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ARCHIVED - William James Topley:
Reflections on a Capital Photographer

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The Studio

Mass Production of Images

Page 22 from THE OTTAWA ALBUM with a photograph and accompanying text for T. Hunton, Son & Larmonth dry goods store, which supplied costumes for the Fancy Ball, Ottawa, 1875

Advertisement for T. Hunton & Son and Larmonth dry goods store of Ottawa, which supplied costumes for the Fancy Ball. From page 22 of The Ottawa Album

During Topley's early career, the reproduction of photographic images was costly and labour intensive. Because the publisher used real photographic prints, each had to be glued individually into the book in which they appeared. Although half-tone and collotype printing presses could provide a relatively faithful reproduction of photographic images, they were still in their infancy.

Page 36 from THE OTTAWA ALBUM featuring an advertisement for the Union Forwarding and Railway Company that contains a photograph of the Chaudière Falls, Ottawa, 1875

Advertisement containing a photograph of the Chaudière Falls, The Ottawa Album, page 36
January 1875

Therefore, when Topley published The Ottawa Album in 1875, he used actual photographs as illustrations. Containing advertisements of the principal businesses, hotels, steamboats and local views, the album also included 61 laid-in photographic prints. This was a unique exploit, evidently too expensive to be repeated or duplicated in other cities. As half-tone printing methods improved over the next few decades, Topley produced several booklets of photographic scenes of Ottawa.

By the time Topley set up in business, photography was used as a method of mass publication of images. Thousands of prints could be made from an individual negative. Irish soprano Rosa D'Erina, for instance, ordered 5,000 copies of her photograph taken at the Topley Studio to distribute on her tour of Europe. By the 1890s, hundreds of Topley's photographs had been published in magazines such as the Dominion Illustrated, and some appeared on the cover pages of sheet music.

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