The Autotype Company was formed in 1876 when an already successful photographer, John Robert Mather Sawyer, with his partners Messrs. Bird and Spencer, purchased the assets of the Autotype Fine Art Co. Ltd. Included in the physical assets was a partly completed factory in Ealing, West London; the was to become the centre for the new company's manufacturing and processing activities.
Autotype Fine Art had itself been a successor to the Autotype Printing and Publishing Co. Ltd., which in 1868 had acquired the rights to Joseph Swan's invention of the carbon photographic process (British patent 503/1864). The new Autotype company of 1876 continued to exploit these rights by photographing works of art, by providing a processing service for photographers using the autotype (carbon) process under licence, and by manufacturing both the basic pigmented gelatine tissue and the transfer papers used in printing. By the time Swan's patent had expired, the company was firmly established under energetic management, with a sound technical and artistic reputation.
J. R. Sawyer, who had been the creative force behind the company's development, died in 1888 and was succeeded by his son Charles. At about the same time, the company began manufacture of its Special Carbon Tissue for use in the newly-introduced photogravure process; henceforth its fortunes were to be linked increasingly with those of the printing industry.
The Company remained a family business until 1923, when it became a private limited company. Its shares were then held by the Sawyer family but it was managed by M. M. Rouse (later succeeded by his sons Edward and Kenneth).
In 1958 the Autotype Company Ltd. was taken over by Norcros Ltd.