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Document number: 5186
Date: 23 Nov 1852
Recipient: REEVE Lovell Augustus
Author: TALBOT William Henry Fox
Collection: National Science and Media Museum, Bradford
Collection 2: PUBLISHED
Last updated: 2nd October 2015

[This letter, carrying a later date, was published in The Literary Gazette, no. 1871, 27 November 1852, p. 876. Lovell Reeve had recently taken over as Editor from WHFT's longtime friend and supporter, William Jerdan. The earlier draft is known to exist only as a typescript, presumably made by Alexander Barclay at the Science Museum and now in the NMeM, Bradford. The original draft has not yet been traced. It appears that the transcriber converted Talbot's habitual superscripting of the abbreviated portion of words to lower case with a full stop and this has been corrected here.]

THE TRAVELLER'S CAMERA.

Lacock Abbey, Nov. 23.

A FRIEND of mine<1> recently returned from a long journey in Egypt, Syria, and other parts of the Levant, and who has brought home with him a very large collection of photographic views, has written to me respecting the difficulties he had to contend with in those scarcely civilised regions, where he had only a tent often only his cloak under which to manipulate. It is surprising, under such circumstances, that such beautiful views should have been obtained; but there can be no doubt that many of his attempts must have failed, and many opportunities have been lost.

I think, therefore, that I shall perhaps be rendering some service to other wandering photographers by describing the method which I myself employ when obliged to operate in a spot remote from shelter, or any convenience of manipulation.

At first I was accustomed to prepare the paper beforehand, and carry it ready prepared, in closely shut paper-holders, to the scene of action. It was in this way that in September, 1844, I made a series of views of Abbotsford, the residence of Sir Walter Scott, which were published by subscription in 1845, in a small volume, entitled, 'Sun Pictures in Scotland.' <2> The paper was prepared in the inn, at Galashiels,<3> several miles distant, and it retained its sensibility during some hours sufficiently well.

This can readily be effected, now by several methods, but at the time I speak of, eight years ago, it was more difficult of accomplishment. But this method had, in the first place, the inconvenience of being exposed to occasional failure, which required all the principal points of view to be taken in duplicate as a necessary precaution. And, secondly it required the use of as many paper-holders as there were prepared sheets of paper; because, on the supposition of the operator being unprovided with a tent, or some substitute for one, and of his not meeting with a shelter of any kind, it was a matter of difficulty to remove the photographic pictures from the paper-holder, and place fresh sheets of prepared paper therein, without allowing a gleam of light to fall on them during the exchange. Add to this, that in order to have a reasonable degree of security, that the paper would keep good for twelve or twenty-four hours, it was found advisible to diminish its sensibility, so that it would not work well by an evening or failing light. These inconveniences led me to the invention of a modus operandi to which, if it has not been described before, as I believe it has not, I propose to give the name of the Traveller's Camera, as it greatly facilitates the production of these beautiful pictures during the hardships and privations of foreign travel.

