Sunday, February 22, 2009

Ferns, convicts, and Charles Darwin


Darwin Bicentenary 2009
In this bicentenary of Charles Darwin's birth, a constant stream of media articles, documentaries, publications, exhibitions and interviews with experts and descendants throw further light on Darwin's legacy.

When Darwin visited Hobart, Van Diemen's Land on board the Beagle in February 1836, he stayed at Secheron House, Battery Point and walked to the summit of kunanyi/Mt. Wellington. In this extract from his journal, he expressed amazement at the Tasmanian ferns he encountered on his walk around kunanyi/Mount Wellington:
In some of the dampest ravines, tree-ferns flourished in an extraordinary manner; I saw one which must have been at least twenty feet high to the base of the fronds, and was in girth exactly six feet. The fronds forming the most elegant parasols, produced a gloomy shade, like that of the first hour of the night.

Darwin in 1840. Watercolour by George Richmond.
Reproduced courtesy of the Darwin Heirlooms Trust.

Below is an extract from Chapter XIX of Charles Darwin's Journal of researches into the geology and natural history of the various countries visited by H.M.S. Beagle (London : H. Colburn, 1839) in which he gives an account of his visit to Hobart, Van Diemen's Land, February 1836:

Extract from Chapter XIX:
"The Beagle stayed here ten days, and in this time I made several pleasant little excursions, chiefly with the object of examining the geological structure of the immediate neighbourhood.

The main points of interest consist, first in some highly fossiliferous strata, belonging to the Devonian or Carboniferous period; secondly, in proofs of a late small rise of the land; and lastly, in a solitary and superficial patch of yellowish limestone or travertin, which contains numerous impressions of leaves of trees, together with land-shells, not now existing. It is not improbable that this one small quarry includes the only remaining record of the vegetation of Van Diemen's Land during one former epoch.

The climate here is damper than in New South Wales, and hence the land is more fertile. Agriculture flourishes; the cultivated fields look well, and the gardens abound with thriving vegetables and fruit-trees. Some of the farmhouses, situated in retired spots, had a very attractive appearance. The general aspect of the vegetation is similar to that of Australia; perhaps it is a little more green and cheerful; and the pasture between the trees rather more abundant.

One day I took a long walk on the side of the bay opposite to the town: I crossed in a steamboat, two of which are constantly plying backwards and forwards. The machinery of one of these vessels was entirely manufactured in this colony, which, from its very foundation, then numbered only three and thirty years! Another day I ascended Mount Wellington; I took with me a guide, for I failed in a first attempt, from the thickness of the wood. Our guide, however, was a stupid fellow, and conducted us to the southern and damp side of the mountain, where the vegetation was very luxuriant; and where the labour of the ascent, from the number of rotten trunks, was almost as great as on a mountain in Tierra del Fuego or in Chiloe. It cost us five and a half hours of hard climbing before we reached the summit. In many parts the Eucalypti grew to a great size, and composed a noble forest.

In some of the dampest ravines, tree- ferns flourished in an extraordinary manner; I saw one which must have been at least twenty feet high to the base of the fronds, and was in girth exactly six feet. The fronds forming the most elegant parasols, produced a gloomy shade, like that of the first hour of the night.

The summit of the mountain is broad and flat, and is composed of huge angular masses of naked greenstone. Its elevation is 3100 feet above the level of the sea. The day was splendidly clear, and we enjoyed a most extensive view; to the north, the country appeared a mass of wooded mountains, of about the same height with that on which we were standing, and with an equally tame outline: to the south the broken land and water, forming many intricate bays, was mapped with clearness before us. After staying some hours on the summit, we found a better way to descend, but did not reach the Beagle till eight o'clock, after a severe day's work. (Feb. 6, 1836: pp 486-7) "
[end of extract]

Thomas Nevin's Ferns
Charles Darwin's astonishment at the magnificence of these ferns was repeated by professional photographers working in Tasmania between 1860 to 1880 in endless variations. Ferns laden with snow was a particularly popular image. The large collection of stereographs by Thomas J. Nevin held at the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery includes these examples  taken around Kangaroo Valley and the foothills of kunanyi/Mt. Wellington from the late 1860s to early 1870s:

Stereograph in buff mount by Thomas J. Nevin late 1860s
TMAG Ref: q16826.30.1

Ferns laden with snow
Stereograph in buff mount by Thomas J. Nevin late 1860s
TMAG Ref: q16826.31.1

Young ferns
Stereograph in buff mount by Thomas J. Nevin late1860s
TMAG Ref: q16826.31.2

Darwin on convicts
ABC radio interview with Darwin descendants:
Source: ABC Radio National Science Show


Chris Darwin: I have read Voyage of The Beagle cover to cover. It actually is a good read as well. But as for all the other ones, no.

Robyn Williams
: Do you know anything about his politics? Was he a Whig or was he a Tory?
Chris Darwin: That's a good question. I'm going to go for Whig but I'm only guessing.

Robyn Williams
: He is a bit Whiggish, but of course there's a slightly dark side where they talk about social Darwinism as if only the elite should pass muster and the rest can really go to the wall, and eugenics, which was a bit of a mistake in the middle of the 20th century, which seemed in some people's, Julian Huxley, of all people, a very liberal person, who was head of the British eugenics movement. So there were some things that applied Darwin's ideas which were, as I say, on the dark side. But as for his actual politics...

