Skip to main content

Photographs from Abyssinia : taken during the progress of the expedition for the release of the prisoners, 1867-8, by the photographers of the 10th Compy. Royal Engineers, 1867-1868

 Record Group — Album: 3
Identifier: 3

Scope and Contents

80 albumen prints, each approximately 17 x 24.5 cm, one photograph to each leaf, the front free endpaper with an illuminated manuscript title, followed by a printed list of titles on three leaves, ‘List of Negatives taken in Abyssinia, from Zoualla to Magdala by the Photographers of the 10th Company, Royal Engineers’; some foxing on blanks, minor fading at the edges of some images; contemporary half morocco, cloth sides; a fine example.

Scope and Contents

The panoramic views of Zoulla, Annesley Bay, Senafe, Bolago and Magdala are sometimes found mounted together and folded; in this particular album, the sections of the panoramas are mounted separately, one section to an album leaf. Of special interest is photograph No. 78 which shows the field dark room and other apparatus in the foreground.


  • 1867-1868


Language of Materials


Conditions Governing Access

To inquire about access to this collection, please contact the Herskovits Library at

Historic Notes

The images in the album mark an important milestone in the history of photography. They represent the earliest surviving body of work by photographers sent to accompany a full-scale military operation. The photographers accompanied the Abyssinian Campaign at the suggestion of the Director of the Royal Engineers Establishment. Selection of the equipment was made by Captains R. H. Stodherd and Samuel Anderson. For copying and landscape work, Dallmeyer’s triplet achromatic camera, weighing 1300 lbs was selected and for single and for portraits, a Ross’s 3A portrait lens.

Biographical / Historical

There were originally six photographers under the command of Sergeant John Harrold (one fell ill and remained at Senafe). Their main function was not to portray the incidents and personalities of the military campaign but the more mundane task of duplicating and printing the maps, plans and sketches of routes needed to guide the advancing troops. Over 15,000 such prints were made during the march on Magdala. The photographers’ greatest disappointment was not being able to obtain an image of King Theodore’s body after he had committed suicide. By the time Harrold was given the authority to photograph the corpse, it had already been buried. Sergeant Harrold and his assistants managed to secure some 60 photographs for distribution. These 60 images were later supplemented by prints after drawings by various artists on the expedition, making a total, as here, of 78 images. Additionally, slight variants of the group portraits do exist. By way of example, the Grant scrapbook (Object 34) contains a single image, a variant of no. 49 in the album (Object 34.1). Publication of the 78 images was never undertaken as such. The Royal Engineers produced the list of negatives, in which photographs 75 to 78 are described as ‘Supplementary Negatives’. It would appear that the participants in the Expedition and certain libraries were able to select copies of images from the printed list of negatives; it was then left to the recipients to preserve their selected photographs in albums of their choice or to leave them loose.


1 album (1 album, 81 p., 33 x 28 cm.)


Album of 80 original photographs "taken during the Progress of the Expedition to Abyssinia for the Release of the Prisoners, by the photographers of the 10th Company, Royal Engineers", 1867-8.

Related Material

Myatt, FrederickThe march to Magdala : the Abyssinian War of 1868. London : Leo Cooper Ltd., 1970.

Library Details

Part of the Melville J. Herskovits Library of African Studies Repository

Main Library, 5th Floor, East Tower
1970 Campus Drive
Evanston IL 60208-2300 US