44 Manchester St
To H F Talbot Esqr
I have been very unwillingly compelled to delay answering – or rather acknowledging – the favour of your last note. I now beg to thank you very much for your present of the camera which I have no doubt I shall receive as soon as Henneman <1> can lay his hand upon it – I intend trying to make small pictures for the stereoscope on the first opportunity. There are but few days, which, in London, will serve. As yet I have seen no remarkably good views on paper of our principal buildings.
I am Sir – of course – a little sorry that my request did not meet your views – but I can quite understand the reasonableness of your thinking that Photography should be a self-supporting art. It was only under my at present peculiar circumstances that I ventured to apply to you. I had in view the prosecution of a series of experiments on the fixing & on the paper used for both negatives & positives I am sorry to have to postpone these objects because Murray <2> tells me that Dr Percy of the “School of Mines” <3> is going over ground that I have long ago broken into. Dr Percy has been using The Sulphides of Hydrogen and
of Ammonium but I do not think he has yet exhausted the subject or even touched upon that important point the fading of the positive, under certain circumstances, from an over dose of Sulphide of Ammonium. I would propose that all pictures in which silver is used should be protected in a very simple manner by means of a basic lead salt combined with either starch gluten or perhaps still better an adhesive resinous cement. Pictures in books to be enclosed in a properly made cover lined with the lead compound Pictures in frames to be protected by strips holding the lead compound on their exposed surfaces. I think I can meet every possible objection as regards the fixing. – It is a subject of much importance and very ill understood. Pictures made in all quarters & by very different manipulators seem equally liable to fade Pictures by Martens & Le Gray of Paris <4> have faded within the last Twelve month. While at home the instances are painfully frequent. I shall be sorry to find Dr Percy beforehand with regard to this question. Perhaps it would be well to anticipate his conclusions & publish some of the facts suggesting the lead compound and pointing out the various probable sources of failure. I could wish that you Sir would take the matter up rather than it should be left to other hands Had I time & means I should be very glad to carry out the investigations that sooner or later must be made.
I shall feel honoured by your communicating to me at your leisure anything you may think proper to say with regard to my suggestions. I always avoid mention of the action of the Sulphides because I would like to find a remedy before venturing to create distrust in the present mode of fixing. – But I fear the frequent failures will made it necessary to quite give up old ideas on the subject. The “Potash” is a step in the right direction but it wants following up by additional precautions. – If you Sir see the matter at all as I do I shall be pleased to send you a few rough memoranda on the subject. –
Again thanking you For your kindness I am Sir Your faithful humble Servant
T A Malone
1. Nicolaas Henneman (1813–1898), Dutch, active in England; WHFT’s valet, then assistant; photographer.
2. Robert Murray (1798-1857), Irish-born instrument maker employed at Newman's in London; from 1855, photographic partner with Vernon Heath in Murray & Heath, instrument makers & photographers, London.
3. John Percy (1817–1889), lecturer and later Professor at the Royal School of Mines 1851–1879, metallurgist.
4. Friedrich von Martens (1809–1875), German inventor & photographer, active in Paris, and Gustave Le Gray (1820–1884), photographer in France.