Documentary Sources

The original archives of the Société Lumière seem to have been lost or destroyed, and so it is necessary to turn to indirect and incomplete sources to reconstruct this history. Of these sources, the most reliable were the Board of Directors' declarations and reports discovered from the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century in the Archives nationales du monde du travail, along with three financial reviews (from 1906, 1937 and 1956) conserved in the archives of the Crédit Lyonnais (incomplete series). We can also add to these sources numerous articles appearing in the newspapers of Lyon and the specialist journals conserved at the Société française de photographie, as well as some other items found scattered across the Archives départementales du Rhône, the Archives municipales de Lyon, and other diverse libraries. Notary documents (documenting the creation of companies, sale of land, etc.), as well as fiscal and commercial registrations, have also been conserved in some archival centres.

It is tempting to include the publications the Lumière Company began to produce in 1905. These provide a history of Auguste and Louis Lumière's works, present the products and demonstrate their use. But these publications must be used with caution. We see that the text was not entirely rewritten each year and that the same figures were sometimes given for consecutive years, thus they don't always allow us to accurately follow the company's production. The Lumière catalogue was edited by the scientific publishers Gauthier-Villars (Paris), and sold for 1 franc. With a compact format (10x15cm), in blue, it was equipped with a fastening tie and a 10cm rule printed on the back. A publicity tool that presented a range of Lumière products for the photography enthusiast, it also provided a wealth of practical information, such as recommended treatments in the event of chemical poisoning. The publication was a considerable success and there have been surveys of the Archives nationales du monde du travail that uncovered copies among various collections completely unrelated to photography.

The comparison of these documents, coming directly from the Lumière Company, with those of the public archives provides a useful focal point.