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Francis Bedford -Tour in the East

Birmingham Library and Archive Services has purchased a collection of rare photographs from the first photography commission for a Royal trip abroad. Taken by the pioneering British photographer Francis Bedford (1816-1894), they chronicle the ‘Tour in the East’ made in 1862 by the Prince of Wales, (the late Edward VII). Bedford became the first official photographer to accompany a member of the British Royal Family when he was invited to travel as part of the entourage of the Prince of Wales on a ‘Tour In The East’ which covered Athens, Corfu, Constantinople, Tripoli, Egypt, Syria and the Holy Land.

Francis Bedford. The Pyramids of Cheops and Chephren, Gizeh. March 5 1862

A rare set of the 172 photographs resulting from this tour has been acquired for £55,000 with grants of £32,500 from the Art Fund and £15,000 from the MLA/V&A Purchase Grant Fund. The collection will be housed in the Library of Birmingham, currently under construction and due to open in 2013. There will be an opportunity to preview some of the images on the Library of Birmingham hoardings in Centenary Square from 26 April 2011.

Originally published in 21 parts each containing 8 prints, together with three albums and two oblong folios printed in 1862, the prints were further grouped into three portfolios titled Egypt, the Holy Land and Syria, and Constantinople and the Mediterranean. In addition to recording the official Royal visit, Bedford was permitted to photograph Christian and Muslim holy sites previously restricted as sacrosanct. His photographs therefore represent a unique visual diary of the tour and an important architectural and archaeological record of the Middle East.

Francis Bedford. Pulpit in th Enclosure of the Mosque, Jerusalem. April 1 1862

The acquisition complements an already significant collection of 18th and 19th century published works on the archaeology, history and culture of the Middle East owned by Birmingham Library and Archive Services and will give Birmingham the largest and most significant collection of work relating to Francis Bedford in the world.

The acquisition will enable the Library to stage a major exhibition in the future showing the entire work for the first time since the exhibition in the 1860s – in the new Library of Birmingham.

Please note - the original prints are not currently available to view, as they are with the Conservation Unit.

Read more on the Birmingham Newsroom website

Francis Bedford photographs in front of The REP

The photographs on display on the Library of Birmingham hoardings around The REP.