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Document number: 7102
Date: 26 Dec 1854
Dating: 1854 assumed
Recipient: GROVE William Robert
Author: TALBOT William Henry Fox
Collection: Royal Society, London
Last updated: 14th March 2012

26 Dec

Dr Grove

Thanks for your Xmas good wishes – I am suffering from a severe cough & cold & have not had such an attack for 10 years or more, it has almost laid me up –

I return to Town on the 2d January, notwithstanding this illness, as it is absolutely necessary to come to a determination respecting the application to the Privy Council for a prolongation. <1> The hearing [illegible deletion] is fixed for the 10th January. If there is no prolongation there will be of course no object in further litigating the question. <2> Can you make an appointment to see my me at your chambers on the 3d January?

Yours Truly
H. F. Talbot

I am afraid from what you say the Ruhmkorff sparks <3> will not do for me. Is there no mode of obtaining an intense single spark?May I be permitted to exhibit the following experiment in Court, <4> with Pyrogallic acid, nothing can be more successful – It almost carries demonstration with it –
viz. Take a piece of iodised paper
brush it over with Nitrate of Silver (wch may be done in the daylight slightly screened off) – Expose this for ˝ minute to daylight having put an object, ex. gr. <5> a square piece of card on it – An invisible image forms – Wash the paper with pyrogallic acid – The image appears – Throw it into a vessel of salt water & it is fixed –
Repeat ye expt with gallic acid – The expt also answers admirably with Protosulph. Iron –
Shall I make some Camera Pictures developing ye image with Pyrogallic?


1. The British sovereign’s private body of advisors, which had been responsible for the regulation of patents until the Patents office was set up under the Patent Law Amendment Act 1852, and which still dealt with many aspects of patents. Talbot’s photographic patents were due to expire in 1855 so he needed to decide, in the light of the unhappy outcome of his recent patents trial, whether to apply for their renewal or to give them up entirely.

2. Following the patents trial, Talbot v. Laroche, that had taken place 18–20 December 1854. As the trial had concerned only matters of fact, and judgement had not yet been given, it remained open to Talbot to ask for a new trial [see H. J. P. Arnold, William Henry Fox Talbot: Pioneer of Photography and Man of Science (London: Hutchinson Benham, 1977), p. 208]. See also Doc. No: 06377.

3. See Doc. No: 00089, Grove’s reply to which has not been traced.

4. During a putative new court case to prove that his patents covered all photographic processes that used gallic or pyrogallic acid.

5. Latin: ex gratia – out of kindness, not obligation; the context here implies ‘if you please’, whatever suits you.

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