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Document number: 3886
Date: 31 May 1839
Recipient: TALBOT William Henry Fox
Author: BUTLER George
Collection: British Library, London, Manuscripts - Fox Talbot Collection
Collection number historic: LA39-043
Last updated: 28th March 2010

31 May 1839

My dear Talbot,

You are an errant cheat or, at best, an aider and abetter in deception. Upon opening you packet of Photogene drawings, <1> I was so completely taken in by your lace-picture, <2> that, like a dutiful husband, I was actually handing it over to Mrs Butler <3> as a lace-pattern, – intended for her, – before I discovered my mistake. And then, the leaves! And the Abbey tower! <4> And then we set ourselves to work to read all about it, – and felt more & more indebted to you for having furnished us with so interesting and exquisite a produce of your inventive genius.

I suppose, that, by the aid of a little simple machinery, superadded to a common table Camera-obscura, a sheet of your prepared paper, (covered, excepting where it is designed to be acted upon by the light) might easily be slipped into the space of the illuminated picture and receive the required impression without any discoloration of the rest of the paper. To this End the sheet might be fixed in a wooden frame and slid into its precise place on the table,– being secured by a suitable covering from receiving the proposed image, until it were in its exact position. Of course the views thus taken must be

[Diagram of the above, with explanatory notes as follows:]

A an external object;

B the lens of the camera frame;

CD the reflection; FH a table in the dark chamber;

HI, KL, two sliders with grooves for the frame MN to slide in;

a the image

limited to immoveable objects, or to days of dead calm: A waiving tree would be imaged by a very smeary outline.

I wish I had leisure for a trip to London, that I might talk more with you upon this subject, and learn something about your practical contrivances for perfecting the application of your delightful Science.

Pray present my best compts to your lady <5> &

believe me ever Yours truly
G Butler

H. F. Talbot Esq
31 Sackville Street


1. That is, photogenic drawings.

2. One of WHFT’s most successful early images was formed by direct contact of a piece of lace with his photogenic paper. Numerous lace images still exist in various collections.

3. Sarah Maria Butler, née Gray.

4. Only two known views of Sharington’s Tower can be proven to be early enough. One is dated April 1839 and is in the Russian Academy of Science, St Petersburg, Schaaf 3690. The more likely one is “Lacock Abbey self-represented in the Camera Obscura” and is dated May 1839; Schaaf 3873 - WHFT presented it to Charles Babbage and it is now in the J. Paul Getty Museum - see Doc. No: 03876. .

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

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