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Document number: 07771
Date: 10 Dec 1858
Recipient: TALBOT William Henry Fox
Author: WARD Theophilus Frederick
Collection: British Library, London, Manuscripts - Fox Talbot Collection
Collection number historic: Acc no 20685 (envelope only)
Last updated: 6th February 2015

62 Tachbrook Street
Pimlico London
Dec 10th 1858

H. F. Talbot. Esquire

Honourd Sir/

I received your favour this morning and beg to put my Communication before you – fervently trusting I shall not meet with your displeasure

it is I assure You Sir – from no Mercanery Motives I ask your patronage in the following request –

I was employed by the Photogalvanographic Company at Holloway <1> for three Years in the Film department – I will not trouble you Sir – with the difficulties I had to contend with in consequence of Mr Pretsch s ignorance not only of the process but of Chymestry in general – I do not write this out of any personal dislike – but it is my proof – why I turned my attention to the process after the Closing of that Establishment[.] Not that I wished to work it for I had been informed You had a certain Clame upon the process but to make the improvements. I had not the oppertunity of trying while under his management I therefore baught with a small capital I had saved during my services for the company – the articals I required for carriang out the process from the film to the copper plate after several weeks experament I was convinced that it was impossable to reproduce any original without causing the expencies that had always been paid to the artist engraver for finnishing – which was so great – in many instences that it made the process worthless – still I had several very beautifull results which proved to me that the sharpness [illegible deletion] was lost in the great number of transfers and especially when making the mould Conducting – the friction necessarily required in the preperation often to me proved fatal it was not the great ammant of relief or depth which was obtained by the sensitive Gelatine Coating that caused the dark parts to hold sufficent quantity of printers ink to give the required affects – but the peculiar form of the grain and in getting the Conducting agent Universally over and at the same time clearing it of any superfluous quantity – was a difficulty very seldom got through with success the material for moulding being a Composition of Lamp Black Gutta Percha and Oil – which had to be heated a great number of times to Mix the two together and evaporate a Certian resinous body from the Gutta percha which was advantageous for moulding the film as it could be then used for Casting at a low temperature without fear of injuring the film – which in many Cases had to be moulded in a Condition very sensitive to heat – a mould could be made by this mixture 26 inches by 22, quite free from are holes &c – it certainly is an excellent moulding compossation – but a bad one to receive the deposit of the Electro – The Phosphorus and several other processes I have tryed but failed to make the surface Conducting by them the means I found to answer the best was as follows – when the film was in a Moist Condition I brushed some fine Bronze powder over the surface which adhered very nicely – I then Cast for Moulding in the usual Manner – and in seperating the Mould from the film – all the Bronze powder was upon the surface of the Mould – which prevented any loss of sharpness when applied in this Manner I then poured over the surface of the Mould a solution of Nitrate of silver – which reduced itself upon the Mould and made it very Conducting – this I found to be a great improvement upon brushing the surface of the Mould with Bronze powder but still there was the preperation of the Matrix for printing plate – which was another very great Drawback. I have prepared the surface with Iodine but the adhesion is so great that they cannot always be separated – it was these unavoidable transfers that lead me to the following experiment

I coat a glass plate with a solution of Gelatine and Bichromate of Potass only when dry I expose to light – develope in a solution of Nitrate of Silver – by pouring it upon the surface – I conduct this process two or three times in as strong daylight as possable which assists to reduce the nitrate upon the surface and hardens the gelatine film – I then brush a little bronze powder over the design fix the wire Conductors and deposit upon the gelatine coating – by this means I get a printing direct.

I found it much better to despence with the nitrate of silver and Iodide of Potassium –they made the film more sensitive to the fluids – it was therefore more difficult to Electrotype – I trust Honourd Sir – You will pardon the length of my letter – but I did not like to ask the following favour without first informing You as much as I possabely could of my true possation – I have been honourd by an interview with Dr Becker at Buckingham Palace and I am allowed to execute a few pictures for His Royal Highness – I wish to do them by the process I have discribed – Electrotyping from the film – It would be a small income for me untill I can find other employment not having a commercial referance I find it almost impossable to get employment – I have used my best endevours since the closing of the old establishment which is nearly 12 mounths but cannot succede – The work I should get would enable me to support my home – I pray Sir – You will grant my humble request

I have the Honour to be Sir your very humble Obediant Servant
Theoe Ward

[added in WHFT's hand:] Mr Theophilus Ward
W. H. F. Talbot Esquire
Lacock Abbey


1. The Patent Photo-Galvanographic Company (commonly, The Photogalvanographic Company) was based on the work of Paul Pretsch (1808–1873), Austrian photographer & inventor and former Manager of the Imperial Printing Establishment in Vienna. Located in Holloway Road, Islington, London, from 1856-1857, Pretsch took over as manager and Roger Fenton (1819–1869), photographer & lawyer, was a partner and their chief photographer. Starting in late 1856, they published a serial portfolio, Photographic Art Treasures, or Nature and Art Illustrated by Art and Nature, illustratated with photogalvanographs derived from several photographer's works. Photogalvanography was uncomfortably closely based on elements of WHFT’s patented 1852 Photographic Engraving but, unlike Talbot, the plates were heavily retouched by hand. Compounding the legal objections of Talbot, their former manager, Duncan Campbell Dallas, set up a competing company to produce the Dallastype. The company collapsed and near the end of 1860 Pretsch, out of money, allowed his patent to lapse. A public appeal was launched in 1861 to assist him but he returned to Vienna in 1863 in ill health, going back to the Imperial Printing Establishment, but finally succumbing to cholera.