Chris Darwin
: I think you're probably onto something. I think we can't be too unfair on him, Charlie, because he was a man of his day. But suddenly...when you read about what he said in Australia, for example. Have you got some quotes? There are some pretty frightening quotes which I'd prefer not to be read out loud, but I think it does show that he was not of the view that...there was a view in those days that if you were from the criminal class, that was pretty much where you were going to stay. And then suddenly he came to Australia and found all these people who had been criminals ten years ago were land owners, large tracts of land, and he found it a bit shocking I think.

More: Listen to interview and read the full transcript ...

Darwin Exhibition at the NMA
A large Darwin exhibition was held at the National Museum of Australia from 10 December 2008 to 29 March 2009. This is an extract from their web page:
Charles Darwin must surely stand as one of the most influential figures of the past 200 years. His theory of evolution is popularly accepted as explaining the origin and forms of modern life on Earth. In 2009 the world celebrated the 200th birthday of this great thinker. It also celebrated the 150th anniversary of the publication of his landmark work On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life
The National Museum of Australia was proud to mark this international celebratory year by hosting a major exhibition, Darwin, developed by the American Museum of Natural History, and its own accompanying exhibition, Darwin and Australia.
Read more here: Exhibition at the National Museum of Australia, Canberra

Darwin Exhibition Catalogue NMA 2009
Photo copyright © KLW NFC Imprint 2009 ARR

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Red and violet: the impact of Brewster stereoscopy

DAVID BREWSTER theories and models of STEREOSCOPY
RED and VIOLET COLOURING of T. J. NEVIN's portraits

More and more examples of Tasmanian photographer Thomas J. Nevin's studio portraits have surfaced in recent years, and a few share one very odd feature. They have been inexpertly daubed with two colours: RED or raspberry, and VIOLET or blueberry, and some show a total lack of perspective in the process.

A modern viewer would assume that these portraits all have their provenance in a family album, and that a small childish hand had been at work with a paintbox. Perhaps that was the case, but there may yet be another explanation for why the portraits below, all bearing Thomas Nevin's studio stamp, should exhibit such crude hand colouring when the hand-tinting of his other portraits - of family members, of himself, and even of a few mugshots of convicts - is remarkably fine and delicate. The four examples here were all sold commercially, and were painted over after their purchase by their owners who had enough knowledge of stereoscopy to experiment, and may have possessed a stereo viewer. Single cdv's were also viewed using a stereoscope, and the addition of colour and lines enhanced the depth of field. They were not painted by Nevin during printing, and they are not stereographs. None of Nevin's stereographs were coloured in this manner.

Sir David Brewster's influence
Sir David Brewster's theories and models of stereoscopy had a huge impact on young photographers around the world in the years 1856-1860 when he published The Stereoscope: Its History, Theory, and Construction, with Its Application to the Fine and Useful Arts and to Education (Murray publishers), and developed a simple light weight companion viewer.

Thomas J. Nevin was 14 years old in 1856, and his younger brother William John, known as John or Jack Nevin was just 4 yrs old. Their father John Nevin snr was the schoolmaster at the Kangaroo Valley schoolhouse, situated within the Ancanthe estate where the small (Lady) Franklin Museum housed natural specimens and a library. Both Nevin brothers would grow up to become "keepers" of public buildings - Thomas Nevin at the Hobart Town Hall and Public Library when he was 33 years old (1876-1880), and Constable John Nevin at H. M. Prison Hobart as keeper under the auspices of Ringrose Atkins (1874) until his untimely death from typhus, 39 years old, in 1891. Both would become photographers. The term "keeper" is an archaic word used still in Britain to denote a manager of an archive and its house.

This stereograph (below) was taken of David Brewster in 1860 to demonstrate his theory of the refrangibility of the colours RED and VIOLET for improved perspective. On the table sits a more sophisticated prototype of his earlier stereoscopic viewer, the binocular model, a photograph of which was published on the cover of his 1856 treatise, The Stereoscope: Its History, Theory, and Construction, with Its Application to the Fine and Useful Arts and to Education .

David Brewster 1860 with stereoscope and colouring

Source: The Macleay Museum University of Sydney
Notes: This hand-coloured card-mounted stereo photograph, showing Sir David Brewster and a Brewster stereo viewer, was published by the London Stereoscopic Company and retailed from their New York shop about 1860. Reproduced courtesy of T.K. Treadwell, Institute for Photographic Research, Texas, USA.

The Stereoscope: Its History, Theory, and Construction, with Its Application to the Fine and Useful Arts and to Education
By David Brewster
Published by J. Murray, 1856
Original from the Bavarian State Library
Digitized Dec 15, 2008
235 pages

On pages 128-129, Brewster expounds on the refrangible effects of RED and VIOLET in helping the eyes of the viewing person to converge more closely the two images (his diagram is not included here):
If we place a small red and violet disc, like the smallest wafer, beside one another, so that the line joining their centres is perpendicular to the line joining the eyes, and suppose that rays from both enter the eyes with their optical axes parallel, it is obvious that the distance between the violet images on each retina will be less than the distance between the red images, and consequently the eyes will require to converge their axes to a nearer point in order to unite the red images, than in order to unite the violet images. The red images will therefore appear at this nearer point of convergence, just as, in the lenticular stereoscope, the more distant pair of points in the dissimilar images appear when united nearer to the eye. By the two eyes alone, therefore, we obtain a certain, though a small degree of relief from colours. With the lens Ll, however, the effect is greatly increased, and we have the mm of the two effects.

