Convent of St Nicolo Etna
23th Augt 1846
My dear Mr Talbot,
I venture to address you from hence whither I came some weeks ago, by permission of my friend the Abbot of the Benedictine Convent at Catania, to recruit after the insufferable heats & glare of a Malta summer <1>. Perhaps you know the spot the last habitation in ascending Etna under Mt Rosso two miles above Nicolosi, & 3200 above the sea level. The good Abbot gives me his rooms, for the monks come here only during winter, & I have my Camera, & paper with me I need not say that I have profited thereby have taken about 2 score of very good negatives passed a week close to the crater, of which I took advantage, & am now going to visit the stupendous scenery of the Val de Bove: afterwards to take the Amphitheatre at Taormina; Catania; & Messina All worth taking at Syracuse I have My boy now cruising in the Hibernia with the Experimental Squadron,<2> winters with me in Malta but I rather hope to get leave for him, & then we shall accompany to Jerusalem its new Bishop <3> & I trust extend our tour thro Syria & Egypt I got 300 sheets of iodised paper <4> from Cowderoy at Reading <5> before starting: many are specky & many I have stupidly failed with so that I beg for more by first opportunity addressed by Oriental Steamer to me at Malta care of Wm England Esqre with the necessary chemicals & blotting <6> & copying papers that is paper fit for preparing for possitives if you will permit me to try your interest in having the best which will be paid for by my brother, J. W. Bridges Esqr, Warnford Court Throgmorton St London. May I entreat of you also my new discoveries, or facilities, which your science & industry have added to the art. I copied Mr Jones <7> private memoranda I work by it invariably succeeding with the negative but for the copying paper often failing & always in setting, or fixing, the possitives: which, in the process of hot water, & the hyp. suplh. <8>, go out, get faint, & red or change colour, or become specky I use the salted paper with one coat of nit. silv. <9> 80 grs to 1 oz. & the impressions, immediately from the copying press are good but fail in fixing: which the negatives do not I take two camera impressions of each view fix them with brom. <10> & intend to forward to you one of each: as soon as I arrive in Malta: what I suppose will be in about 6 weeks I find 5' in Camera, in this bright sky, not too much to preserve the whites clear & clean The only faults I see in Mr Jones views of Malta the Crater of Etna, <11>the Casa Inglese, & the Convent I am in, beneath Mt Rosso, are fine subjects but I fail in the distant view of the summit of Etna, which assimilates too much with the sky to become distinct in the Camera picture still less so is the copy. Can that be rendered? The splendid scenery below me of the distant sea plain of Catania, & coast of Calabria I also fail in for the same reason. But in near views of rocks or architecture I am quite successful, with the negatives using cotton, instead of brushes a great improvement which Mr Talbot <12> kindly informed me of I rather hope to have a further [illegible] between Palermo & Pompeii before I return to Malta which will greatly enrich my portfolio The people here & every where, are in exticies with the product of your wonderful art of course I make a mystery of its working referring all to you: in fact I am quite overburdened with enquiries, & with preparing invitations to my houses for it has really made a sensation.
I am greatly indebted to you for the 24 views of Malta <13> which came in the last paper in May half I left in Malta, on the table of the public Library, with references to Cowderoy the rest I have here with me as specimens I think they would sell very well every where: but I want the particulars of price or subscription
Again let me entreat your pardon for my troublesome intrusions & your kindness for further aid & advice may I beg you to present my grateful regards to Mrs Talbot <14>, & you lovely children, & to believe me, my dear Sir,
most truly Yours
Geo W Bridges
Fox Talbot Esqre
1. Bridges had been staying in Malta with Christopher Rice Mansel Talbot (18031890), immensely wealthy landowner, mathematician & politician; WHFTs Welsh cousin, and Rev Calvert Richard Jones (18021877), Welsh painter & photographer. [See Doc. No: 05617].
2. Capt. William Wilson Somerset Bridges (1831-1889), RN. The annual 'Experimental Squadron' was awkwardly re-named the 'Squadron of Evolution' for this occaision; itincluded the H.M.S. Superb.
3. Samuel Gobat (17991879), Anglican Bishop in Jerusalem from 1846 until his death in 1879; he became Vice-Principal of the Malta Protestant College in February 1846, but on 9 April 1846 he was appointed to fill the vacant Bishopric at Jerusalem by the King of Prussia.
4. Paper prepared for making calotypes.
5. Benjamin Cowderoy (18121904), land agent in Reading, later a politician in Australia, was engaged by WHFT to assist in business matters at Reading. Nicolaas Henneman (18131898), born in Holland and trained in Paris, was WHFTs valet who emerged as his assistant in photography. Henneman set up his Calotype works at 8 Russell Terrace, Reading. Commencing operations at the start of 1844, it functioned both as a photographic studio and as a photographic printing works and continued through late 1846, at which time Henneman transferred his operations to London. Although Talbot supported Henneman through custom, such as printing the plates for The Pencil of Nature, and loans, it was always Henneman's operation. His business cards made no mention of "The Reading Establishment," the designation that it is popularly given today; the only contemporary use of that title seemed to be by Cowderoy - see Doc. No: 05690.
6. Blotting paper used for making calotypes.
7. Rev Calvert Richard Jones (18021877), Welsh painter & photographer.
8. Hypo sulphite or hypo.
9. Silver nitrate.
10. Potassium bromide, used for fixing photographs.
12. Christopher Rice Mansel Talbot (18031890), immensely wealthy landowner, mathematician & politician; WHFTs Welsh cousin.
14. Constance Talbot, nιe Mundy (18111880), WHFTs wife.