Born in April 13, 1837, Benjamin Jones "B. J" Sayce became a student of photography at age 16. He gradually moved away from the art of photography and concentrated extensively on scientific research for the next several years. He began conducting wet collodion experiments in 1859 with his assistant William Blanchard "W. B." Bolton. By 1864, the duo published their modified collodion technique in a work entitled, "Collodio-bromide of silver emulsion process," an important turning point in the relatively new science of photography. According to Mr. Bolton, who often receives the lion's share of the credit for this discovery, photography's first true emulsion dry plate process would not have been possible without Mr. Sayce's great knowledge of chemistry. Mr. Sayce described the process in detail in a September 1864 article in The British Journal of Photography entitled, "Photography Without a Nitrate of Silver Bath." He explained, in part, that that the method involved a conversion of bromized collodion into 'collodio-bromide of silver' by adding to it the equivalent of crystallized silver nitrate, which was used as an intensifier. A bit of water was added to the mixture to create the emulsion, which could then either be applied wet or coated with tannin and dried. Although the plates treated with Mr. Sayce's silver nitrate technique (known for many years as "the Liverpool Process") resisted deterioration for a time, they were found to be considerably less sensitive to light and therefore were deemed inferior to the prevalent wet plate process.
Mr. Sayce remained an amateur photography enthusiast for the rest of his life. He was a founding member of the Liverpool Amateur Photographic Association, and served as its Honorary Secretary from 1864 to 1865. He and Mr. Bolton founded the Liverpool Dry Plate and Photographic Printing Company in 1867, which manufactured their own specially prepared plates. In 1885, Mr. Sayce received the prestigious gold medal for his scientific achievements bestowed by the Jury of the International Inventions Exhibition. He devoted his later years to developing a strong photographic presence in Liverpool, and was responsible for the first International Photographic Exhibition being held in Liverpool in 1888. Shortly after Mr. Sayce's death on May 23, 1895, W. B. Bolton wrote of his longtime friend and partner, "He was a man who stood 'head and shoulders' above the ordinary run of amateurs; and I for one willingly pay a tribute to the memory of a man who has done much willing work in the advancement of the science of photography." Although little known outside his beloved Liverpool, B.J. Sayce's silver bromide emulsion undeniably paved the way for the subsequent dry plate emulsion technology.
2012 Catchers of the Light: The Astrophotographers' Family History (Mountain View, CA: Google Books), p. 85.
2007 Encyclopedia of Nineteenth-Century Photography, Vol. I (New York: Routledge/Taylor & Francis Group LLC), pp. 247-248.
1888 A History of Photography (Bradford, UK: Percy Lund & Co., The Country Press), p. 134.
1895 The Photogram, Vol. II (London: Dawbarn & Ward, Ltd.), p. 167.
1899 The Photogram, Vol. VI (London: Dawbarn & Ward, Ltd.), p. 221.
1894 The Photographic Times, Vol. XXIV (New York: The Photographic Times Publishing Association), p. 343.
1997 Victorian Photographers at Work (Buckinghamshire, UK: Shire Publications Ltd.), p. 116.
Copyright © 2002 - 2019 Historic Camera