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Document number: 3854
Date: 02 Apr 1839
Recipient: TALBOT William Henry Fox
Author: FORBES James David
Collection: Univ of St Andrews Special Collections Scotland
Last updated: 26th January 2013

[from Forbes's copybook copy - the letter sent to WHFT has not been located]

H. Fox Talbot Esq Royal Society. London

Answer to his with Photogenic paper <1>

2d April 1839

My Dear Sir

Pray accept my best thanks for your very kind attention to my troublesome request. I was extremely much pleased with the Lace specimen of Photogeny <2> which you sent me – & still more gratified to be possessed of some of your paper. I used one piece in the Camera Obscura & spoiled it having left it until it became uniformly dark, and I am preserving the second & last piece until a bright day shall favour the experiment which seems not a very likely event. Dr Fyfe a Chemist here has been making some good experiments with the phosphate of silver, but he finds extreme difficulty in fixing his results. They are chiefly leaves of plants, very delicate & pretty. He has succeeded with the oxy-hydrogen light.<3> Many other persons have of course tried it. I have rather avoided attempting any experiments myself, since everybody seems busy with it & I have no doubt the thing will be thoroughly sifted without my aid. When we consider the quantity of time irretrievably lost in acquiring manual dexterity in matters of this kind & bringing oneself up to the actual state of advancement of the subject before we can hope to add anything new, one sees the folly of prosecuting every new experiment, tempting though it be. I should like very much to know whether you have been led to any important modifications of your process. I trust that I shall have the pleasure of seeing you in London About the end of this month & of thanking you for your polite attention. In the meantime I request your acceptance of a copy of a paper which I have just published <4>

and I remain My Dear Sir, Yours very faithfully
James D. Forbes


1. See Doc. No: 03820.

2. WHFT sent numerous examples of these photograms of lace to various friends, introducing them to the process. Although the one he sent to Forbes has not been located, a close companion is preserved in the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C. Displaying an irregularly shaped area of sensitization, it has darkened over time, but in certain areas the weave of the ribband is clearly visible. It was dated by WHFT in pencil "Feb. 26/39" and was almost certainly made in the same session as the one sent to Forbes. Talbot had kept the companion one at Lacock Abbey.p>

3. Dr Andrew Fyfe (1792–1861). He presented an extended paper, "On Photography," to the Society of Arts, Edinburgh, in their meetings of 27 March and 10 and 17 April 1839. It was published in the Edinburgh New Philosophical Journal, v. 26 no. 53, July 1839, pp. 144-155. Dr. Fyfe later published on the Daguerreotype.

4. Possibly J. D. Forbes, ‘Observations faites pendant une année avec des thermomètres enfouis á diverses profondeurs dans différentes localités du voisinage d’Edimbourg,’ Bibliothèque Universelle, v. 19, 1839, pp. 196–200. See WHFT’s remarks on the experiment in Doc. No: 03820.

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