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Document number: 6325
Date: 22 May 1850
Recipient: TALBOT William Henry Fox
Author: ELLIS Robert
Collection: British Library, London, Manuscripts - Fox Talbot Collection
Collection number: envelope 20629
Last updated: 21st February 2012

63 Sloane Street
London -
May 22 1850.

Dear Sir,

I feel much obliged by your polite answer to my note.

The volume I sent you is a fair illustration of the work I propose to write, and it is to be published by the same Society - <1>

I can at once state that highly though the Talbotype process would be valued by me as an aid to the faithful representation of Geological structure, the proposal to employ it for this purpose is wholly my own, being simply anxious to make the views scientifically accurate. I feel therefore that it would be impossible - especially as the art is to be only indirectly employed, & artists to reduce, & correct the sketches have to be paid just as much as if the sketches had been taken by the pencil by my own hand - to offer any pecuniary equivalent for permission to use the Talbotype process. This society does not feel at all anxious for the use of photographic originals: and it would be consequently in vain to [illegible deletion] expect that a licence for using the Talbotype would be sanctioned by their committee. The whole proposition came from me, & the responsibility of its success rests entirely upon me. I hope I distinctly expressed myself that the views themselves are not to be introduced.

Messrs Henneman & Malone having stated in their prospectus that amateurs could pursue this beautiful art for their own amusement; I felt that for the purposes of science it would be equally freely available.

The volume is only intended to be a small contribution to popular science, and would contain many sketches taken by pencil as well as by the sunbeam.

I trust this explanation will be deemed satisfactory, & hope that your consent will not be withheld. From the fact just mentioned I had not indeed thought that it would have been necessary to obtain permission - only I felt that it was not polite to employ your discovery, even for a scientific object, without communicating with you on the subject -

As I am shortly about to leave England, I should consider a favor if you would kindly reply to this communication by an early post.

With much [illegible] for your labours in science, & congratulations for the success which has at length crowned your efforts,

I am, Dr Sir, Yours very faithfully
Robert Ellis

H Fox Talbot Esqr

H. Fox Talbot Esq.
Post Office


1. Ellis' original 1848 concept was for a book titled the "Chemical History of Vegetation" to be published by the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge. In 1850, they published his expanded work under the title, The chemistry of creation : being a sketch of the chemical phenomena of the earth, the air, the ocean. The Commissioners for the Great Exhibition of 1851 were so impressed by this that they appointed him as scientific editor of The Official Descriptive and Illustrated Catalogue of the Great Exhibition 1851.