View our unique collection
The RHS Lindley Library houses a collection of more than 700 carte-de-visite photographs, mostly of 19th-century botanists and gardeners. Many of the people shown in the photographs have never been depicted in published sources.
The process of making cartes de visite was patented by French photographer André Adolphe Eugène Disdéri in 1854.
When were they popular?
It is usually said that cartes de visite became popular in 1859, but one of our cards depicts George McEwen, head gardener at Arundel Castle and latterly at the Horticultural Society, who died in 1858.
The last of the cards is that for Frederick Chittenden (pictured), made in 1900, by which time cartes de visite had largely fallen from fashion.
Most of the RHS Lindley Library collection came from two sources. One of the six albums belonged to the Society’s former Assistant Secretary, Andrew Murray (1812-1878); it contained a number of entomologists as well as botanists. Murray never labelled his album, preferring instead to insert signatures clipped from letters underneath the photographs.
The other five albums were compiled by Richard Dean (1830-1905), seedsman and market gardener, and horticultural journalist. He travelled the country visiting nurseries and attending flower shows, and compiled a large collection of cartes de visite of the nurserymen and florists.
He was also the organising secretary for the International Botanical Congress of 1866. One of his albums consisted of cartes de visite of the botanists and other dignitaries (including the King and Queen of the Belgians) who attended.
Return to photographic collections