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Document number: 4559
Date: 03 Aug 1842
Recipient: TALBOT William Henry Fox
Author: COLLEN Henry
Collection: British Library, London, Manuscripts - Fox Talbot Collection
Collection number historic: LA42-53
Last updated: 13th May 2010

29 Somerset Street <1>
Augst 3. 1842.

Dear Sir

I have taken a room at the Polytnc Instn <2> on the second floor of the house in Cavendish Sq, which is the only junction contemplated by them or me; as to their capital it does not appear that they are likely to make use of it in the matter of calotype, which Mr Nurse <3> told me you had offered them under certain conditions as to number. –

You mentioned in your last an optical combination which you considered superior to Ross’s <4> I shall be glad if you will let me know what it is, as I wish to get the best I can; I have not yet been able to get Ross to finish my large Lens but am about to write to Munich on the subject under the advantage of Sir John Herschell’s <5> [sic] directions, who has very kindly advised me respecting it. – It could hardly be expected that you should be otherwise than successful. I scarcely ever have a portrait fail, except when caused by the sitter, but this point of success is the result of laborious application, and I have lost a great deal of time for want of sufficient explanation of both theory and practice; photography being entirely a new subject to me until I commenced with Calotype: – however, the only thing I have to complain of now is want of enough to do, but I shall probably correct that by working elsewhere –

Mr Hunt <6> is, evidently from his treatise, <7> well calculated to manage any process connected with Photography, but he has not communicated with me, I forget at this moment the name of the party who did from Falmouth, <8> but altogether there are six persons who have –

I remain Dear Sir Yours very Truly
Henry Collen

Henry Fox Talbot Esq F.R.S.
&c &c
Lacock Abbey


1. London.

2. The Polytechnic Institution, London; this was also the location of Great Britain’s first photographic studio opened in 1841 by Richard Beard (1801–1885), coal merchant & daguerreotypist, London.

3. William Mountford Nurse (1789–1855), builder. He built the Polytechnic building in 1837 and leased it to the Polyetechnic Institution in 1838. The London Polytechnic preserves his calotype license in their archives. [See also Doc. No: 04255, and Doc. No: 04310].

4. Andrew Ross (1798–1859), London optician & author.

5. Sir John Frederick William Herschel (1792–1871), astronomer & scientist.

6. Robert Hunt (1807–1887), scientist & photographic historian.

7. Popular Treatise on the Art of Photography, including Daguerréotype, and All the New Methods of Producing Pictures by the Agency of Light (Glasgow: Richard Griffin and Co, 1841).

8. See Doc. No: 04550.

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