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Document number: 7805
Date: 11 Feb 1859
Recipient: TALBOT William Henry Fox
Author: PRETSCH Paul
Collection: British Library, London, Manuscripts - Fox Talbot Collection
Collection number historic: LA59-6
Last updated: 15th July 2010

162, Great Portland Street,
London, W. –
febr. 11th 1859

Henry Fox Talbot Esq.


I have received a copy of your letter to Mr. Greenwood, <1> dated Jan. 19th. The contents of his communication has been quite unexpected to me, and I take therefore the liberty of making a few observations about it.

I had had lately the opinion that you had relinquished all your claims on my invention <2> because you have stated in the specification of your second patent <3> "that you make no claim with respect to the electrotype process."

Concerning the arrangement, made last year with you by the solicitors of the late Company, <4> it seems to me, that I have been not informed of the nature of it to its full extent. However at all events, such an arrangement can only have been a temporary one.

It is perfectly true that I have offered some of my plates to a London publisher, but if he has made some communications or inquiries to you, they have been done without my knowledge and consent. –

I do not consider my method an infringement of your patent however it might be not easy, to convince a jury of it. Moreover I am obliged to confess, that I had had always the most profound esteem for you, Sir, personally as well, as for your merits in science and art of photography. I am not at all activated by any spirit of litigation, and I have been compelled to experience in this country – against my own wishes – more of it, than I like.

The object of my present communication to you, Sir, consists therefore in the simple question, how far and on which terms <5> you would agree with me for the purpose of working my method.

The late Company has offered to me the purchase of my patents, and I have some reasons to believe that I could obtain them at a reasonable amount. Although it seems to me very curious that I shall purchase my own patents, without having sold them, without having received any remuneration for them, nevertheless I might be obliged, to yield to the extraordinary conflicts between law and justice.

I beg to state that I am compelled now, to act for myself, and therefore any terms – the load of which should be too heavy for me – would only suppress the enterprise altogether.

Any advantage deriving from working my method, would be immediately palpable to you; – but I myself would be obliged to work a long time with every mental exertion, till I could expect any small remuneration of my labours.

I think that a personal interview between you, Sir, and myself, would lead in an easy way to an understanding for which interview I take the liberty of requesting the favour of you.

However if this should be not convenient to you, please let me know at your earliest convenience any way or mode, in which such an arrangement could be accomplished. A great portion of time and money has been lost by the late Company, only for the purpose to satisfy their own views, without any benefit to themselves, nor to the affairs of the business. I trust to your clearer intellects.

Believe me to be Sir yours very faithfully
Paul Pretsch


1. Henry Greenwood, stationer in Liverpool. He was the publisher of the Liverpool Photographic Journal (later, The British Journal of Photography), which was proposing to print an example of Pretsch’s photogalvanographic process. See Doc. No: 07788.

2. Pretsch had developed a process for photographic engraving, the first part of which employed gelatine and potassium bichromate while the second part involved electrotype. WHFT claimed that the first part of Pretsch’s process infringed his own patent: WHFT, Improvements in Photographic Engraving, No. 565 of October 1852.

3. This was the patent for Photoglyphic Engraving, No. 875 of April 1858.

4. The Patent Photogalvanographic Company, formed by Pretch, Roger Fenton (1819–1869), photographer & lawyer and others, that took over Pretch’s patent for a photographic engraving process. It produced heavily retouched reproductions of photographs. WHFT considered that the patent infringed Part 1 of his own [see Doc. No: 07253] insofar as the first part of Pretsch’s process too used the combination of gelatine and potassium bichromate. Pretsch’s second part, however, involved electrotyping – i.e. ‘galvanography’ – whereas WHFT’s used etching. WHFT began legal action [see Doc. No: 07660] but dropped it when the company ran out of money and fell apart [see Doc. No: 07465]. The Patent Photo-Galvanographic Company (commonly, The Photogalvanographic Company), based on the work of Pretsch, was located in Holloway Road, Islington, London, from 1856-1857. Pretsch took over as manager and Roger Fenton (1819–1869), photographer & lawyer, was a partner and their chief photographer. Starting in late 1856, they published a serial portfolio, Photographic Art Treasures, or Nature and Art Illustrated by Art and Nature, illustratated with photogalvanographs derived from several photographer's works. Photogalvanography was uncomfortably closely based on elements of WHFT’s patented 1852 Photographic Engraving but, unlike Talbot, the plates were heavily retouched by hand. Compounding the legal objections of Talbot, their former manager, Duncan Campbell Dallas, set up a competing company to produce the Dallastype. The company collapsed and near the end of 1860 Pretsch, out of money, allowed his patent to lapse. A public appeal was launched in 1861 to assist him but he returned to Vienna in 1863 in ill health, going back to the Imperial Printing Establishment, but finally succumbing to cholera.

5. Terms on which WHFT would grant Pretsch a licence to work his patent. See Doc. No: 07807.

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