Hill (1856, 1972) A Treatise on Heliochromy – Early Color Photography Facsimile


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Hill, Levi L.  A Treatise on Heliochromy; or the Production of Pictures by Means of Light in Natural Colors. (State College, PA: The Carnation Press. 1972) Facsimile reprint of the 1856 edition, with new Introduction by William B. Becker.

Octavo. [16], xii, 175 pages. Hardcover. Bound in black cloth stamped in blind and gilt.  Cover reproduces the original look of an 1850s book.

Condition: Near Fine. Light mustiness, not offensive. Purchased from the estate of the publisher.

Levi Hill (26 February 1816 − 9 February 1865) was an American minister in upstate New York who claimed in 1851 that he had invented a color photographic process. Borrowing terms previously introduced in France, Hill called his process “heliochromy” and the photographs that it produced “heliochromes”, but by analogy to the naming of the then-current daguerreotype process after its inventor Louis Daguerre, Hill’s color photographs were soon being called “Hillotypes”. Hill’s work was met with skepticism during his lifetime, then for more than a hundred years after his death histories of photography routinely dismissed it as a complete fraud. Later researchers found that his very difficult process did in fact have a limited ability to reproduce the colors of nature.

A heliochrome is a color photograph, particularly one made by the early experimental processes of the middle 19th to early 20th centuries. The word was coined from the Greek roots “helios”, the sun, and “chroma”, color, to mean “colored by the sun”. It was applied to images as technologically diverse as Levi Hill‘s “Hillotypes” of the 1850s (Hill’s instruction book was entitled A Treatise on Heliochromy), the three-color carbon prints made by Louis Ducos du Hauron in the 1870s, and the interference color photographs made by Gabriel Lippmann in the 1890s. It was also occasionally misapplied to images whose color was non-photographic, i.e., due to local coloring by handwork of some kind. – Wikipedia