d from there to Victoria

See here for more information about the objects photographed by Tomkin.


[1] Interestingly on there are 3 paintings of ships by a W.S. Tomkin, this might be the same person as they are dated to 1896, and Tomkin was employed by Pitt-Rivers for his artistic skills.

[2] Information obtained from a Bonhams sale catalogue for 14 September 2004.

[3] A minim is a measurement or unit of volume, 1/60th of a fluidram or 1/480 of a fluid ounce, this measure is now obsolete.

[4] Fluid dram 1/8 of a fluid ounce [an obsolete measure]

[5] Glenfield Patent Starch was a starch used in the Royal Launderies according to an Advertisement in Notes and Queries, 6 February 1858.

[6] George Houghton and Son, 89 High Holborn, London. Glass merchants, makers of photographic equipment.

[7] Frederick James, another of Pitt-Rivers' assistants.

[8] Grosvenor Gardens, Pitt-Rivers' London home

[9] Note that Tomkin went to work for Waterlow after he left Pitt-Rivers' employment. Waterlow and Sons was a printing firm.

[10] Possibly Elliot and Fry, photographic film manufacturer

[11] Henry Frederick Van Der Weyde (1838-1924) Painter and photographer. 182 Regent Street London.

AP October 2011

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