From these observations, it is manifest that the reverse effect must be produced by a concave lens,' or by the common stereoscope, when two coloured objects are employed or united. The blue part of the object will be seen nearer the observer, and the red part of it more remote. It is, however, a curious fact, and one which appeared difficult to explain, that in the stereoscope the colour-relief was not brought out as might have been expected. Sometimes the red was nearest the eye, and sometimes the blue, and sometimes the object appeared without any relief. The cause of this is, that the colour-relief given by the common stereoscope was the opposite of that given by the eye, and it was only the difference of these effects that ought to have been observed; and though the influence of the eyes was an inferior one, it often acted alone, and sometimes ceased to act at all, in virtue of that property of vision by which we see only with one eye when we are looking with two.

In the chromatic stereoscope, Fig. 42, the intermediate part mn of the lens is of no use, so that out of the margin of a lens upwards of 2 £ inches in diameter, we may cut a dozen of portions capable of making as many instruments. These portions, however, a little larger only than the pupil of the eye, must be placed in the same position as in Fig. 42.

All the effects which we have described are greatly increased by using lenses of highly-dispersing flint glass, oil of cassia, and other fluids of a great dispersive power, and avoiding the use of compound colours in the objects placed in the stereoscope.

It is an obvious result of these observations, that in painting, and in coloured decorations of all kinds, the red or less refrangible colours should be given to the prominent parts of the object to be represented, and the blue or more refrangible colours to the background and the parts of the objects that are to retire from the eye.
Source: Google Books pdf available and full view

Red and violet on portraits by T. J. Nevin

In this portrait of two children from the firm of Nevin & Smith which can be dated accurately at 1868 since it was part of an album gifted to the Duke of Edinburgh by Tasmanian photographers, the drape at the extreme right of frame has received the RED treatment. The colour has deepened with age and dissolved into the paper. The carpet may have been spared. There may be more versions of this image, two at least for printing as a stereograph for stereoscopic viewing. This example came from the private collection of John Etkins and was donated to the State Library of Victoria in 2005.

Copyright  ©  Private Collection of John & Robyn McCullagh.

In this portrait of a handsome young man leaning on a large stereoscopic viewer, the red and violet colours have been added to his bowtie as well as the drape. The studio stamp on verso bears Nevin's full initials "T. J. Nevin" and the government insignia, which also appears on the verso of his mugshots of Tasmanian prisoners (conventionally called the Port Arthur convict portraits, 1874). This carte may depict Nevin's partner Smith and date from ca. 1867. It remains with its owner in the Private Collection of John & Robyn McCullagh.

The two photographs (below) may seem to differ in provenance but not in the strange red blobs arranged in vertical lines leading upwards from the bottom of the frame on the carpet, defying conventional perspective. Both probably originated from the same family in northern Tasmania, and coloured by the same person.  This cdv of a young man (below) with his hand on a kitchen chair is also from the private collection of John & Robyn McCullagh. It was originally taken by Thomas Nevin ca. 1872,  reprinted and transcribed verso by Samuel Clifford between 1876 and 1878 when Nevin joined the civil service, and subsequently coloured by the purchaser or later owners. The one below of the two men was purchased by the Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery, Launceston, Tasmania, in 1978.

Copyright © Private Collection of John & Robyn McCullagh 2007

Page 63, cdv of two men with Clifford & Nevin Hobart Town handwritten on verso,
Exhibited at the QVMAG, The Painted Portrait Photograph in Tasmania,
November 2007-March 2008.

This cdv held at the Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery was reproduced in the TMAG publication Tasmanian Photographers 1840-1940: A Directory (1995) on page 34 above the entry for Samuel Clifford. The writer/editor assumed that the subjects in the image were the photographers Samuel Clifford and Thomas Nevin because of the handwritten inscription of their names on the verso, but several cartes with the same inscription are extant, including the one from the McCullagh collection of the young man with left hand on a kitchen chair. The red and violet colouring is abundant.

Neither man pictured in this cdv is Thomas Nevin or his brother Jack Nevin or indeed his father John Nevin snr. None of these cdv's was ever held in Nevin Family Collections, and none was coloured in this way by Nevin or any of his family. The cdv of the two men was recently exhibited at the QVMAG and published in the catalogue The Painted Portrait Photograph in Tasmania (John McPhee 2007).

Page 62 - the text accompanying the photograph in the exhibition catalogue
The Painted Portrait Photograph in Tasmania (McPhee, QVMAG 2007) 
Photos copyright © KLW NFC Imprint 2009

The first paragraph in the accompanying text gives no factual information. The identities of the men may be unknown, but the tall man standing in the carte on the left closely resembles an officer at Port Arthur and member of the officers' cricket team, photographed by Alfred Bock ca 1860 when Thomas Nevin was about to assume Bock's photographic business with Bock's insolvency. If so, Nevin's association with Samuel Clifford would also date to the early sixties, and place him with Clifford at Port Arthur ca. 1865 or earlier. Several stereographs of the buildings there are dated to ca 1865 with Clifford's attribution (State library of Tasmania collections). Nevin's skills in stereographic production were certainly learnt from Clifford rather than from Bock.

