Lacock Abbey, Chippenham
At the late meeting of the B. Assn. <1> I think I heard you say, in one of your speeches, that the Assn. had appointed a committee to draw up a memorial to the Government respecting the defective state of the present Patent Laws, & requesting that some remedy might be applied.
Can you inform me more particularly what it is proposed to do?
I take a great interest in this subject, because I am well aware of the injustice of the present system.
In the year 1841 I took out a patent <2> for Photography and some years ago, finding that there were a vast number of amateurs who wished to practise the art, I presented the patent to the Public, reserving however to my licensees alone a single branch of the art, viz. the making portraits for sale. A number of Artists however have recently joined together and raised a large sum of money, in order to wrest this remainder of my patent out of my hands by expensive legal proceedings. The trial will come on in the Court of Common Pleas in about 3 weeks. I am told that my adversaries have got witnesses ready to affirm that my inventions were not new, not of any utility, but known long before the date of patent, &c. &c. &c. assertions which, however destitute of truth may be expected to affect the minds of the Jury (all of whom will probably be persons totally ignorant of the subjects). I am therefore advised by my Solicitor & Counsel to request the assistance of some men of high scientific eminence who are acquainted with the subject of Photography, in order by their evidence to place the merits of my invention in a fair light before the Judge and Jury. May I therefore enquire whether it wd. be very inconvenient to you to come up to Town at the end of this month for 2 or 3 days, and give evidence in my favour respecting the general merits of the Calotype or Talbotype Photographic invention, viz. in respect of its utility, novelty, &c. And that you believe it to have been my invention, and not invented by Niepce, Daguerre, <3> or the other persons whose names and claims they are going to bring forward &c. &c. &c.
If I hear from you that you are able to give your valuable assistance I will send you a printed copy of an affidavit made by Sir D. Brewster <4> on the subject, which will enable you at once to see the points at issue between me and my adversaries and I shall be very glad to know if your opinion agrees with him entirely and will so give evidence.
Pray excuse this trouble but as it is a matter of great importance to me I am under the necessity of troubling my friends.
I remain Dr Sir, Yours very truly
H. Fox Talbot
1. British Association for the Advancement of Science held its annual meeting in Liverpool in 1854.
2. WHFT took a patent for the Calotype entitled ‘Photographic Pictures’, U.K. number 8,842, 8 February 1841.
3. Joseph Nicéphore Niépce (1765–1833), photographic inventor, and Louis Jacques Mandé Daguerre (1787–1851), French artist, showman & inventor.
4. Sir David Brewster (1781–1868), Scottish scientist & journalist