First, I mount the camera itself upon a board of its own breadth, but two or three inches longer than it. I then make a kind of table, or support, beneath the surface of which are sunk or concealed three troughs, which are retained in fixed positions. One of these is intended to hold a solution of nitrate of silver; the second, either a solution of gallic acid, or sulphate of iron; and the third, water. The usual paper-holder is dispensed with, but instead of it there is a simple frame, to which a sheet of paper or a pane of glass can be attached from behind, and taken away again, while the frame remains in the camera. The. upper part of the frame carries a long handle, passing through the lid of the camera, which may either stand upright, or, if it be jointed, it can be folded down on the camera. When the camera is placed on its table, or support, it can move upon it in one direction only, backward and foreward, being confined to that motion by two parallel strips of wood, upon which are placed certain marks corresponding to a mark upon the camera, indicating that when either of these marks are brought into union, then the paper-holding frame of the camera is in a vertical line over the centre of one of the troughs. Now, when the photographer sets out of a morning upon his excursion, he carries with him two boxes, one containing the plates of glass (or the sheets of iodized paper) he intends to use, which of course may be freely exposed to light, not being in a sensitive state; and the other box to hold the pictures which he expects to make. When arrived at the scene of action the modus operandi is this: having first filled the troughs with their respective liquids, the camera is placed upon its table or support, and this again upon a stand which is usually required to give it a due elevation from the ground. The camera is pointed at the object, and a sheet of ground glass is placed in the frame from behind to obtain the focus, and is then removed, and a sheet of prepared iodized paper, or a plate of iodized glass (which of course must not be at all sensitive) is put in its place. A door is then shut at the back of the camera, which places the prepared paper or glass in the dark. The camera is then moved on its support to the mark indicating the trough of nitrate of silver. The object-glass of the camera is then closed. The operator then takes hold of the frame by its handle and pushes it down into the trough below, which he is enabled to do by reason of a narrow slit in the bottom of the camera, which allows a passage. He then draws it up again immediately. He then opens the object-glass of the camera, and after a due time closes it again. He then moves the camera on its support to the mark indicating gallic acid, or sulphate of iron. He then, as before, pushes the frame down and lifts it up again, either immediately or after a due length of time. He then, in a. similar way, drops the frame into and out of the trough of water. He then opens the door at the back of the camera, and takes out and examines the picture he has obtained, which for that purpose he may freely expose to the light. If not satisfied with it, he tries again, correcting his process by his first experience. But if he is satisfied with his picture, he deposits it in his box. It is not yet quite finished, but the finishing process is deferred without inconvenience until after his return in the evening. In practice, I find that this simple arrangement works delightfully, and I should be glad to be allowed to name it the Traveller's Camera.

H. FOX TALBOT.

[draft]

Lit. Gaz. 16 Nov 52

A frd of mine recly retd from a 7 y rs wand ng. in long journey in Eg., Syr., & othr pts of the Levant & Soth n Europe & who has brought home wth him a vy large colln of phc views, has writ es ten to me respectg ye difficulties he had to contend with in those scarcely un civilized regions, where he had only a tent often only his cloak under wch to manipulate.

No It is surprising, under such circs that such beautiful views shd have been obtained; but there can be no doubt that many must of his attempts must hve failed, & many opportunities have been lost.

I think ∴ that I shall perhaps be rendering a some service to travelling other wandering photographers in by describing ye method wch I myself employ, when obliged to operate in a spot remote fm shelter or any convenience s of manipn.

Formerly At first I was accustomed to prepare ye paper beforehand, and carry it ready prepared in Closely shut paper holders, to the scene of action.

It was in this way that in Sept. 44 I made a series of views of Abbotsford the residce of Sir W Scott, wch were published by subscriptn in 45 in a small volume entitled Sun Picts in Scotld. The y paper was prepared in the Inn at Galashiels Several miles dist& it retained its sensitivity during of course some hours before it cd be made use of suffictly well

This can readily be effected now by several methods, in but at ye time I speak of 8 yrs ago it was more difficult of accomplisht. But this method had in ye first place the inconvence of being exposed to occasl failure wch required all the principal views points of view to be taken in duplicate as a necessary precaution - and secondly it required the use of as many paper holders as there were views intended to be taken prepared sheets of paper, because, on the supposition of there being no kind of shelter to be met with the operator being unprovided with a tent, or a some substitute for one, & of his not meeting with a shelter of any kind, it was a matter of difficulty to get place fresh sheets of prepared paper to remove the photographic views pictures from ye paper holder & subs place fresh sheets of prepared paper therein. without allowing a gleam of light to fall on them during ye exchange. Add to this, that in order to secure have a reasonable degree of security, that make the papers shd wd keep good for 12 or 24 hours it was found advisible to diminish its sensibility, so that the full advantages of ye phot it wd not work well by an evening or failing light.

These inconvences led me to the inventn of a modus operandi to wch if it has not been described before, as I believe it has not, I propose to give the name of the Travellers Camera, as it greatly facilitates ye production of these beautiful pictures during the real hardships and privations of foreign travel.

