This is a volume of illustrations published without the novel they illustrate.
In 1840, the French painter and illustrator Gustave Brion (1824-1877) joined the studio of the portrait and history painter Gabriel-Christophe Guérin (1790-1846). He then earned his living mainly by teaching, drawing, and copying paintings. In the summer of 1850 Brion moved to Paris, where he took a studio in a house shared by Realist artists. He exhibited regularly but little of his work has been remembered by historians. Brion’s most notable project came in 1862, when he created portraits of the characters in Victor Hugo’s novel Les Misérables.
Brion’s paintings were photographed by the American artist Austin Augustus Turner (ca. 1831-1866) and the albumen prints were pasted onto printed mounts for this volume. Note the extreme warping as the photograph, the paste, and the paper all age at different rates.
The earliest information on Turner has him employed as an operator at the photography gallery of B.F. Campbell in Boston, Massachusetts. By 1854, he moved to New York City, where he worked at Mathew B. Brady’s photography gallery for a brief period. After stays in Paris, Boston, and Lynchburg, Virginia, Turner finally resettled in New York where he established a business in partnership with D. Appleton & Company specializing in photolithography. It is around this period that he received the commission to photograph Brion’s paintings of Les Misérables, published first by Pagnerre in Paris and two months later by Carleton in New York.
Flaubert did not care for Hugo’s novel but Baudelaire’s review for Le Boulevard was quite positive. To read it, see: http://www.biblisem.net/etudes/baudmise.htm. Since the first illustrated edition of Les Misérables in 1862 there have been many reprints. Several Paris editions, 1870 and 1879 in particular, used etchings of Brion’s painting for illustrations.