Early Norfolk Photographs
1840 - 1860
Charles Muskett Photographs

Carl Ferdinand Stelzner
Charles Muskett
Half-plate daguerreotype, early 1850s
[Private Collection]

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Charles Muskett (1804-1856)
Bookseller, printer and publisher.

Muskett, a very successful bookseller and publisher, remained single, living with his younger sister Ann, was a churchwarden at St. Peter Mancroft church, Norwich, between 1848-50. One catalogue1 of books issued by him showed his address to be ‘corner of Bridewell Alley, St. Andrew's, Norwich. 1837.‘ Later he moved to 5, Old Haymarket (just off the Market Place), Norwich. As a bookseller the items he offered for sale included maps, etchings and photographs. 
It seems he was involved in much of the social life in Norwich and it was in his Haymarket shop that a preliminary meeting was held in December 1845 before the Norfolk and Norwich Archaeological Society was inaugurated in January 1846. By April of that year, Muskett had already published a handsome folio volume, illustrated by Henry Ninham, entitled ‘Remnants of Antiquity in Norwich’ which attracted much attention.
Sometime circa 1850 he travelled to the continent and, while in Hamburg, he went to the studio of Carl Ferdinand Stelzner2 who made a fine daguerreotype portrait of him (see Gallery).
Another leading light in the social scene was Henry Harrod, an antiquary, who was appointed joint Honorary Secretary to the NNAS and in this role he clearly succeeded, as he was later appointed joint Honorary Secretary of the Norwich Photographic Society. In 1855 he read a paper3 to the NNAS encouraging the use of photography in archaeology; ‘Amongst the more recent discoveries of science, useful to the Archaeologist, there is one which throws all others into the shade – the Art of Photography - … the great good which would result if those with sufficient spare time on their hands would take up that delightful Art.’
This fulsome obituary reproduced in The Literary Gazette dated 22 November 1856 may perhaps best describe Muskett. ‘The Norwich Mercury announces the death of Mr. C. Muskett, a well known and much respected bookseller of that city. He was a man of ripe knowledge in medieval literature; collecting old books, not alone to disperse them among the libraries of the noble and the rich, but for their own sake; and he never parted with a rare or richly illustrated work without a sigh of regret that it should leave his own possession.
Equally with literature, he was a lover of the fine arts, and his own collection of drawings were witnesses of his pure taste, his practiced and enlightened knowledge. Mr. Muskett was also strongly devoted to the study of the antiquities of the city, and had made large and valuable collections for the illustration of this his favourite pursuit.
Most of the books within the last eight or ten years which have been published on local antiquities came from Mr. Muskett's press, while several of them are not only indebted in their outward appearance to his as publisher, but the value of their contents.’

The advertisement for the sale of his estate offered ‘twenty to thirty thousand volumes of old and new books, engravings, photographs, paintings, printing and binding presses.’

Sources and Notes

  1. Muskett, Charles. A Catalogue of Books, Norwich: Charles Muskett, 1837-1856.
    Norfolk County Council Library and Information Service, Colman Collection, L018.4.
  2. Carl Ferdinand Stelzner (1805-1894).  In 1842, together with Hermann Biow, he opened a photographic studio in Hamburg where he produced remarkable Daguerreotypes. The Gernsheims wrote of Stelzner [The History of Photography. London: Thames & Hudson, 2nd edition, 1969, pp158, 159], ‘Stelzner, who had studied under Isabey and other well-known artists in Paris, was originally a miniature painter… Stelzner’s art training comes out unmistakably in his photographs. They are exquisite miniatures in photography and were frequently tinted by his wife, who as a professional miniature painter often used her husband’s photographs to copy from. Stelzner’s portraits cannot help impressing one by their high artistic quality.’
  3. Minutes of the NNAS 15th February 1855