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Document number: 07086
Date: Fri 08 Dec 1854
Harold White: 8 Dec 1854
Recipient: TALBOT William Henry Fox
Collection: British Library, London, Manuscripts - Fox Talbot Collection
Collection number historic: LA54-69
Last updated: 18th February 2012

My dear Sir

My assistant <1> has done a picture which is I think quite satisfactory & which I send you to get Henneman <2> to print a copy or two from. The jury <3> would not understand the Negative. I have removed the Iodide & Bromide myself by Hyposulphite.

In questioning him to day – he can talk & understand English I think quite sufficiently <4> for a Court – I find that on one occasion some months ago he Saw me prepare & develope a picture, but, though I had forgotten the circumstance, & I now remember it & also remember that the process I adopted was rather different in its manipulatory details from your common process.

I did not use brushes, or warmth in developing & if I am not mistaken my Iodized paper was made by precipitating the Iodide of Silver by Water from its solution in Iodide of Potassium –

However a counsel might puzzle a jury over such a point & it is for you to consider how far his evidence will be valuable to you. Practically the process was new to him from beginning to end when I put your specification into his hand.

As to Mr Hunt, <5> he has written so much nonsense that it is no wonder that he has forgotten the glowing terms in which he describes your discovery in one of his earliest productions; in which he speaks of the marvellous discovery by you of the possibility of a latent image being found in the Camera! – see Griffins Scientific Miscellany 1841 – Photography – page 4. <6>

It is true that at the end of that book & obviously after that page was written, he describes an impracticable process of his own in which Bromide of Silver is to have an image developed on it by Vapour of Quick-silver. Why does Mr Hunt say nothing in that work of Mr Reade’s process, <7> if it were known?

This Mr Hunt ought to be shewn up. The means of doing so are easily reached. Ask every scientific man you put in as a witness what Mr Hunts thousand announcements of discoveries come to – I am sure no one person will give him a word of support.

For my own part, though I believe him to be really an amiable man, I have long been out of patience with him for the months of toil I wasted in trying to work his processes & never succeeded in bringing one of them to completion.

The book of his <8> which I have referred to is worth your reading to shew how much he knew about Photography at the time he wrote it.

Believe me always Yours very truly
Nevil Story Maskelyne.

Ashmolean. <9>


1. Carl [Karl] Ewald, Ph.D. See Doc. No: 07072 and Doc. No: 07089.

2. Nicolaas Henneman (1813–1898), Dutch, active in England; WHFT’s valet, then assistant; photographer.

3. Story-Maskelyne had been asked to be a witness for Talbot in the trial concerning his patent, in which he sought to prove that he had invented the Calotype process and that the collodion process for these terms] 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.]

4. Story-Maskelyne is responding to Doc. No: 07085. See also Doc. No: 07072; in getting Ewald to test Talbot’s specification he exposed him to the possibility of being a witness in court.

5. Robert Hunt (1807–1887), scientist & photographic historian.

6. John Joseph Griffin (1802–1877), The Scientific Miscellany: an Occasional Publication of Treatises relating to Chemistry and Other Experimental Sciences, Glasgow: Richard Griffin & Co., 1841). See Doc. No: 04200. See also Doc. No: 07090 for Talbot’s request to borrow the volume.

7. Rev Joseph Bancroft Reade (1801–1870), microscopist & photographer. See Doc. No: 07004, Doc. No: 07059.

8. Sc. the pamphlet referred to above, in Griffin’s Scientific Miscellany.

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