32 Harley Street
Cavendish Square <1>
Nov. 7. 1853
My dear Sir
Dr Bowring <2> who is bringing out a work on the Decimal Coinage has taken a fancy to illustrate it with likenesses of people who have in some way or other helped on the cause and as he considers my evidence before the Committee to have had this effect, he includes me in the number. As I have not time to sit for my picture, I have promised to give him a Photograph. It so happens however, that among several which I have from time to time had done, there is not one that is in any degree satisfactory (to my friends) except one recently executed on Collodion by Mr Thomas <3> – a professional chemist in Pall-Mall but au fait de Photographie an amateur, and one who has attained rare excellence in the use of that material. He took this at the instance of a friend of mine Mr Dudgeon <4> a devoted photographer, and who has worked in a sort of rivality with him, as also with my Brother in law, John Stewart <5> of Pau, some of whose letters you may have seen in the Athenæum. <6> – But here comes the gist of the matter and my object in troubling you – When I mentioned my wish to let Dr Bowring engrave a copy from this for his book he demurred, on the ground that possibly you might consider the publication of such a
copy an engraved copy an infringement of your patent. – If so – of course there is an end of the matter and I must be gibbeted from one of those grim Daguerrotypes or grimmer Calotypes which [illegible deletion] have been done by some of those practical people who certainly in my unfortunate instance have not been happy in their efforts – for after all it is a kind of lottery – so much depends on accidents of light, manipulation & the momentary expression of the sitter.
I hope you will not think it impertinent or unwarranted my mentioning this dilemma as Dr Bowrings engraver is now pressing me and I must decide speedily.–
Believe me My dear sir Yours very try
H. F. Talbot Esqr
2. Sir John Bowring (1792–1872), diplomat and author. In an undated note to his daughter Louisa, Herschel related that “I had a visit from Dr. Presley Bowring yesterday. A strange creature. He made me promise to give him a photogrpah of my beautiful visage to adorn a book on the decimal coinage he is bringing out. Does Ma think I may ask Mr. Dudgeon to do me?”, Collection John Herschel-Shorland. For Patrick Dudgeon’s portrait of Herschel, see John Bowring, The Decimal System in Numbers, Coins, and Accounts (London:Nathaniel Cooke, 1854) reproduced opposite p.72.
3. Possibly Richard Wheeler Thomas, a chemist listed as working at 10 Pall Mall. See London Post Office Directory, 1856.
4. Patrick Dudgeon, a member of the Photographic Society of Scotland.
5. John Stewart (1814-1885) the younger brother of Margaret Brodie Herschel (neé Stewart).
6. The Athenaeum (London).