First, I mount ye Camera itself upon a board of its own breadth, but 2 or 3 inches longer than it. I then make a kind of table, or support, concealed between beneath ye surface of wch are sunk en or concealed 3 troughs, wch are retained in fixed positions. One of these is intended to hold a soln of NS the second, either a soln of g. acid, or S.I. and the third water. The usual paperholder is dispensed with, but instead of it there is a simple frame, to which the paper a sheet of paper or a pane of glass can be attached from behind. This frame has a long handle & taken away again, while part of ye frame carries The frame upper has likewise a long handle standing upright passing through ye lid of ye Camera wch may either stands upright, or if it be jointed it can be folded down on ye camera. When ye Camera is placed on its table or support, it can move or point upon it in 1 directn only backwd & forwd being confined to that motion by 2 parallel strips of wood, upon which are placed certain marks & corresponding to a mark s upon the camera, indicating that when either of these marks are brought into union, then the paperholding frame of the Camera is in a vertical line over the centre of one of the troughs. - Now, when the photographer sets out of a morning upon his excursion he carries with him 2 boxes, one containing the plates of glass he is (or the sheets of iodised paper) he intends to use, which of course may be freely exposed to light, not being in a sensitive state, & the other box to hold the pictures when he has made them and sufficiently fixed them wch he expects to make. When arrived at ye scene of action the modus operandi is this. Having 1st filled ye troughs with their respective liquids the camera is placed upon its table or support, this again upon a stand wch is usually required to give it a due elevatn upon ye frame. The Camera is pointed at ye object, & a sheet of ground glass is placed in ye frame from behind to obtain ye focus, & is then removed, and a sheet of prepared iodised paper or a plate of iodised glass wch of course must not be at all sensitive, is put in its place. A door is then shut at the back of the Camera which places the prepared paper or glass in ye dark. The Camera is then moved on its support till to 3 the mark indicating the trough of N.S. The object glass of ye camera is then closed. The operator then takes hold of the frame by its handle & pushes it down into ye trough below wch he is enabld to do, by reason of a narrow slit in ye bottom of ye Camera, wch allows a passage. He then draws it up again immediately. He then opens the object glass of ye Camera, & after a due time closes it again. He then moves the Camera on its support till to the mark indicatg g. acid or S.I. He then, as before, pushes the frame down and lifts it agn either immly or after a due length of time. He then, in a similar way drops ye frame into & out of ye trough of water. He then opens ye door at the back of ye Camera & lifts takes out & examines the the pict. he has obtained wch the for that purpose he may freely expose to the light. If not satisfied with his it he tries again correcting his mode of proceeding process by his 1st experce. But if he is satisfied with his pict. he deposits it in his box. It is not yet quite finished, but the finishing process takes place at home is deferred without inconvce until after his return in the evening. In practice, I find That this simple arrangement works delightfully, & I should be glad to be allowed to name it the Travellers Camera.

[expanded draft]

Literary Gazette 16 November 1852

A friend of mine recently. returned from a seven years wandering. in long journey in Egypt, Syria, and other parts of the Levant and Southern Europe and who has brought home with him a very large collection of photographic views, has writ es ten to me respecting the difficulties he had to contend with in those scarcely un civilised regions, where he had only a tent often only his cloak under which to manipulate. No It is surprising, under such circumstances that such beautiful views shd. have been obtained; but there can be no doubt that many must of his attempts must have failed, and many opportunities have been lost.

I think that I shall perhaps be rendering a some service to travelling other wandering photographers in by describing the method which I myself employed, when obliged to operate in a spot remote from shelter or any convenience s of manipulation Formerly At first I was accustomed to prepare the paper beforehand, and carry it ready prepared in closely shut paper holders, to the scene of action. It was in this way that in September 1844 I made a series of views of Abbotsford the residence of Sir Walter Scott, which were published by subscription in 1845 in a small volume entitled Sun Pictures in Scotland. The paper was prepared in the Inn at Galashiels, several miles distant. It retained its sensitivity during and of course some hours before it could be made use of sufficiently well. This can readily be effected now by several methods, in but at the time I speak of eight years ago it was more difficult of accomplishment. But this method had in the first place the inconvenience of being exposed to occasional failure which required all the principal views points of view to be taken in duplicate as a necessary precaution - and secondly it required the use of as many paper holders as there were views intended to be taken prepared sheets of paper; because, on the supposition of there being no kind of shelter to be met with the operator being unprovided with a tent, or a some substitute for one, and of his not meeting with a shelter of any kind, it was a matter of difficulty to get place fresh sheets of prepared paper to remove the photographic views pictures from the paper holder and substitute place fresh sheets of prepared paper therein without allowing a gleam of light to fall on them during the exchange. Add to this, that in order to secure have a reasonable degree of security, that make the papers should would keep good for twelve or twenty-four hours, it was found advisible to diminish its sensibility, so that the full advantages of the photographic it would not work well by an evening or failing light. These inconveniences led me to the invention of a modus operandi to which if it has not been described before, as I believe it has not, I propose to give the name of the Travellers Camera, as it greatly facilitates the production of these beautiful pictures during the real hardships and privations of foreign travel.

