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Document number: 06460
Date: 26 Aug 1851
Recipient: HERSCHEL John Frederick William
Author: TALBOT William Henry Fox
Collection: Royal Society, London
Collection number: HS 17:322
Last updated: 13th May 2010

Lacock Abbey

Dear Sir

When you wrote to me on July 27, I was gone abroad in order to observe the total eclipse. I had a very grand, though not a perfect view of it, at Marienburg in Eastern Prussia not far from Dantzic I think of publishing some account of it, or sending it to the Astronoml Society, although this is hardly necessary as it was well observed in several places. <1> The weather was exactly such as rendered advisable a great dispersion of observers along the line of the shadow, namely a very fine day with large isolated masses of cloud, intercepting all view to certain localities. One of these troubled my observation but was nearly gone when the total phase occurred, and I could observe two prodigious masses of flame on the moon's limb, apparently, tho’ doubtless existing really in the Solar atmosphere. One of these was of great height and curved abruptly towards the other, which was floating isolated from the limb. Their brightness was such as to remain visible through passing clouds. The darkness was equal to that of evening twilight 1 ¼ hour after sunset (determined by careful experiment) viz. the same evening. I only returned from this long journey 2 or 3 days ago.

I regret that I was unable therefore to answer at the time your brother in law Mr J. Stewart’s enquiry. <2>

Mr N. Henneman photographer of 122 Regent St <3> would be perfectly capable of teaching him the Talbotype process although I do not think he has much practised the albuminous variety of it which is truly beautiful – In order to acquire this I should recommend him to visit Paris & take some lessons of Martens <4> who is the best photographer in this line. My new process is not yet published. <5> For views of buildings Martens’s manipulation is best, but each view requires 5 minutes good sunshine. I will not add more at present however perhaps the time is past when these remarks might be useful, but if not I shall be happy to write again on the subject.

Believe me dear sir yours very truly
H.F. Talbot


1. WHFT did finally publish this account as ‘Observations on the Total Eclipse of the Sun on July 28, 1851. Marienburg, Prussia’, Memoirs of the Royal Astronomical Society, v. 21 part 1, 1851–1852, pp.107–113.

2. John Stewart (1814-1887), the younger brother of Margaret Brodie Herschel (neé Stewart), was anxious to be instructed in the art of calotype [see Doc. No: 06444 for the request, made by Herschel on his behalf]. This advice was indeed too late, in a letter from Herschel to his wife, Margaret Brodie Herschel, née Stewart (1810–1884), 29 August 1851, Herschel wrote, “Fox Talbot writes to recommend John apply to Martens in Paris to teach him Talbotype. It is too late – first he has left Paris – second, he has already been taking lessons of Marten during his stay there”. Collection John Herschel-Shorland.

3. Nicolaas Henneman (1813–1898), Dutch, active in England; WHFT’s valet, then assistant; photographer. After 1846, Henneman opened a studio, the ‘Sun Picture Rooms’, at 122 Regent Street, London.

4. Friedrich von Martens (1809–1875), German inventor & photographer, active in Paris.

5. The first part of WHFT’s patent (no.13,664) was for a new method of making photographic images on glass – an albumen process – the Amphitype, which could appear either positive or negative. In the same patent, he also claimed a type of camera for field processing. On 27 February 1854 WHFT filed a disclaimer, which was enrolled on 18 Mar 1854, removing parts of this.