The third paragraph too assumes the relationship with Samuel Clifford was brief and transitory and dated at 1870, which was not the case. When Thomas Nevin advertised his retirement from commercial photography (to take up his appointment as a civil servant whose duties included rendering photographic services at the Town Hall and Police Office) in the Mercury 17th January, 1876, Samuel Clifford announced in the same advertisement that he had acquired Nevin's negatives and would reprint them on request. Clifford had not ceased practice in 1873, therefore, as most commentators have assumed, and many extant prints with Samuel Clifford's stamp or attribution are likely to be reprints from Nevin's negatives. When Clifford sold his stock to the Anson brothers in 1878, they reprinted the negatives of both Nevin and Clifford, and those same negatives were reprinted again when John Watt Beattie acquired the Anson brothers studio in 1892, frequently without attribution.

Above: Samuel Clifford's advertisement, Hobart Mercury, January 17th 1876, advising he has acquired Nevin's negatives

The second paragraph assumes the colouring to be the work of the studio colourist, which was not the case. The colouring was done after the purchase of the carte by a family, probably by a child, and not by either photographer's studio. What has happened here is the inclusion of this carte-de-visite portrait into a category devised by the exhibition curator called The Photographer's Studio (p.54 of the catalogue), where all other items in the category are deemed to have been coloured before sale.By such means and comparisons the commentary on this one photograph attributed to Clifford & Nevin (p.63) would like to suggest - and not without derision- the childish daubs to be the amateurish work of the junior partner Nevin. The museum's accession records would have shown McPhee that the colouring in this photograph, as in the others listed here which have the same strange daubs, all share provenance from a northern Tasmania family, not related to the photographers, who purchased and then coloured them. This scenario, it seems, never occurred to the exhibitors.

Above: (detail) of self-portrait of Thomas Nevin in white gloves holding a Brewster stereoscopic viewer ca mid-1860s.
Copyright © KLW NFC Imprint and KLW NFC Group Private Collection 2009

... and a diagram of the Brewster Stereoscope Viewer, basic model.

Brewster's Ghost 1869
Brewster's influences during Nevin's career extended beyond stereography and stereoscopy to experiments in spirit photography. The Brisbane Courier on the 2nd October 1869 published an excerpt from a New York source which revealed how the ghostly figure or spirit could be introduced to the photograph to produce an effect called "Sir David Brewster's Ghost". One such experiment went terribly wrong for Nevin on the night of 3rd December 1880 when he was detained but not arrested by Detective Connor on suspicion of acting in concert with a person in a phosphorescent-coated white sheet who had been terrorising the townspeople. For a full newspaper account of the incident, see this article here.

Brewster's ghost

For some little time past a New York City photographer has driven an active business in the production of what he terms " spirit photographs", in which faintly outlined figures - said to be those of departed relatives and friends - are seen attendant upon the pictures of living sitters. This proceeding having at last been brought to the notice of the authorities in the form of a charge of false pretenses, many curious items have been elicited both as to the credulity of human nature and the numerous ways in which photography may be adopted to the carrying out of on imposition of the character indicated. Of these latter the following were mentioned as fully practicable, by a witness: -

1. A glass with an image on it of the desired spirit form may be placed in the plate-holder, in front of the sensitive plate, so that the image on the glass will be impressed upon the sensitive plate, together with that of the sitter. The size and distinctness of the spirit form will vary according to the distance between the two plates.

2. A figure clothed in white can be introduced for a moment behind the sitter, and then be withdrawn before the sitting is over, leaving a shadowy image on the plate. This is known as "Sir David Brewster's ghost. "

3. A microscopic picture of the spirit form can be inserted in the camera box alongside of the lens, and by a small magnifying lens its image can be thrown on the sensitive plate with that of the sitter.

4. A glass with the "spirit image" can be placed behind the sensitive plate after the sitting is completed, and by a feeble light the image can be impressed with that of the sitter.

5. The nitrate-of-silver bath may have a glass side and the image be impressed by a secret light, while apparently the glass plate is only being coated with the sensitive film.

6. The "spirit form" can be printed but on the negative, and then the figure of the living sitter added by a second printing, or it can be printed on the paper and the sitter's portrait printed over it.

7. A sensitive plate can be prepared by what is known as the "dry process", the "spirit form" impressed on it, and then at a subsequent time, the portrait of the living sitter can be taken on this same plate so that the two will be developed together. This result the witness had several times obtained by accident, having used one of these dry sensitive plates for a landscape, and forgotten to develop it, and then used it again and found the two landscapes curiously intermingled. - American Artisan.

Source: "SPIRIT PHOTOGRAPHS." (1869, October 2). The Brisbane Courier (Qld. : 1864 - 1933), p. 6.

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Friday, February 20, 2009

From glass negative to print: prisoner Bewley TUCK


Black and white print from Thomas Nevin's glass negative taken of prisoner Bewley Tuck, No. 68
From the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery Collection (online until 2006)

Of the three hundred and fifty (350) or so extant photographs taken by government contractor Thomas J. Nevin of Tasmanian prisoners in the 1870s which were printed unmounted and/or in an oval mount for prison records, this unmounted print of Bewley Tuck (above) is held at the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery (TMAG), Hobart.

