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Document number: 6559
Date: 10 Nov 1863
Recipient: DIAMOND Hugh Welch
Author: TALBOT William Henry Fox
Collection: PUBLISHED
Last updated: 18th June 2013

The original has not been located. This is the version published in The Photographic Journal, v. 9 no. 141, 14 Jan 1864, p. 430.]

" Millburn Town,<1> Edinburgh,
Nov. 10, 1863.


In reply to your letter, I beg to inform you that I did make a photograph of china, knives and forks, &c., disposed upon a round table, which is seen very obliquely in the photograph. It was an early attempt, about 1841 or 1842. <2> The view was taken out of doors, on the grass-plot in the centre of the cloisters of Lacock Abbey. I have no doubt I have copies of it still left in my collection at Lacock.<3>

" Wedgwood, in his memoir of 1802 (Journal of the Royal Institution), <4> says that he had thought of the possibility of making photographic views with a camera, but that, on trying the experiment, he had found that no length of time sufficed to produce any visible impression. Therefore, if any ancient photographs should ever be discovered, they will not be his production.

"I take the opportunity of writing this note to send you a small specimen of my photographic engraving on steel which I made last week; it is quite untouched. It is a genuine view in Java - a ravine and small rivulet fringed with banana-trees. <5> As I have no assistant, my engravings are not as yet worth publishing; but I think that in the hands of an artist, the process would prove useful and effective. Pray accept the specimen. The number of copies that can be printed, before the plate deteriorates, is at least 5000.

"Believe me, "Yours very truly
"H. F. Talbot."


Dr. Diamond."


1. A type compositor's mis-reading of 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. The reference here is to an erroneous claim later made into fact by Eliza Meteyard that Thomas Wedgwood made an early photograph of a table - he was never successful at making a photograph in the camera. See her A Group of Englishmen (1795-1815), Being Records of the Younger Wedgwoods and Their Freinds Embracing the History of the Discovery of Photography and a Facsimile of the First Photograph (London: Longmans, Green, and Co., 1871), p.30. There is such a framed print, the label saying 'Meteyard's Wedgwood', in the collection of the Royal Photographic Society, no. 025282, Schaaf 2826 (now in the NMeM). This description fits numerous similar WHFT photographs - see the example reproduced as plate 47 in Larry J. Schaaf, The Photographic Art of William Henry Fox Talbot (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2000).

3. WHFT was correct. His original negative for this was donated by his granddaughter, Miss Matilda Talbot (1871-1958), to the Science Museum in 1934 and is now in the NMeM, 1937-2520. A print from it, along with a reproduction of Meteyard's woodcut, is in Larry J. Schaaf, Sun Pictures Catalogue 15: From Talbot to Turner (New York: Hans P. Kraus, Jr., Inc., 2006), pp. 22-23.

4. Thomas Wedgwood and Sir Humphry Davy (1778-1829), chemist, 'An Account of a method of Copying Paintings upon Glass and of Making Profiles, by the Agency of Light upon Nitrate of Silver. Invented by T. Wedgwood, Esq. With observations by H. Davy', Journal of the Royal Institution of London, v.1 no.9, 22 June 1802, pp.170-174.

5. WHFT supplied original photoglyphic engravings of this image, 'View in Java', for inclusion in John Thomson, editor, A History and Handbook of Photography, Translated from the French of Gaston Tissandier, second and revised edition, with an Appendix by the Late Henry Fox Talbot (London: Sampson Low, Marston, Searle, & Rivington, 1878), p. 377. The view, half of a stereo, was probably taken by Walter B. Woodbury or his partner James Page.