My dear Sir
I am very much obliged to you for your kind note of 18th Decr & have, in consequence of your instructions, succeeded better in the process of copying: being able now to get a very good impression with only one coat of nit. silv. 60 grs. to one oz. with the addition of ammonia & nit. acid. <1> The hyp. sulph. <2> sadly fades them but they somewhat recover afterwards: yet of course nothing equal to your own. That of the 6 figures <3> against the dark foliage of the Abbey, is surely the finest specimen of the art I have ever seen.
The weather here is scarcely better than with you but as soon as we have a good sun, to be depended on for half a day, I will attend to your suggestion with regard to the double views <4>, & send you my attempts. It is not however impossible that I may first run over to Grigento?, Palermo, & Naples as there seems no hope of the Hibernia <5> being here for some weeks. There is a building at Palermo I am anxious to take, The old Convent where originated the Sicilian vesper?: which is little known, & has probably never been represented. There are also some fine Saracenic remains thereabouts & I shall have, for a companion, one in the confidence & favor of the King of Naples <6>, thro whom I may gain access to all I wish at Pompeii &c.
The one view sent of to the gateway of the Convent St Nicolo marked a view from Mt Etna should be on Mt Etna the double mountain in the distance (2 miles off) being the terrible Mt Rosso the Crater from which issued the eruption which destroyed Catania 14 miles below: The monks are quite alive to their promised treat of copies.
I shall like much to see one of your negatives to observe the point at which you consider them sufficiently cooked <7> in the Camera, & brought out afterwards. It is too much of guess-work with me most of those I sent had 3 ½ now I find 6 not too much so weak has the sun become.
Many of my copies which looked well a month ago are now gradually vanishing I suppose my hyp. sulf. was not strong enough they charge me a dollar an oz. for it here marked in London catalogues sixpence! & I have been able to get none lately I find the art very expensive for a learner wasting & spoiling so much Our Bishop here is very anxious to have a good view of the Church <8> to send to the Queen who built it perhaps I may succeed in taking it in portions there is no point of view sufficiently distant to comprehend the whole in one I enclose a few seeds <9> of a beautiful tree broom. The Ginerta Atnaensis which ought perhaps to be sown now before a larger packet can reach you also a few of a lupin the only flower or indeed plant, which grows in the lava on the higher regions. My friend the Abbot writes that it is no easy matter to accomplish a collection of seeds because there are different plants there for every day in the year the very reason I should think to make it easy & I will urge him to the task.
I shall be very grateful, my dear Sir, for any further instructions which you will favor me with that I may lessen the expence of my trials & be a little more profit in the art before I venture into Greece & Syria I am greatly obliged too by your kindness in sending some copies to my good mother & the promise of some for my Sicilian friends I remain, Dear Sir
very truly Yours
Geo W Bridges
Every thing around you on the craters of Etna are so completely black, & uniform, that I imagine it cannot be defined, or understood in the representation, except by those who have seen it. I am promised some very curious, & antique Phoenician, & Egyptian tablets, idols, & Mss to copy in the camera & hoped to enclose a proof in this but alas no sun will they be of any value to you? It frequently happens that the workings after the hyp. sulph bath for the possitives, have no sweet taste whatever is that when they have been long soaked & washed previous to the bath? Will you have the goodness to tell me I fear I am very troublesome & intrusive
1. Silver nitrate added ammonia and nitric acid.
2. Hypo sulphite or hypo.
3. Possibly Group of Persons selling Fruit and Flowers, Schaaf 1917, reproduced in Larry J. Schaaf, Sun Pictures Catalogue Nine: William Henry Fox Talbot: Friends and Relations (New York: Hans P. Kraus, Jr, 1999), p. 61. [See also Doc. No: 05817].
4. Also called Panoramic Joiners, an invention of Rev Calvert Richard Jones (18021877), Welsh painter & photographer; Jones was at Malta when Bridges arrived and he taught Bridges to photograph, in April 1846 Jones went to Italy and then home. See Larry J. Schaaf, Sun Pictures Catalogue Five: The Reverend Calvert R. Jones (New York: Hans P. Kraus, Jr, 1990), pp. 3031 and 3839.
5. Capt. William Wilson Somerset Bridges (1831-1889), RN. He was on the ship Hibernia, surveying different parts of the Mediterranean.
6. Ferdinand II (18101859).
8. Probably St. Pauls Anglican Cathedral (built 18381844), which was conceived and financially supported by Queen Adelaide, Queen of King William IV.
10. Nicolaas Henneman (18131898), Dutch, active in England; WHFTs valet, then assistant; photographer.
11. Rev Calvert Richard Jones (18021877), Welsh painter & photographer.