The glass stereoviews of Ferrier & Soulier were of a high technical and artistic level. They were very popular in the 1850s and 1860s and were admired as the finest produced.
Claude-Marie Ferrier worked as a photographer for Jules Duboscq and created the first stereo daguerreotypes for him. These could be viewed with the Brewster-style stereoscopes that were manufactured by Duboscq from 1850.
Duboscq was introduced to the glass magic Lantern slides of the American Langenheim brothers at the Great Exhibition in London in 1851 and it inspired him to manufacture glass stereoviews . Ferrier creates the first glass stereoviews for Duboscq but from c.1854 he continues as an independent photographer.
He travels through Europe and photographs famous buildings and monuments of its major cities. He also produces paper card stereoviews but the main focus are his quality glass stereoviews.
He forms together with his son and Charles Soulier the company Ferrier, fils et Soulier in 1859. Charles Soulier had previously partnered with Athanse Clouzard and their company was also known for their exclusive glass stereoviews. Soulier adds a large number of negatives to the collection of the new company.
Ferrier & Soulier also bought negatives from other photographers . A copy set of negatives of Egypt and Nubia by the English photographer Francis Frith was already bought by Ferrier in 1858 and negatives of Moscow and St. Petersburg by Jules Couppier where acquired after the death of Couppier in 1860. It resulted in a large catalog of fine stereoviews and the slides were very popular well into the 1860s.
In 1864, the company is continued by two of its employees, Moisé Léon and Isaac Georges Lévy, as Léon & J. Lévy. Over the years, the company will operate under different owners and names. However, the popularity of the large and exclusive glass stereoviews is already declining.
The stereoviews of Ferrier & Soulier were made by using the albumen-on-glass process. This photographic process was invented in 1847 by Claude Félix Abel Niépce de Saint-Victor. The advantage of this process was that the negatives could be prepared in advance and remained useable for a long time, in contrast to the wet collodion process in which the plates had to be prepared just before shooting and developed immediately afterwards. A disadvantage of the albumen plates was that it was a complex process that was mastered by only a few and the exposure times were long .
The glass slides had a size of 8,5x17cm. The early slides consisted of three glass layers. The slide with the developed emulsion was sandwiched between a cover glass and a glass plate at the bottom, which was often a frosted glass to diffuse the light (verre dépoli).
Later stereoviews consisted of two layers and had only a frosted glass at the bottom. It was based on a patent of Clouzard & Soulier from 1854. It resulted in thinner slides that were easier and cheaper to produce.
The stereoviews were presented in different styles. Some were decorated with a black passepartout and gold fillets (verre églomisé), others had a more basic presentation style.
The early views contained inventory numbers and titles that were printed on the binding tape. Later, this information was printed on thin, transparent sheets which were attached to a cleaned area on the emulsion side of the glass stereoview beneath the image.
- Schimmelman, Janice G.; Cameron, John B. The Glass Stereoviews of Ferrier & Soulier 1852-1908, 2016. p.9-10, p.71
- Lavédrine, Betrand. Photographs of the Past – Process and Preservation, 2009. p.234