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Document number: 6921
Date: 22 Feb 1854
Recipient: TALBOT William Henry Fox
Author: BREWSTER David
Collection: National Science and Media Museum, Bradford
Collection number: 1937-5381
Last updated: 13th July 2010

Dear Sir,

I am glad to find that you will send some specimens of your Photographic Engraving <1> to the Dundee Exhibition. <2> If you could add one or two Photographs you would oblige the Committee.

In case I might be from here it will be best to address the packet to Mr Sturrock <3> the Secretary, or if you like to me to his Care.

I have just received from Mr Paul Pretsch <4> of Vienna some magnificent Photographs on a great scale. One of them, 20 inches by 15, is from a Bust of the Emperor Charles V.

I have just finished the 1st Volume of my Life of Newton <5> and am working hard at the second which I hope to have finished in Summer.

I was glad you sent me your address at the Lakes <6> as my Daughter <7> has been anxious to send Mrs Talbot <8> a little book of hers.

I shall be glad to see your Experimental Room. I have just got a fine Heliostate <9> from M. Duboscq. <10>

We are thinking of going to Clifton <11> in Spring, and hope you may then be at Lacock Abbey.

I am, Ever Most Truly yrs
D Brewster

St Leonards College
St Andrews
Feby 22d 1854

H. Fox Talbot Esqr.


1. In October 1852 Talbot had taken out a patent [29 October 1852; detailed specifications filed 29 April 1853] for Improvements in the Art of Engraving. This was a contact process using gelatin sensitised by potassium bichromate, on a steel plate, the resultant image then being etched into the steel. For a detailed description, see H. J. P. Arnold, William Henry Fox Talbot: Pioneer of Photography and Man of Science (London: Hutchinson Benham, 1977), pp. 273–75. It was not the same as photoglyphic engraving, a later process.

2. An exhibition held in March and April 1854 to benefit the Dundee Royal Infirmary. Brewster was a member of the Committee of Management. In the exhibition, frame 533 ‘contains specimens of photographic Engraving on Steel Plates, an Art only recently discovered by Mr Fox Talbot’. Exhibition of Photographic Pictures in Dundee. 1854 (Dundee: printed in the North Warder Office, 1854), p. 15.

3. John Sturrock, Jun., the Honorary Secretary of the Committee of Management.

4. Paul Pretsch (1808–1873), Austrian photographer & inventor; in 1856 he founded The Patent Photo-Galvanographic Company in London. He developed photogalvanography, a process that in its initial stages used gelatin sensitised by potassium bichromate but thereafter the electrotype process. Talbot, however, considered his patent to have been infringed and took Pretsch’s company to law. For an account of the dispute, see Arnold, pp. 280–82.

5. D. Brewster, Memoirs of the Life, Writings, and Discoveries of Sir Isaac Newton (Edinburgh: Thomas Constable & Co., 1855).

6. Greta Bank, near Keswick, Cumberland.

7. Margaret Maria (b. 1823), who became Mrs Gordon and published a memoir of her father: The Home Life of Sir David Brewster (Edinburgh: Edmonston and Douglas, 1869).

8. Constance Talbot, née Mundy (1811–1880), WHFT’s wife.

9. Sc. heliostat, an instrument that reflects a beam of sunlight in a constant direction notwithstanding the rotation of the Earth.

10. Possibly Jules Duboscq – see Doc. No: 06630.

11. Near Bristol; famous for its gorge cut by the River Avon. In the 19th century it was a health resort. It was (and remains) the site of a camera obscura, overlooking the Clifton Gorge.

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