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Document number: 05201
Date: 04 Mar 1845
Recipient: TALBOT William Henry Fox
Author: BREWSTER David
Collection: National Science and Media Museum, Bradford
Collection number: 1937-4946
Last updated: 18th February 2012

Dear Sir,

When I was in London Mr Collen <1> took a very excellent likeness of me in Calotype <2> which I wished to multiply by taking a negative from it. Dr Methven <3> and I made the expt in two ways. We took it on Iodised Paper in the same manner as a Positive is taken, & also on Salted Paper. We failed in the former, but succeeded in the latter; but the defect of the negative we thus obtained <4> was that the dark parts were not black enough like the dark parts of the common negative. Now my Question to you was to know how you would have obtained a negative from Mr Collens Calotype. I did not allude at all to your Positive process <5> (which by the way should have another name) as described in your specification, but which has not been tried by any of the amateurs I know.

Sir John Herschel <6> has set the vicious example of giving names to every variation of your Process, whereas no person has yet produced any variation which surpasses, or equals yours, in so far as I have observed.

I have this moment received a letter to my Son, <7> from Mr Pakenham Edgeworth <8> who has been looking at the Moon &c thro’ Lord Rosses <9> Telescope, & seeing “what no human Eye has seen before”, in which he states that he “saw at Parson’s Town Dr Woods Katalysotype! <10> a variety of Photograph giving excellent pictures in a second or two, and much less troublesome than Mr Talbots process”, so This is the process which I received the acct of at York <11> from Lord Rosse & which I shewed you. It certainly had no pretensions to such merits at that time.

I intend to write an article soon for the North British Review <12> on the subject of the Calotype alone; but if you wd undertake it it would be better done. – After your Scottish volume <13> appears wd be the time to take it up, & try to make it more generally known.

I have no desire to write the Article; but as there must be one, I would rather do it than leave it undone. – Perhaps you could suggest some qualified person. A Mr Fisher <14> offered to Dr Welsh, <15> the Editor, to do it but tho’ he might have given the history & details well enough, I considered him quite unqualified to write a striking article that wd arrest public attention.

Many thanks for your congratulations on my Son’s Marriage, which has been a source of great pleasure to all his Friends.

I hope you have seen Dr Methven’s Calotypes which I think will please you much.

Believe me to be Ever Most Truly yrs
D Brewster

St Leonards College
St Andrews
March 4th 1845

H. Fox Talbot Esqr
&c &c &c


1. Henry Collen (1800–1879), miniature painter, calotypist & spiritualist, London.

2. Brewster was not always so complementary about photographic portraits - see Doc. No: 04898.

3. William Lambert Methven, R.N. (d. St Andrews, 29 November 1861).

4. For a reproduction of a print from this negative, see Graham Smith, Disciples of Light; Photographs in the Brewster Album (Malibu: The J. Paul Getty Museum, 1990), fig. 41.

5. The direct-positive variation of the Calotype process. It was covered by his Patent No. 8841 [1841], which also protected the original Calotype process. The variant process was never widely used, even by Talbot himself.

6. Sir John Frederick William Herschel (1792–1871), astronomer & scientist.

7. Captain Henry Brewster. See Graham Smith, ‘A Group of Early Scottish Calotypes’, The Princeton University Library Chronicle, v. 46 no. 1, Autumn 1984, pp.81–94.

8. Michael Pakenham Edgeworth (1812–1881). Brewster had visited the Edgeworth family in Ireland ca. 1827 – see Doc. No: 03433.

9. William Parsons, 3rd Earl of Rosse (1800–1867), astronomer & MP.

10. Dr Thomas Woods (1815–1905), Irish physician, photographer, inventor & friend of Lord Rosse, ‘Katalysotype’, Proceedings of the Royal Irish Academy, v. 3, 1857, pp. 89–97. See Doc. No: 05209.

11. The British Association for the Advancement of Science had held its annual meeting in York in September 1844.

12. The North British Review was originally a journal of the Free Church of Scotland. Brewster’s "Article VIII - Photography" was published in v. 7 no. 14, August 1847, pp. 465-504, and was essentially a collected book review that he used to summarise the history and current state of photography. His sections were: 1. Researches on Light; An Examination of all the Phenomena connected with the Chemical and Molecular Changes produced by the influences of the Solar Rays, embracing all the known Photographic Processes, and new Discoveries in the Art. By Robert Hunt, Secretary to the Royal Cornwall Polytechnic Society. Pp. 304. London, 1844. / 2. A Treatise on the Forces which produce the Organization of Plants; with an Appendix containing several Memoirs on Capillary Attraction, Electricity, and the Chemical Action of Light. By John William Draper, M.D., Professor of Chemistry in the University of New York. royal 4to, pp. 324. New York, 1844. / 3. Nouvelles Instructions sur l’usage du Daguerreotype. Par Charles Chevalier. Paris, 1841. / 4. Mélanges Photographiques. Complement des nouvelles Instructions sur l’usage du Daguereotype. Pp. 128. Paris, 1844. /5. The Pencil of Nature. By Henry Fox Talbot, Esq., F.R.S., &c., &c. Nos. I., II., III., IV., V. London, 1844. / 6. Traité de Photographie, contenant tous les perfectionnements trouvée jusqu’à ce jour, appareil panoramique, différences des foyers, gravure Fizeau, &c. Par Lerebours et Secretans, Opticiens de l’Observatoire, et de lat Marine. 5me. Edit. Pp. 268. Paris, Octobre 1846. / 7. Des Papiers Photographiques, Procédés de M. Blanquart-Evrard et autres, avec Notes de N.P. Lerebours. P. 31. Paris, Mar. 1847. / 8. Excursions Daguerriennes. Collection de 114 Planches, représentant les vues et les monumens les plus remarquables du Globe. 2 Vols.

13. WHFT, Sun Pictures in Scotland (London: Published by subscription in 1845).

14. Probably George Thomas Fisher, Jr, a laboratory assistant in the London Institution and the author of Photogenic Manipulation; Containing the Theory and Plain Instructions in the Art of Photography (London: George Knight & Sons, 1843).

15. David Welsh (1793–1845), one of the leaders of the Free Church. See Sara Stevenson, David Octavius Hill and Robert Adamson (Edinburgh: National Galleries of Scotland, 1981), p. 111.