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Document number: 07066
Date: 26 Nov 1854
Recipient: TALBOT William Henry Fox
Collection: British Library, London, Manuscripts - Fox Talbot Collection
Collection number historic: LA54-60
Last updated: 14th March 2012

Ashmolean Museum. <1>
November. 26. 1854.

My dear Mr Talbot

I ought to have answered your letter <2> of now nearly a fortnight old! I have delayed doing so in the hope of being able to say that I had tried Mr Reade’s <3> Experiment. I have however been too busy to do so. I will do it however this next week, & you shall know the result. No man, in my belief can take from you this – that you first showed that Iodide of Silver formed in the moist way (i.e. from Solutions) was capable of being made susceptible of a latent image effect under the influence of light, which a subsequent treatment with substances capable of a [illegible word] sort of reducing (deoxidizing) effect action was capable of developing into a visible effect. This I believe to be your’s & th on it, it seems to me, your patent rests & securely. I will send you back your observations <4> on my conversation with you tomorrow I have made one or two verbal alterations in them.

I will meet you in Town on any day, towards the end of this week that you will name. I fear Sunday week may be too late? –

I have been so very busy of late that this must be my apology for my not having answered your letters before.

I wish to see the specification of Daguerre’s <5> discovery as well as yours & the descriptions in the Phill Transns <6> before I get into the Witness box. <7> My own belief is that this [is] an ungenerous and immoral combination to deprive you of what the men who make it are most deeply indebted to you for their having at all.

Yours ever very faithfully & truly.
Nevil Story Maskelyne


1. Story-Maskelyne lectured on mineralogy and chemistry at the University of Oxford, and had a laboratory in the lower part of the museum building.

2. Doc. No: 07059 of 13 November 1854.

3. Rev Joseph Bancroft Reade (1801–1870), microscopist & photographer. For Talbot’s experiment with Reade’s process, see Doc. No: 07059.

4. See Doc. No: 07059.

5. Louis Jacques Mandé Daguerre (1787–1851), French artist, showman & inventor.

6. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London.

7. Story-Maskelyne had been asked to be a witness for Talbot [see Doc. No: 06991] in the trial concerning his patent, in which he sought to prove that he had invented the Calotype process and that the collodion process was covered by the Calotype patent, and thus not a new invention. The trial took place from Monday 18 to Wednesday 20 December 1854. In 1852 Talbot had thrown open his photographic patents as far as amateur photography was concerned, though he retained them regarding professional portraiture. He won several injunctions against professional portrait-photographers who infringed them, and in 1854 he sought to obtain one against Martin Laroche, a professional photographer who took portraits using the collodion process, who, he claimed, had infringed two important elements of his patents. He then found himself having to defend his right to his patents and even his claim to the invention of photography on paper. [For an account of the patent cases, and the opposition to Talbot’s patents, see H.J.P. Arnold, William Henry Fox Talbot: Pioneer of photography and man of Science (London: Hutchinson Benham, 1977, pp. 198–209.]