First, I mount the Camera itself upon a board of its own breadth, but two or three inches longer than it. I then make a kind of table, or support, concealed between beneath the surface of which are sunk en or concealed three troughs, which are retained in fixed positions. One of these is intended to hold a solution of Nitrate of Silver the second, either a solution of gallic acid, or Silver Iodide and the third, water. The usual paper holder is dispensed with, but instead of it there is a simple frame, to which the paper a sheet of paper or a pane of glass can be attached from behind. This frame has a long handle and taken away again, while part of the frame carries The frame upper has likewise a long handle standing upright passing through the lid of the Camera which may either stands upright, or if it be jointed it can be folded down on the camera. When the Camera is placed on its table or support, it can move or point upon it in one direction only backward and forward being confined to that motion by two parallel strips of wood, upon which are placed certain marks and corresponding to a mark s upon the camera, indicating that when either of these marks are brought into union, then the paperholding frame of the Camera is in a vertical line over the centre of one of the troughs.- Now, when the photographer sets out of a morning upon his excursion he carries with him two boxes, one containing the plates of glass he is (or the sheets of iodized paper) he intends to use, which of course may be freely exposed to light, not being in a sensitive state, and the other box to hold the pictures when he has made them and sufficiently fixed them which he expects to make. When arrived at the scene of action the modus operandi is this. Having first filled the troughs with their respective liquids. The camera is placed upon its table or support, this again upon a stand wch. is usually required to give it a due elevation upon the frame. The Camera is pointed at the object, and a sheet of ground glass is placed in the frame from behind to obtain the focus, and is then removed, and a sheet of prepared iodised paper or a plate of iodised glass which of course must not be at all sensitive, is put in its place. A door is then shut at the back of the Camera which places the prepared paper or glass in the dark. The Camera is then moved on its support till to 3 the mark indicating the trough of Nitrate of Silver. The object glass of the camera is then closed. The operator then takes hold of the frame by its handle and pushes it down into the trough below which he is enabled to do, by reason of a narrow slit in the bottom of the Camera, which allows a passage. He then draws it up again immediately. He then opens the object glass of the Camera, and after a due time closes it again. He then moves the Camera on its support till to the mark indicating gallic acid or Silver Iodide. He then, as before, pushes the frame down and lifts it again either immediately. or after a due length of time. He then, in a similar way drops the frame into and out of the trough of water. He then opens the door at the back of the Camera and lifts takes out and examines the the picture he has obtained which the for that purpose he may freely expose to the light. If not Satisfied with his it he tries again correcting his mode of proceeding process by his first experience. But if he is satisfied with his picture he deposits it in his box. It is not yet quite finished, but the finishing process takes place at home is deferred without inconvce. until after his return in the evening. In practice, I find. That this simple arrangement works delightfully, and I should be glad to be allowed to name it the Travellers Camera.


Notes:

1. This was the Rev George Wilson Bridges (1788-1863), photographer & traveller. See Doc. No: 06695 and Doc. No: 06701.

2. Sir Walter Scott (1771-1832). WHFT, Sun Pictures in Scotland, illustrated by twenty-three original photographs (London: Published by subscription in 1845).

3. A town about four miles northwest of Melrose on the Edinburgh road, in the former county of Selkirkshire.

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