At least forty more unmounted photographs of prisoners taken by T. J. Nevin in the 1870s which were collated by John Watt Beattie in three panels ca. 1915 are held in the Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery, Launceston, together with seventy or so cdvs in oval mounts, the remainder of part of more than three hundred in oval mounts which were originally bequeathed  from the estate of convictaria collector and government photographer John Watt Beattie to the QVMAG in the 1930s. When several dozen mounted and unmounted cdvs were removed from Beattie’s original collection at the QVMAG and taken down to the Port Arthur prison heritage site for an exhibition as part of the Port Arthur Conservation Project in 1983, they were not returned to the QVMAG. They were deposited instead at the TMAG .

Given the scratches, crossed out inscriptions and general damage, the glass negative from which this print was made would have been used extensively to reprint the prisoner's photograph for prison records as each offense and charge was recorded. The print, unmounted such as this one, would have been pasted to his rap sheet, and more would have been reprinted from the original glass plate several times over the prisoner's long criminal career. Examples of both types of prisoner mugshots - mounted and unmounted - attached to prisoners' rap sheets are held at the Archives Office of Tasmania in prison photo books.

The QVMAG holds the mounted carte-de-visite of this prisoner Bewley Tuck, printed from the one and only sitting with police photographer Thomas J. Nevin, in 1875 at the Hobart Gaol. The QVMAG list (acquired here in 2005) showed a total of 199 mugshots, but only 72 were physically held  there when the list was devised. A total of 127 mugshots were missing by 2005. Two mugshots in this sequence – numbers 198 and 200 of prisoners James Mullens and William Smith, each bearing verso Nevin’s government contractor Royal insignia studio stamp – were deposited at the State Library of NSW, Mitchell collection (SLNSW PBX 6274) ca. 1907, among a dozen more which do not bear the numbering on recto.

The Port Arthur Conservation Project 1983, Elspeth Wishart
Notes from the QVMAG catalogue Q1985: P: 0068
Cdv and uncut print of prisoner Bewley Tuck.

Elspeth Wishart (an employee perpetuating the Boyd misattribution formerly at the QVMAG and now at the TMAG)  contrived the absurd and groundless photographer attribution to the commandant A. H. Boyd during this 1983 exhibition at Port Arthur as a result of a socially aspirational comment by a descendant of Boyd. It was hearsay, and remains nothing more than vexatious misinformation.
See these articles:

One man, two names, one image

In addition to a paper copy of Nevin's photograph of Bewley Tuck (seen in this webshot, 2005), the Archives Office of Tasmania holds two relevant convict records.

Tuck John
04 Aug 1831
Argyle 18 Mar 1831

Tuck Bewley
16 May 1833
Lotus 13 Dec 1832

Two versions exist of the one photograph taken of a convict who was labelled JOHN TUCK on the print from Nevin's original glass plate, and BEWLEY TUCK on the carte-de-visite mounted in an oval frame. Were they one and the same person, or two different men? The Archives Office of Tasmania holds a record for each name, with different transportation dates and physical descriptions, so they must have been two different men, so why is there just one image of the same man, identified as John Tuck on a glass negative, and Bewley Tuck on the carte printed from the negative?

The image of the man himself on the glass negative print with the name John Tuck scratched on it is the original photograph taken by Thomas Nevin at the Hobart Gaol of Bewley Tuck, photographed in the week ending 5th May, 1875, the date of Bewley Tuck's discharge. He had served 15 years for the "attempt to commit unnatural offence" and was 65 years old when he was discharged.

Bewley Tuck's discharge, page 72 of the police gazette, May 1-5, 1875

Although the item held now in a public collection is catalogued as the 1870s original, it may in fact be a later reproduction of Nevin's 1875 glass negative, developed again as a lantern slide by John Watt Beattie in the 1900s for use in his lectures on Tasmanian history.  Images of Tasmanian convicts were also used in lectures on physiognomy delivered by a phrenologist, Mr Sheridan. The Mercury reported his lecture on 30 March 1892 had focused on the criminal type, classifications within the type, and the use of composite photography in phrenology.
There were two great types of criminals-the normal criminal, as already mentioned, and the epileptic.

Mr Sheridan on the criminal type portrayed by phrenology
The Mercury 30 March 1892

If Beattie had made a new lantern slide from the negative of Nevin's original, this may account for the name "John Tuck" appearing on one side of the frame, and another name scratched out appearing on the other side. It is likely therefore to be an error by later copyists such as Beattie and Searle ca. 1915, who reproduced these convict images as "Types of Convicts - Official Prison Photographs from Port Arthur", to be sold as tourist tokens in Beattie's convictaria shop and museum. A few more of these later reproductions from the original glass negative of prisoners Rosetta, Meaghers, and Lee, attributed to Beattie & Searle ca. 1916, are held at the NLA,  and the QVMAG holds three panels totalling 40 unmounted prints devised by Beattie and Searle, together with individual cdvs in oval mounts, mostly of the same prisoner.

Thomas Nevin photographed men who were absconders, men who were arrested on suspicion and charged, men arraigned in the Supreme Court and discharged from the Mayor's Court on a regular basis at the Hobart Gaol. When he photographed this man in May 1875, Tuck was known to his gaolers only as Bewley Tuck. His name appeared only once in the weekly police gazettes, called Tasmania -Reports of Crime for Police Information, between 1871 and 1875, and that one occasion was his discharge.

