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Document number: 05759
Date: 25 Oct 1846
Recipient: TALBOT William Henry Fox
Author: BRIDGES George Wilson
Collection: British Library, London, Manuscripts - Fox Talbot Collection
Collection number historic: LA46-111
Last updated: 8th February 2018

Malta -
25th Octr 1846

My dear Mr Talbot

I enclose a list of the negatives I have sent by steamer to Southampton - to your address -<1> But I am quite in despair - utterly discouraged by my failures in trying to copy some of them, & much inclined to give up all attempts in an art which stops short of utility just at the very point when one thinks to have attained it. - I shall be very glad to send the negative to your people to save the trouble of copying myself in any quantity - but still I should like to be able to do it myself upon occasion - otherwise the art is little available, or creditable to the distant traveller - Do therefore oblige me by trying to enlighten my stupidity. I use, as Mr Jones<2> instructed me, the following mixture

50 grs nit. silv. to 1 oz. distilled water - & to 12 oz. - 6 drchs of ammonia - 3 nit acid - 8 dist. water -<3> laid on with cotton - not brush substituting only 80 for 50 gr. nit silv. but even that proportion will give no impression beyond a light purple - unless twice laid on - Neither do I find it make any difference keeping the paper previously soaked, 20 seconds, or 3 hours, in the salt solution of 1 part saturated solution of common salt to 10 parts of water - all this is unaccountable.

Thus, it is true, sometimes I get a good copy from the frame but after 3 washings in warm water - one in cold hyp. sulph. soda,<4> & again 3 in warm water, it all invariably becomes dark, - discoloured - specky - or faint and confused & indistinct - losing all sharpness, or character, even before it becomes dry. -

Do then, I pray you, correct my proportions, & amend my proceedings therein, as you best can: - as I really shall not have courage to open my camera again - which I have now put away till I can hear from you for I despair quite. -

Pray tell me also my faults, or imperfections in these negatives - which you can designate by their Numbers, as I keep a copy of the List -: what are too dark,<5> too little cooked in Camera - too far or too little brought out - or badly fixed.

Some few you will see I attempted to fix finally with hot hyp. sulp. soda: - having no bromine potass <6> at hand I contrived a plan of carrying them in water after bringing out - & fixing at night at home - you will no doubt be aware how difficult it will be to understand the black nature of the lava country upon Etna - as thus depicted - those who never saw it will hardly comprehend the fidelity of these views in that respect. -

Any further notes, or notices of the places, which you may desire I shall be very happy to give you. - But you will wish to get rid of any information I fear - long as this. - It would be very annoying to go on my Syrian & Egyptian tour without being able to finish my work occasionally - to see, & shew, the effect - but I am preparing for it - & if I cannot go with the Bp. of Jerusalem,<7> I follow him - not however till I have the pleasure of hearing from you. -

How I wish you would extend your continental tour <8> to this part of the world! - Sicily could greatly please you, if you have never been there - society & climate & scenery delightful - Malta is filling for the Winter - Greece will be my destination next year, as there my boy<9> will be employed - in Negiopor[?] -

Upon the black lava country of Etna I found 6' & 7' not too much for exposure in Camera: - which here under the same intensity of light 3' are sufficient - perhaps too much - pray tell me this -

No 66 & 67 were taken under peculiar circumstances the first both from the bottom of the great Crater. The first when I had just planted the instrument there upon the very edge of the fiery gulph which descends thence, - at the moment an explosion took place - I ran off & came back when it had passed, 3½' had elapsed - & No 66 - stood depicted - No 67 I caught between the explosions, & shews the very mouth of that tremendous abyss - thus <10>

Any elucidation of the views I shall be happy to give you - & beg you to believe me always, my dear Sir

very truly & gratefully yours
Geo W Bridges

perhaps if too much engaged to write these instructions, your people <11> would let me pay them for the trouble of doing so - or tell me of some book containing them -

List of Negatives - sent to H. Fox Talbot Esqre

23d Octr.


