Galerie contemporaine, littéraire, artistique was published weekly in its first series from 1876 to 1880, and in a less regular second series from 1881 to 1884 (not in the Princeton library). The general public were persuaded to subscribe, and did in large numbers, by the captivating woodburytype portraits contained in each issue. These portraits were of contemporary celebrities from literature, music, science, politics, or the arts; each photographed by some of the great photographers of the day. Shown here are portraits of Jules Verne (1828-1905) and Émile Zola (1840-1902) made by Étienne Carjat (1828-1906); and George Sand (1804-1876) made by Nadar (pseudonym of Gaspard-Félix Tournachon 1820-1910).
The woodburytype (called photoglyptie in France) is not considered a true photograph because the image is not created from light-sensitive material. Instead we call it a photomechanical print. To make a woodburytype, a tough gelatin relief is created from a glass negative, which is then pressed into a sheet of soft lead creating a mold of the image—thick and thin as the image is dark and light. The mold is filled with a pigmented gelatin (usually purplish-brown) and covered with a piece of paper. When run through a printing press the gelatin is transferred onto the paper making an extremely detailed image but one that will not fade because no light-sensitive chemistry was involved. Such permanent prints were especially useful for commercial periodicals, such as Galerie contemporaine.
To explore the properties of woodburytypes and many other photographic processes, try the digital sample book created by Ryan Boatright and James Reilly at the Image Permanence Institute: http://www.digitalsamplebook.com/home.htm