Thomas Nevin photographed Bewley Tuck once, and once only, providing the prison and police authorities with at least four duplicates from his negative for future police reference, including the print pasted onto the convict's record sheet. The image mounted or unmounted, was a standard police record mugshot, small enough to fit onto the paper record with room for written details.

It's up to the reader to decide which physical description of the two men fits the image, keeping in mind that these convict records are transportation records of arrival and muster were written no later than 1853, and the photograph by T. J. Nevin was taken in 1875. That is a difference of over 40 years, and both of the written records indicate that John Tuck and Bewley Tuck were 18 years old when transported. The discharge details for Bewley Tuck in 1875 give his age at 65 yrs, and an anchor tattoo on back of left hand.

The "punctum" - the detail that grabs the eye - and informs a viewer's interpretation, may be in the image itself, or in the written description, for example, the "long scar below left cheek bone" in John Tuck's record. In the negative image, it's below the right cheek bone, or is it?

The glass negative with "John Tuck" written down the right side.

What has been scratched out on the left?

The carte on the left bears the number "3". Its mirror version on the right shows the image as it appeared on the original negative. The mirror version, straightened, shows that there was just one image of this man, captured first on glass, then printed as both an unmounted paper print, and then mounted in an oval frame as a cdv.

Mirror image straightened:

Below: verso and recto of same image in cdv format in the QVMAG database. Notice that it is number 3 in the series copied at the QVMAG ca. 1985 for distribution to other public institutions (AOT, NLA, TMAG): the first,  number 1 being of prisoner Nutt aka White, and number 2 being Wm Yeomans (also at NLA as a mounted cdv). None of these first three cartes copied from the QVMAG Beattie collections, from which Nevin's 1870s original negatives and vignetted duplicates were drawn, has the inscriptions on verso "Taken at Port Arthur 1874". See this article here: Aliases, Copies and Misattribution.

Records for Bewley Tuck

Tuck, Bewley
Convict No: 71572
Voyage Ship: Lotus
Voyage No: 104
Arrival Date: 16 May 1833
Departure Date: 13 Dec 1832
Departure Port: Portsmouth
Conduct Record: CON94/1/ p202, CON31/1/43, CON37/1/9 p5285
Muster Roll: Appropriation List: CON27/1/6, CSO1/1/652 14642, MM33/6
Other Records: Indent: MM33/2
Description List: CON18/1/13 p107
Archives Office of Tasmania – digitised record
Item: CON18-1-13 Image 57

Archives Office of Tasmania – digitised record
Item: CON31-1-43 image 98

Records for John Tuck

AOT: Archives Office of Tasmania – digitised record
Item: CON18-1-3
Digital image no. 50

Convict Details
Tuck, John
Convict No: 71580
Voyage Ship: Argyle
Voyage No: 87
Arrival Date: 04 Aug 1831
Departure Date: 18 Mar 1831
Departure Port: Plymouth
Conduct Record: CON31/1/43
Muster Roll:
Appropriation List: CON27/1/5, MM33/6
Other Records:
Indent: CON14/1/2
Description List: CON18/1/3 p90

Bewley Tuck in the news 2001

27th January 2001
Source: The INDEPENDENT UK Travel

The journey south from Hobart to the peninsula is beautiful. Winding through lush agricultural land, with the gum trees pushed back to the wilderness of the mountains, the road passes through a replica of Constable's English countryside, all hay bales and picture-perfect dairy cows. Our first stop, the tiny town of Richmond, continues the English theme - tea shops serve up yet more Devonshire Teas, there's a pub called The Stables, and a dinky model village of Hobart Town as it was in the 1820s. There's even a Richmond Bridge. But this Richmond Bridge was built by convict labour, and nearby is Richmond's biggest claim to fame - Richmond Jail.

Built between 1825 and 1840, the prison is tiny, yet housed up to 85 prisoners. Walking round the minuscule exercise yard, the punishment rooms, the flogging yard and the suffocating isolation cells, we get a real feeling for the privations these men and women suffered. One convict's record seems particularly pathetic - young Bewley Tuck was imprisoned in 1837 for seven years for stealing a loaf of bread. After further misdeeds his stay was extended, and his final entry shows an extra 15 years to be served for committing "abnormal acts".

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Saturday, February 7, 2009

Younger brother Constable John (Jack) NEVIN (1852-1891)

NEVIN BROTHERS Thomas J. and John ( Wm John aka Jack)

The Nevin Brothers, Thomas (T. J. Nevin, 1842-1923) and John (W. J. Nevin, 1852-1891) served the colonial government of Tasmania from the late 1860s to the late 1880s. Thomas was contracted with the Lands and Survey Dept from 1868 and as prisons and police photographer by Attorney-General W.R. Giblin, from 1872. He was the photographer on government contract serving the New Town Territorial Police from his New Town studio in the 1880s and the Hobart Municipal Police at the Hobart Town Hall during the 1870s. He was also a special constable during the Chiniquy riots at the Town Hall (1879) and assistant bailiff in the City Police Court and Supreme Court (1880s). Thomas's  younger brother William John Nevin (1852-1891), known as Jack to the family, entered the Civil Service in 1871 at 18 yrs old in the capacity of warder at the Cascade Asylum. Known officially as Constable John Nevin, he was appointed messenger at the Hobart Gaol five years later,which position he held up to the time of his death during the typhoid epidemic of 1891.