1 Ear of Dionysius - Syracuse
2 Street of Tombs - Syracuse
3 Old Church of S. Giovanni & entrance to Catacombs - Syracuse
4 Latomia Syracuse
5 Theatre - in distance Syracuse
6 Temple of Jupiter Olympius - Syracuse
7 Capuchin garden of Silvia in Latomia - Syracuse
8 Front of old Church of St Giovanni. - Syracuse
9 Amphitheatre Syracuse
10 Do Do
11 Cathedral - Temple of Minerva - Syracuse
12 Epipolæ Syracuse
13 Do gate by which Marcellas entered - Do
14 Nexapylum - Syracuse - (Livy xxv.24) <12>
15 Front of Cathedral - Syracuse
16 A Lettiga - (travelling in Sicily)
17 Labdalum: Epipolæ - Syracuse - (Livy. T. vi. 97 - vii. 3) -
18 Epipolæ - Trojilums - Syracuse. -
19 Latomia & Ear of Dionysius - Syracuse
20 Do (another point of view)
21 Reputed Tomb of Archemedes
22 Garden of Capuchin Convent - Syracuse
23 Labdabum - Epipolæ - Syracuse
24 Abate's Hotel - Catania
25 Scopuli Cyclopum. - Rocks of Acis & Galitea <13> - Aci Trirra
26 Saracenic Castle - Aci Trirra
27 Catania - Etna in distance - (very faint)
28 Taormina Etna 25 miles off.
29 The Corso - Catania -
30 Do Do
31 The Biscari palace - Catania -
32 Do Do
33 Front of Benedictine Convent <14> Catania -
34 Side of Do Do
35 Garden of Do
36 Do Do
37 Convent in Corso Do
38 Nunnery - for orphans Do
39 Cathedral - Catania
40 Court of Benedictine Convent - Catania
41 Taormina - piscinæ
42 Saracenic house in Taormina
43 Mola - above Taormina
44 Scena - or interior front of Amphitheatre - Taormina Soma in distance - very faint
45 Portion of Amphitheatre - Taormina
46 Do
47 Do
48 Do
49 Do
50 Do
51 Do Exterior front
52 Do Do
53 Portion of interior - Do
54 Back of Benedictine Convent of St Nicolo del Arena - Etna
55 Front of Do
56 Do
57 Gateway of Do
58 Etna from the vineyard of Do
59 Casa Inglese - Etna
60 Casa Inglese - Etna
61 Do with Cone of Etna - & lava of 1842 still smoking
62 View from door of Casa Inglese - looking West
63 The Torre del Filosopho - & cone of Etna
64 Mass of running lava
65 view from door of Casa Inglese, looking East.
66 Crater (thick smoke rising)
67 Do (at moment between explosions)
68 Portion of Amphitheatre - Syracuse
69 Do Do
70 Theatre - & Nymphæum - Syracuse
71 Porto picolo Syracuse
72 Porto grande Syracuse
73 Portion of Aphitheatre - Syracuse

bracket symbol - right Casa Inglese
Amphithetre at Taormina
& 3 others sent <15> on 13th Oct

I particularly beg for about 12 copies of each of the numbers


or with figures in them - having promised such to those who so assisted me - also a few of each - as you can send them to me. -


1. See Doc. No: 05750 and Doc. No: 05754.

2. Rev Calvert Richard Jones (1802-1877), Welsh painter & photographer.

3. 50 grains of Silver nitrogen, 6 drachms of ammonia and 3 drachms of nitric acid. A liquid drachm was 1/8 ounce.

4. Hypo sulphite or hypo.

5. Bridges and his companions at Malta Rev Calvert Richard Jones (1802-1877), Welsh painter & photographer and Christopher Rice Mansel Talbot (1803-1890), immensely wealthy landowner, mathematician & politician; WHFT's Welsh cousin had previously had problems with getting evenly exposed negatives in the strong Mediterranean light. See Larry J. Schaaf, Sun Pictures Catalogue Five: The Reverend Calvert R. Jones (New York: Hans P. Kraus, Jr., 1990), p. 31. [See also Doc. No: 05185].

6. Potassium bromide was used for fixing photographs.

7. Samuel Gobat (1799-1879), Anglican Bishop in Jerusalem from 1846 until his death in 1879; he became Vice-Principal of the Malta Protestant College in February 1846, but on 9 April 1846 he was appointed to fill the vacant Bishopric at Jerusalem by the King of Prussia.

8. See Doc. No: 05652.

9. Capt. William Wilson Somerset Bridges (1831-1889), RN.

10. A sketch of the crater is inserted at this point in the text, showing a tripod mounted camera placed next to the crevasse. The negative survives in the Talbot Collection at the NSMeM, Bradford, 1937-2180, Schaaf 3328. Bridges inscribed it: "67. The gulph of fire at bottom of Crater - Etna. taken between the explosions." It appears to show stones that have been recently thrown up.

11. Nicolaas Henneman (1813-1898), Dutch, active in England; WHFT's valet, then assistant; photographer and Benjamin Cowderoy (1812-1904), land agent in Reading; business manager for WHFT; later a politician in Australia.

12. Livy (59BC-17AD), History of Rome from its Foundation, book XXV.

13. Yacht of Christopher Rice Mansel Talbot (1803-1890), immensely wealthy landowner, mathematician & politician; WHFT's Welsh cousin.

14. See Doc. No: 05714.

15. Probably Doc. No: 05738.