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Document number: 6411
Date: Fri 02 May 1851
Recipient: AIRY George Biddell
Author: TALBOT William Henry Fox
Collection: Univ Cambridge University Library / Syndics / Cambridge
Collection number: RGO 6/119 ff500/501
Last updated: 24th March 2012

Athenæum Club <1>
Friday night
1851 May 2

Dear Sir

The idea of making a photogenic representation of the next total eclipse had occurred to me, not without some misgivings as to its practicability – The image would be obtained I think in a few seconds, but the excitement of the observer as the critical moment approached would be such that I think if he attempted to make many observations of different kinds he would probably fail in all of them[.] To succeed he must devote his attention to this point alone, thereby losing the rare opportunity of studying the rose coloured eminences with all his attention during the brief period of their visibility. I am in doubt whether one large camera should be employed or a row of small ones fixed on one frame and all opened & shut simultaneously by a single mechanism The turning of a single handle for instance. A single large picture would be more valuable; on the other hand it might fail, whereas out of a series of small pictures surely some one or other would be successful

You made no mention of the total eclipse observed last August at Honolulu (Sandwich Islands) perhaps you may not yet have met with an account of it – A single individual witnessed that phenomenon, fortunately he was a good and zealous observer – His description of the appearance of the Red mountains as they are called is very valuable, because the appearance was totally unexpected by him, he not having read the accounts published of the eclipse of 1842 – and also most specially because one of those appearances was detached from the sun’s disk, proving it to be a flame, or vapour, or Emanation, and not a mountain “car une montagne” says the account “a besoin d’une base,” <2> This seems to me to agree with the old observation of some Swedish observers whom you mentioned who saw red macul œ in the corona. Also the rude but apparently conclusive observation of the light being polarised, is very interesting – and the hypothesis of the author as to the cause supported by his observation made some days afterwards of a bright Solar facula appears to me to bear the palm at present among all others that have been mentioned –

Yours vy Truly
H. F. Talbot


1. Athenaeum Club, Pall Mall, London: WHFT’s club; a gentleman’s club composed primarily of artists and scientists.

2. Because a mountain requires a base.

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