The boy in this stereograph (figure on viewer's left) is Jack Nevin, later Constable John Nevin (William John), younger brother of commercial and police photographer Thomas J. Nevin. Jack is pictured standing next to a prison official who was probably Mr T. P. Ball, Superintendent of the Prisoners Barracks in 1857 at the Campbell Street Gaol.

Hobart Gaol, Campbell St.
Location: W.L. Crowther Library
State Library of Tasmania ADRI: AUTAS001125299420

Family Photographs
Younger brother Jack Nevin's signature pose in this photograph - left hand on hip - also appears in a family group photograph taken a decade later:

This is a very young Jack Nevin ca. 1865, later Constable John Nevin in his favorite pose - left hand on hip - at the Hobart Gaol. Detail of stereo by his older brother Thomas J. Nevin (State Library of Tasmania)

Thomas nevin seated Jack Nevin top right

The Nevin Group Portrait ca. 1870s (detail):
Jack Nevin, top right, Thomas Nevin seated
Copyright © KLW NFC & The Nevin Family Collections 2009 ARR

This is a detail of a group photo, taken in the early 1870s, around the time of Thomas and Elizabeth Nevin's wedding, July 1871, printed on thin paper and unmounted. Thomas and Elizabeth Nevin are both seated, with younger brother Jack Nevin standing in his signature pose, hands on hips again, on viewer's extreme right. The other members of this group may have included Mary Sophia Day, Elizabeth's younger sister, and photographers Alfred Bock and Samuel Clifford.

Constable John (Jack) Nevin was his elder brother's assistant at the Hobart Gaol, Campbell Street during Thomas Nevin's commissions as police photographer in prisons and police courts from 1876 when Thomas Nevin leased his commercial studio and set up studios at the Hobart Gaol and Municipal Police Office, Town Hall. He helped maintain one of their photographic studios in New Town, assisting in the production of stereographs and studio portraits intermittently from the 1860s to the late 1880s. He was employed at the Hobart Gaol under the supervision of the keeper Ringrose Atkins from 1874, and became a Constable on salary at the male prison at Cascades and then at H.M. Prison, Campbell St. Hobart in 1875, serving until his untimely death from typhoid fever at age 39 in 1891.

Constable John (Jack) Nevin ca 1874-6
Photographed by his brother Thomas Nevin
Copyright © KLW NFC Imprint Shelverton Private Collection 2006-2009 ARR.

In this image on thin paper and unmounted, Jack Nevin's brother Thomas captured him in a relaxed standing pose leaning on a book, the usual signifier of literacy in 19th century portraits, wearing a shirt, tie, fob watch, and three piece suit with velvet collars. In the later photograph (below) taken ca. 1880, Jack Nevin looks very relaxed and very savvy about the process of being photographed. His gaze is direct and very keen, his clothes suitable for everyday work in a foul place such as a prison. His salaried positions were primarily in administration, with a career path and ranking similar to the Keeper's. Older brother Thomas Nevin had been a Keeper too of a public institution, at the Hobart Town Hall between 1876-1880; a special constable during the Chiniquy Riots of 1879; Office Keeper for the Hobart City Corporation; and assistant bailiff in the courts during the 1880s. Constable John Nevin's presence at the Hobart Gaol points to a close family involvement by both Nevin brothers with prisoner documentation - visual and written.

Constable W. J. (Jack) Nevin ca. 1880.
Photo taken by his brother Thomas Nevin
Copyright © KLW NFC Private Collections 2009 ARR

In the Constabulary
This record of Jack Nevin's application to the Constabulary Tasmania, signed by the Sheriff on 28th February 1877, not only gives details of Jack's former employment at the Cascades Goal for Males between  August 1875 and April 1876, it details his physical characteristics: aged 25, single, height nearly 5ft 6",  educated but not too well, a labourer by trade, a Wesleyan by religion and Belfast born, arriving free on the Fairlie (1852). He was of course no more than a babe in arms in 1852, noted on the ship's sick lists, but this record shows no physical deformity or disease as an adult. These records are crudely categorical, as we know that Jack Nevin was highly literate, the son of a journalist and poet, and brother of spelling-bee whizz, his sister Mary Ann, and brother too of Thomas, a police photographer with powerful political mentors. Because he was an amateur rather than professional photographer, his trade is listed as "labourer", i.e. no specialist apprenticeship or profession.

W.J. Nevin Applications to join the Constabulary Tasmania 1877 and 1881
Records courtesy State Library of Tasmania

While a constable at the Cascade Gaol for Males, Constable Nevin was involved in an incident which was reported in the Mercury, 27 October, 1875:

Constable Nevin, Mercury, 27 October 1875

Constable Nevin, Mercury, 27 October 1875.

Tuesday 26th October, 1875
Before Mr. Tarleton, Police Magistrate
PEACE DISTURBERS. - Robert Evans and William Inman were charged by Constable Pearce, of the Cascades, with having disturbed the peace in Upper Macquarie-street on the 24th inst. The defendants pleaded "not guilty". Constables Pearce and Nevin, of the Cascades, proved that the defendants were throwing stones and making a disturbance. The Police Magistrate said that in Upper Macquarie-street there existed the roughest of lads in Hobart Town. He would sentence both defendants to 14 days' imprisonment, and warn them that on proof of a second they would probably be birched.
On 24th November 1881, Jack Nevin's second application - a renewal of the 1877 application - to the Constabulary Tasmania was again signed by the Sheriff. Aged 27, his details are more general on this form: religion is listed simply as "Protestant" and birthplace simply "Ireland" but he is still single - living with his parents at Kangaroo Valley - and still free of disease or deformity. His service at Cascades and the Hobart Gaol is listed, as is the lack of a trade. On his death certificate, his employment was registered as "Gaol Messenger", a rank which covered photographic duties and office administration.

