Henry Beaufoy Merlin
1830 - 1873

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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..


Henry Beaufoy Merlin - an overview

Henry 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.

It 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.

By 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 12" plates.

In 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 trade mark - to capture images of the building complete with portraits of the people, usually standing in front.

It 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.

Holtermann 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 photographer.

Around 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 1873.

Holtermann’s 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 faded.

References:

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

Keast Burke. Gold and Silver: Photographs of the Australian Goldfields from the Holtermann Collection. Melbourne: Heinemann, 1973

Photo-web pages on Keast Burke and the A.P-R articles on Holtermann, Bayliss and Merlin.

The 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).

Alan Davies & Peter Stanbury. The Mechanical Eye in Australia: Photography 1841-1900. Melbourne: Oxford University Press, 1985.

Reeder, 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


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Merlin's Photographs

 

Photographs taken at Hill End, Gulgong 1872-1873 by Merlin - the Australasian & American Photographic Company.

Most of these were quarter plate. The image opposite is close to this size.

The photo-web collection is based mostly on enlarged prints as presented by Kodak in the 1950s in the showrooms around Australia.

   
   
   
 

Photographs for the Holtermann Exposition

This collection represents a few of the early photographs taken by Merlin for the exposition. They were taken by Merlin using a 10" X 12 " plate camera.`

   
  Samples of CDVs
   
  Keast Burke wrote about Merlin in the A.P.-R.
   

 

 

 

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