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Document number: 04172
Date: 15 Dec 1840
Recipient: TALBOT William Henry Fox
Author: WHEATSTONE Charles
Collection: British Library, London, Manuscripts - Fox Talbot Collection
Collection number historic: LA40-89
Last updated: 1st August 2010

20 Conduit St <1>
Decr 15th 1840

My dear Sir

I have consulted an intelligent workman who says he will undertake to make an electrolytic engine with a single cylinder, according to the drawing I showed you, for ten guineas, and he seems to be quite confident that it will succeed and be a good working model. All the funds that I can command at present are employed in the improvement of my telegraphic apparatus, and I have none to spare for other purposes; but if you are still inclined to defray the expences of the experiments I will put it in hand immediately. When it is completed we shall see whether anything is to be expected from the application of the principle. Had you called upon me on your return from Brighton as I expected, I would have shown you the drawings of my proposed electrolytic loco-motive engine. I have hit upon some very original ideas which will make it, I think, one of the prettiest toys for a physical cabinet that has ever been constructed; and the expence of the motive power appears to me to be the only bar to its being employed on a larger scale. Should it be possible hereafter, as you agree with me it may be, to discover some abundant and economical source of dynamic electricity yet unknown, these visions may be converted into realities.

I thank you for the photographs you have made for the stereoscope;<2> they do not exactly answer the purpose as the angle you have taken (47½º) is too large and the differences in the two pictures are consequently too great, but they are sufficient to show that the effect when properly produced would be very good. 25º would be a much better angle. There is one precaution necessary to be taken to ensure the proper result; the two pictures should not be taken at times when the shadows of the object fall differently; they should either be taken one immediately after the other or, which would perhaps be better, at the same time on two successive days. A bust will be a good binocular object, but a carriage or a piece of machinery would, I think have an excellent effect.

The address of Mr Henly <4> is 23 Red Lion St, Whitechapel. I have spoken to him and he would have liked to enter into your employment very much, but he has engaged himself to do work for other persons which will not be finished for several months and will quite prevent him from leaving London.

I remain My dear Sir Yours most truly
C. Wheatstone.

H. F. Talbot Esqr
Lacock Abbey
near Chippenham
Wheatstone <3>


1. 20 Conduit Street, London was the location of the firm of musical instrument makers, Charles & William Wheatstone. It was also Wheatstone’s residence until his marriage in 1847.

2. Wheatstone was exploring the use of photography for his well known invention for three dimensional images, which prior to this had been based on hand-drawn art. In 1841, John Frederick Goddard accompanied him to the studio of Richard Beard to secure a stereo daguerreotype portrait. In August 1841, he commissioned Henry Collen to produce calotype pairs. In 1842, he commissioned Antoine Claudet in London and Louis Armand Hippolyte Fizeau in Paris to make stereo daguerreotypes.

3. He means William Thomas Henley (1814–1882), instrument maker.

4. Written in WHFT’s hand.