On April 8, 1977 I went to the Witkin Art Gallery on 57th Street in New York. Amongst the objects offered for sale were around 100 cased images kept in a glass showcase. I now know they were daguerreotypes. At the time I had never seen a daguerreotype, nor read or heard the name, and had no knowledge whatsoever of early photography.
I asked for permission to look them over. One of their staff kindly brought me a chair and unlocked the glass showcase.
The daguerreotypes were priced according to size. The smallest offered were Sixth plate priced at $25, the Quarter plate were $50, and the Half or Whole plate were $100. I purchased one Sixth plate daguerreotype. The image of the distinguished young man reminded me of Abraham Lincoln.
As I reflect on the daguerreotypes that I examined that day, there was another one that I should also have purchased. I now believe that young man was Joshua Speed. Wearing a beautifully tailored checkered suit, he was more than handsome.
My interest in early photography thus began. It greatly interested me to view photographic portraits of 19th Century personalities.
It seemed to me that my acquisition of the Lincoln daguerreotype was the pure chance of a serendipitous moment. It never occurred to me that I might acquire other cased images of illustrious personalities. And yet, it began to occur. There was a second daguerreotype of an illustrious 19th Century personality, then a third, then a fourth, etc. After each acquisition I was, literally, astounded. During the last 36 years I have acquired 17 cased image plates of illustrious 19th Century personalities; and each time I was astounded.
By virtue of the significance of the personalities photographed, and the number of such portraits (17), this collection of 19th Century cased images, (to the best of my knowledge), eclipses all known comparable collections including those of the National Portrait Gallery, The Library of Congress, The George Eastman House Museum of Photography and Film, The Getty Museum, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
NON-PROFIT & COMMERCIAL USAGE: For purposes of criticism, comments, news reporting, teaching (including multiple copies for classrooms, for instance) scholarship or research, or by libraries, churches, orphanages, old age homes, hospitals and the like, Mr. Kaplan waives all copyright restrictions. The use of the Kaplan Collection images for commercial purposes will require a fee. Prospective license holders should provide full details in an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
AN INVITATION TO THE FORENSIC SCIENCE COMMUNITY
Daguerreotypes are the highest quality photographs known, so much so, viewing a daguerreotype portrait can be an emotionally moving experience, the viewer feeling as though he is in the very room in which the subject is sitting.
Occasionally daguerreotypes reveal details that are not seen on photographic prints of the plates. Very few people know this, including forensic scientists who, with rare exception, have no professional knowledge of early photography. Accordingly, I want the forensic science community to know that I will be pleased to take interested forensic scientists to the bank vault where the collection is kept, and where they can examine the entire collection.
I cordially invite forensic scientists to examine the collection, and to freely report their findings.