 Signed 24th November 1881, Constable (Wm) John Nevin's second application - a renewal of the 1877 application - to the Constabulary Tasmania. Records courtesy State Library of Tasmania.

Death by Gunshot Wound at the Quarry 1882

View from the hill above Quarry to the Hobart Gaol
Courtesy Archives Office of Tasmania
Ref: 30-5718c. Unattributed, ca. 1885.

On the 14 May 1882, Constable W. J. Nevin was on duty at 11.45am when the guard in the sentry box on the hill at the Quarry behind the stone-shed near the Hobart Gaol failed to return. Constable Nevin was dispatched to investigate and found the guard, Frank Green, dying of a gunshot wound. "I am shot, John" were Green's dying words as Nevin lifted his head.

John Nevin Mercury 15 May 1882
Constable Nevin and Constable Green
Death by Gunshot Wound
Mercury, 15 May 1882

... At a quarter to 12, by which time it was usual for the guard to be at his post, Green was not present there, and the officer in charge, Mr. White, despatched Constable Nevin to see what detained him. Constable Nevin ascended the hill, and at the sentry-box situated at the corner of the workings, a little more than midway up the incline, found Green lying on the ground with his feet on the threshold of the box, and his rifle about a yard distant from him. The constable knelt down to lift up the head of the prostrate man, who said , "I am shot; let me alone. " Nevin then ran down and acquainted those in the yard with the accident, and Green was then conveyed to the hospital, where he lingered for half an hour, and then expired. It was found that he had been shot through the abdomen and lungs ...
Frank Green was 21 yrs old, rather tall, a Catholic, single, born in Hobart and a former sailor when he joined the Constabulary for the first time, signed in by the Sheriff on October 1st,  1878.

Frank Green application to join the Constabulary Tasmania 1878
Courtesy State Library of Tasmania

At the inquest held at the Bird-in-Hand Hotel five days later, Constable John Nevin was a key witness. The jury of seven reached a verdict of accidental death. Coroner Tarleton found the guard Frank Green had slipped when about to descend the hill and his double-barrelled breech-loading gun had caught in a string on his coat, discharging a bullet through his abdomen and lung.

Inquest at the Bird-in-Hand, Const. W. J. Nevin's deposition
The Mercury 19 May 1882

Further report of the Coroner's findings on the death of Constable Green
The Tasmanian (Launceston, Tas. : 1881 - 1895)  Sat 20 May 1882  Page 547  TASMANIA.

Electoral Roll 1884
The Electoral Roll of the Electoral District of North Hobart, year commencing 11th April, 1884, showed this entry:

NEVIN, William John
Place of Abode: H.M. Gaol
Nature of qualification: Salary
Particulars of Qualification: H.M. Government

Nevin, William John: Electoral Roll for North Hobart 1884.
Source: Archives Office Tasmania
mfmN206 Tasmania Electoral Roll
Vols: 1884-85;1886;1886-88

North Hobart electoral roll 1884

The Royal Arms insignia on this document and which appeared on all government documents in 19th century Tasmania also appeared on Thomas Nevin's government contractor studio stamp when printed on the verso of convict identification photos taken at the Port Arthur prison and Hobart Town Gaol for the Municipal Police Office, Hobart Town Hall, and on several of his portraits of officials and their families in the employ of the Hobart City Corporation (Mayor's Office, Hobart Town Hall).

Recto and verso of photograph of prisoner Wm Smith per Gilmore (3)
Verso with T. J. Nevin's government contractor stamp printed with the Royal Arms insignia.
Carte numbered "199" on recto
QVMAG Ref: 1985.p.131

The Keeper of H. M. Gaol, Hobart, from the 1st January 1874 was Ringrose Austin Atkins (see record above). He was listed on the Electoral Roll for North Hobart for the year commencing April 11th, 1884 on "salary", and resident at the Gaol in Campbell Street. The gaol was conventionally known as the Campbell Street Gaol [CSG]. In the same year, 1884, William John Nevin was also listed on "salary" at H. M. Gaol, Hobart, and also resident there. His position is not listed, but it is clear that he was in training as Keeper under Ringrose Atkins' supervision. The term "Keeper" denotes a manager of an archive: it is still used as a position title at the Public Records Office of Victoria.

Hon. W. R. Giblin ca. 1874
Photo by T.J. Nevin (verso stamped)
Archives Office of Tasmania Ref: NS1013-1-1971
Family solicitor and mentor to the Nevin brothers, Attorney-General W. R. Giblin (1840-1887)

Map of the old Hobart Gaol
Photo copyright © KLW NFC Imprint 2008 ARR
Click on thumbnail for large view

City Police in Uniform, Hobart, late 1880s

City Police, Hobart
Images courtesy Archives Office of Tasmania
Unattributed, ca. 1885
Refs: (top) NS1013-1-19 (below) NS1013-1c.

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On board the "City of Hobart" 31st January 1872