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Document number: 08488
Date: 23 Dec 1861
Recipient: TALBOT William Henry Fox
Author: BREWSTER David
Collection: National Science and Media Museum, Bradford
Collection number: 1937-5413
Last updated: 5th August 2010

Dear Mr Talbot,

I am glad to find that y ou are to be so near Edinburgh <1> during Winter. I have been looking out for a house not far from the town but, with the exception of one near Portobello, <2> I have not succeeded in finding one likely to suit us.

I shall take no notice of the trial of your Patent, <3> tho' I should have liked to say something that would not have been very agreeable to the Parties concerned.

I gave a brief notice of your Photo-glyphic process in the Encyclopædia Britannica under that head, and I have a Copy of your specification in the Fifth Volume of the Photographic Journal. <4>

I should have liked much to make use of the Phosphoroscope <5> here, but we must leave here early in January, and out of my own house I presume it would be difficult to make any experiments with it.

What a curious fact it is that the Daguerreotype has almost wholly disappeared. I believe it lingers only in the Studio of Mr Claudet. <6>

Upon looking over the large collection of your Engravings <7> (thirty five in number) I do not find either that of Strasburg Cathedral or of Glenturret House, and you would therefore oblige me by Copies of them. – Some of those I have are very sharp and fine, such as the Schools at Oxford, <8> and the Hall of Congress at Madrid. Have you tried to engrave the Microscopic Photographs, portraits and Inscriptions?

I am, Dear Mr Talbot, Ever Most Truly yrs
D Brewster

Allerly Melrose
Decr 23d 1861


1. At Millburn Tower, Gogar, just west of Edinburgh; the Talbot family made it their northern home from June 1861 to November 1863. It is particularly important because WHFT conducted many of his photoglyphic engraving experiments there. The house had a rich history. Built for Sir Robert Liston (1742-1836), an 1805 design by Benjamin Latrobe for a round building was contemplated but in 1806 a small house was built to the design of William Atkinson (1773-1839), best known for Sir Walter Scott’s Abbotsford. The distinctive Gothic exterior was raised in 1815 and an additional extension built in 1821. Liston had been ambassador to the United States and maintained a warm Anglo-American relationship in the years 1796-1800. His wife, the botanist Henrietta Liston, née Marchant (1751-1828) designed a lavish American garden, sadly largely gone by the time the Talbots rented the house .

2. See Doc. No: 08498.

3. Brewster was writing an article on the more recent history of photography [see Doc. No: 08483]: D. Brewster, ‘On discoveries and inventions in Photography’, Photographic Society Journal, v. 7, 1862, p. 183. In 1854 Talbot had pursued a case against a professional portrait-photographer who, he claimed, had infringed two important elements of his patents. Talbot lost the case. [For an account of this significant case, 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. 199–209; see also Doc. No: 06994.]

4. The journal of the Photographic Society, which became the Royal Photographic Society.

5. A device invented by Alexandre Edmond Becquerel (1820–91) for the measurement of phosphorescence. See Doc. No: 08019.

6. Antoine Françoise Jean Claudet (1797–1867), London; French-born scientist, merchant & photographer, resident in London.

7. Sc. photoglyphic engravings.

8. A building of the University of Oxford, in which lectures and examinations take place.