This documentation on Merlin's life is the result of gleaning information from secondary sources and other people's research and discussions with colleagues. It is in no way meant to be definitive, especially as so much information on Merlin is missing. Hopefully I have included all the references I used below.
We are happy to receive communications and new information on Merlin.
The research continues..
Beaufoy Merlin - an overview
Beaufoy Merlin was born England in 1830 to Frederick Murlin and Ann Harriet. He is reported as arriving in
Sydney in December 1848 in the company of his widowed mother.
At this point evidence points to Murlin undertaking a range of occupations; as a showman, newspaper reporter, puppeteer, productions utilising animated views called 'panoramas' as well as series of lectures. It also seems that his surname went through several changes (such as Muriel) in his early years in New South Wales and that he traveled out of Sydney possibly to Maitland and Newcastle and possibly also to Norfolk Island.
He returns to London, marries Louisa Eleanor Foster in 1863 and subsequently ends up back in Melbourne, now as Henry Beaufoy Merlin. The speculation is that he learnt the craft of photography during this visit to England.
By 1866 Merlin has established
himself as a traveling photographer trading
under the name of the American
and Australasian Photographic Company (A.& A.Co). The 'American' connection is unknown. There are also variations on the name such as the American and Australian Photographic Company.
was while on his quest to photograph every building
in Melbourne and Victoria, that he met up with
the young Charles Bayliss. Bayliss left home
in Melbourne to travel with Merlin and went on
to become his trusted assistant.
In 1866 a Mr Roberts and Henry Beaufoy Merlin showed photographs together at the Ballarat Mechanics Institute Exhibition. (Dictionary of Australian Artists Online)
During the period 1864 - 1869 he travels throughout Victoria, with reports being that he traveled at least to the South Australian boarder towns as well along the southern coast (Great Ocean Road). in 1869, Merlin presented an album of photographs of the state's western district to the then Governor General of Victoria.
1870, Merlin and Bayliss had crossed over into New South Wales. Taking in country towns such as Queanbeyan, Yass, Goulburn and Paramatta.
Later in 1870, the A.&A. Co studio had re-located to 324 George Street Sydney whereby Merlin announced the intention to photograph every house in New South Wales. The studio in Sydney announced it presence and attracted clientele for portraits.
In the same year, Merlin was appointed as one of the official photographers who traveled to North Queensland as part of the Victoria - New South wales Eclipse Expedition. While cloud hindered the viewing, Merlin photographed the coast of Queensland. He presented a photographic records of the journey to the Victorian Government and reported on the expedition in the Town and Country Journal. These illustrated contributions to the the Town and Country Journal were to continue.
Merlin usually left the studio
in the hands of Clark, the studio manager, while
he photographed around Sydney. Merlin took house
to house photographs (quarter plate) as well
as landscapes (city views) in and around the
city and the harbour. The latter were 10" X
March 1872, A.& A. Co followed the gold rush
first to Hill End and then onto Gulgong and surrounding
townships. Again, they announced their arrival
and the intention to photograph all building
and their occupants. This style of photograph
was their peculator trade mark - to capture
images of the building complete with portraits
of the people, usually standing in front.
was most likely at Hill End that Merlin met the
successful entrepreneur Bernard Otto Holtermann.
This was the meeting of two men with drive and
initiative. One had the entrepreneurial skills
and money, the other was likewise an entrepreneur
and had well established business skills and
the craft of a photographer.
appointed Merlin to be official photographer
for his planned ‘International Traveling
Exposition’. This project was to become
one of the greatest projects in Australian 19th
photography. Merlin was equipped by Holtermann
with new caravans and equipment to travel through
Western and Southern NSW to photograph the towns,
the people, the industry; all those images to
show the progress of the colony. Holtermann often
accompanied Merlin, who he now regarded as his
April 1873, Merlin and Holtermann were back in
Sydney. It was around this time that Merlin informed
Holtermann, that due to ill health, he would
no longer be able to carry on with the Exposition
commission. Merlin died in Sydney, September
Exposition photography was taken over by Charles Bayliss. Many of Merlin’s glass-plate negatives
were discovered by Keast Burke in 1951 and are
now in the State Library of New South Wales.
Many of A&A.Co. surviving prints are cartes
de visite size (quarter plate) and are often
Photo-web pages on Charles Bayliss
Key research supplied by photo-historian Marcel Safier
Sandy Barrie, Australians Behind the Camera: Directory of Early Australian Photographers, 1841-1945
Burke. Gold and Silver: Photographs of the Australian
Goldfields from the Holtermann Collection. Melbourne:
Photo-web pages on Keast Burke and the A.P-R articles on Holtermann, Bayliss and Merlin.
Dictionary of Australian Artists. Editor Dr Joan
Kerr, Melbourne:Oxford University Press, 1992 - which in turn relies on the work of Richard Bradshaw's meticulous research of Merlin's early years in Australia (The Merlin of The South, Australian Drama Studies, no 7 October 1985).
Davies & Peter Stanbury. The Mechanical Eye
in Australia: Photography 1841-1900. Melbourne:
Oxford University Press, 1985.
Warwick. The Democratic Image: the Carte-de-visite
Photograph in Australia 1859-1874, sub-thesis
(M.Litt.), Canberra: Australian National University,
1995. Ms copy, Canberra: National Gallery of
Australia Research Library, 1995