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Document number: 03802
Date: 11 Feb 1839
Recipient: TALBOT William Henry Fox
Author: EMPSON Charles
Collection: British Library, London, Manuscripts - Fox Talbot Collection
Collection number historic: LA39-012
Last updated: 16th April 2010


The local interest attached to the publication of which I take the liberty of enclosing a Notice <1> may recommend it to your attention my kind friend Mr Provis <2> of Chippenham will shew to you some of the Engravings of the remarkable Fossil <3> if you condesend to look at them the price of the publication (five shillings) may cause an impression that the work will be so trifling as not to deserve a place in your library. I hope however that it will not be unworthy of the distinction, by avoiding the ruinous cost of advertisements and printing no more copies than are positively ordered I hope to be secured from loss. for this reason I beg most respectfully to receive your commands if it should be your pleasure to patronise my project as early as convenient.

If the Viscountess Valetort <4> knew of my intended publication I am so bold as to believe that her Ladyship would encourage it but I do not know her ladyships address Lady Mary Fox<5> some had the kindness to allow me the opportunity of shewing her Ladyship and my Lord Valetort <6> some drawings of Tropical Flowers and Scenery – some of which her Ladyship purchased at Leamington.

I cannot express to you Sir the intense delight which it affords me to know that you have discovered so grand a secret and that you have with such noble generosity detailed the process <7> by which “Nature presents her own pictures” I heard great boastings in Paris about this discovery and rejoice with english pride that to my own Country belongs this sublime achievement of profound science. pardon me Sir for having ventured thus boldly to address you

I am Sir Your Obedient Servant
Charles Empson

9 Cleveland Place Bath.
Feby 11, 1839

Charles [sic] Fox Talbot Esq
Laycock Abbey
44 Queen Ann Street


1. ‘Organic Remains’.

2. John Provis, a timber merchant with an extensive library and a large collection of fossils, who lectured on the history of Chippenham.

3. Empson completed the subject of this subscription, Description of the Fossil Skull of an Ox, discovered in May 1838, at Melksham, Wilts: with a Geological Sketch of the river Avon, in the bed of which it was found (London: 1839).

4. Caroline Augusta Edgcumbe, née Feilding, Lady Mt Edgcumbe (1808–1881); WHFT’s half-sister.

5. Lady Mary Augusta Fox, née Coventry (1812-1889), wife of Henry Edward Fox, 4th Baron Holland & 4th Baron Holland of Foxley (1802-1859).

6. Ernest Augustus Edgcumbe, Lord Valletort, 3rd Earl of Mt Edgcumbe (1797–1861), WHFT’s brother-in-law.

7. WHFT had already submitted a descriptive paper, lacking manipulatory details: Some Account of the Art of Photogenic Drawing, or the Process by which Natural Objects may be made to Delineate Themselves without the Aid of the Artist’s pencil. Read before the Royal Society, January 31, 1839 (London: R & J E Taylor, 1839). He soon freely revealed these in "An Account of the Processes employed in Photogenic Drawing", read before The Royal Society on 21 February 1839 and published in the Literary Gazette, no. 1153, 23 February 1839, pp. 123-124. A synopsis was also published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society, v. 4 no. 37, 21 February 1839, pp. 124-126.