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Document number: 8009
Date: 21 Dec 1859
Recipient: TALBOT William Henry Fox
Author: PRETSCH Paul
Collection: British Library, London, Manuscripts - Fox Talbot Collection
Collection number historic: LA59-54
Last updated: 17th August 2011

Wm H. Fox Talbot Esq.

Dear Sir,

I have communicated to your solicitor, Mr. Bolton, <1> the agreement which I have completed with the trustee of the late Company <2> for the purpose of becoming the sole proprietor of my patents. <3> I suppose he has informed you of it.

Now permit me to point out to you the deplorable results of the transactions of the late Company. The only visible or perceivable facts are the pains caused to me, and the damages, done to me and to themselves, besides the satisfaction, obtained for their whimsical obstinacy. And for this purpose they have spent such considerable amount of money, without having done any good to their country, without having promoted science or art, without having added anything in their honour. Half of the money, properly applied, would have been sufficient, to errect a first rate establishment, and to make it pay too. –

I take the liberty of communicating to you some of my misgivings. I am affraid there are some anomalies in your views, concerning your claims in respect of the use of the mixture of bichromate with organic matter. I will not enter here into Mr. Pouney’s Carbon printing process, but I am obliged to mention the process, lately introduced by Mr. Joubert. <4> I have been informed, that he has applied for a patent. I am not quite sure about the nature of his method, but I guess, and gather from various informations, that it is a Carbon printing process by the influence of light. I think it is the french mode, consisting in the preparation of gelatine or gum with bichromate of potass, and the application of Carbon after exposure. If so, I cannot well perceive the soundness of your claims towards me; – all these methods apply similar means for obtaining various other results. I would be very much obliged to you, if you should be kind enough to tell me your views about this matter at your convenience.

However abstractedly from these points which I take the liberty of recommending to your consideration, I can only repeat the assurance of my profound esteem which I really entertain towards your meritorious labours in science and art, – and my sincere willingness to avoid any disagreeable misunderstanding. The fact is perfectly established now, that quarreling will promote nothing, in the contrary it will only cause mutual disadvantage, it will absorb activity, so necessary for establishing a new invention, and it certainly exhaustes the sources of mind and money. Some years of anxiety and thought I have devoted to the purpose of making photography subject to the press, and a great number of plates, and a great variety of subjects have proved beyond doubt the applicability of my scheme; – the result of my exertions has not been a failure, but it has been purposely made a failure.

Considering all sides of the question, I think it would be to our mutual advantage if you should be inclined to use your influence for the purpose of errecting an establishment for working the photogalvanographic process under the protection of both patents, your own of 1852, and mine of 1854. However if you should be unable, or not willingly to do so, I would try what I can do myself, with a liberal license from you. Mr. Bolton has informed me that he is authorised to grant me such license, but there are a few points which I beg leave to discuss.

You wish that on each plate published, there ought to be stated "By license of the patentee". I cannot consider this reasonable, because it would annihilate my patent altogether, and moreover I think we might want the same against some other infringements. But I think another expression would answer the purpose quite as well; – for instance "By H. Fox Talbot’s and Paul Pretsch’s patent process", or perhaps "By authority of the patentees" &c.

In some instances, in some works for the trade of little importance, or inferior merits, it might be advisable to omitt any statement of the process, and in those instances I ought to be authorised to do so, but at the same time I will oblige myself, in all cases where the process can be mentioned, to use only a certain wording, mutually agreed upon.

I think, taking a license from you should be enough satisfaction, and you ought not to demand from me that I shall give myself a box behind the ear. I mean this in relation to a certain phrase which you will introduce in the beginning of your license.

Excuse the candid expression of my opinion; – should you desire or permit an interview, I shall be most happy to wait upon you to give you my personal explanation, as I have nothing to conceal, and only desire what is just and reasonable. Your established character of a gentleman gives me good ground to hope that you will act with all the indulgence, and as kindly and leniently, as the merits of the case will permit.

Permit me to remain Dear Sir your very obedient servant
Paul Pretsch

162 Great Portland Street, W.
Dec. 21st 1859.


1. John Henry Bolton (1795–1873), solicitor, London.

2. The Patent Photo-Galvanographic Company produced heavily retouched reproductions of photographs. Talbot 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 Talbot’s used etching. Talbot began legal action [see Doc. No: 07660] in 1856, 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.

3. See Doc. No: 07805.

4. Ferdinand Jean Joubert de la Ferté (1810-1884), French-born engraver & photographer; British citizen from 1855, active in London; sometimes worked for Warren De La Rue.

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