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Document number: 6210
Date: 05 Feb 1849
Postmark: Philadelphia 6 Feb 1849 / London 21 Feb 1849 / Chippenham 22 Feb 1849
Recipient: TALBOT William Henry Fox
Collection: National Science and Media Museum, Bradford
Collection number: 1937-4971
Collection 2: British Library, London, Manuscripts - Fox Talbot Collection
Collection 2 number: envelope 20132
Last updated: 9th March 2012

[the letter is in the NMeM and its envelope is in the BL]

5 February 1849

H. Fox Talbot Esq F.R.S. &c &c &c
Lacock Abbey, England


Ever since Mr Daguerre’s and your brilliant discoveries became known at this side of the Ocean we have been trying our hands at it. On the first of Janr 1841 we opened a Daguerreotype Establishment at the Merchants Exchange in this place, which has been in successfull operation ever since. For the last four years, ever since we have seen the specimens accompanying the first numbers of your “Pencil of Nature” we employed a great deal of our spare time to study your Calotype Process and by dint of a great many experiments and expenses we are now able to produce portraits on papers. We are at present about to publish a Pamphlet containing your original invention, the subsequent improvements and our own experiences in the “Talbotype” in order to acquaint the numerous scientific gentlemen of this country as well as the amateurs, who delight in this art, with the recent improvements. What could lay nearer and more appropriate than the desire to receive your sanction to dedicate this little work to you, Sir, the Originator and Fosterer of this beautifull Art?

We therefore, respectfully beg of you to grant us this permission.

In order to show those interested in it, what can be done by this art we would, further, like to accompany the Pamphlet with Specimens of Portraits and perhaps of some prominent building. We are fully aware that this cannot be done without trespassing on your Patent Right, except by your express permission. But believing that this intended publication of “Talbotypes” can possibly not harm your interrest [sic], because the wider the Art becomes known, the better it will be appreciated, we deem it presumptuous to sollicit [sic] further your permission to publish such specimens with our pamphlet.

The mentioning of your interest leads us to another topic. As far as we have been able to ascertain, you have not appointed an Agent for your Patent in this Country. This we consider to be a necessary step, if you wish your art to become into use in this Country. We know that a great many of the numerous Daguerreotype operators here would embrace your art with the enthusiasm of true Yankees if they could learn the art in a short time to a reasonable degree of perfection and if the expense for tuition and the right to exercise it was moderate. Both must be brought within their reach by an Agent of Yours, who at the same time must be able and willing to create by means of the press and otherwise that degree of publicity, which, here more than elsewhere, leads to success. We would with great pleasure act as Your Agents in the United States, if you are willing to do so on moderate terms. In respect to our qualifications as such we beg leave to state the following:

1. We keep one of the oldest Daguerreotype Establishments in the United States and our exertions have met with success. In the course our carrier [?] and by a previous long residence here, we have had plenty of opportunity to become acquainted with the particularities of the character of Americans and with all the levers which must be set in motion with them in order to awaken their interest and even enthusiasm for anything that is great or good. Our name is, we dare say, favorably known throughout the United States, as keeping one of the best Establishments of the kind. As a proof of what we can do, we may also refer to an extensive Daguerreotype View of the Falls of Niagara which her Majesty the Queen of England was graciously pleased to accept of us in Febr. 1846, being presented through the Earl of Aberdeen, who sent us a very complimentary letter. We have also received for similar productions the large gold medals for Art and Science from the Kings of Prussia, Wurtemberg and Saxony besides several medals of different scientific institutions.

2. Our brother in law, Mr. Voightlander in Vienna, appointed us his Agents , for the Sale of his Daguerreotype and other optical instruments. We have sold more than 1500 of them, and this has made us more or less acquainted with every operator in the Country.

This would not only show that we are acquainted with the way of opening a market to something of real merit, but it will also show, how extensively the Daguerreotype has ben fostered and appreciated in this country, for such a number of instruments could never have been sold by us, if the operators had no need for them and the public had not patronized them. There are over 30 Daguerreotype Establishments here, more than 60 in New York and so in proportion in every larger place throughout the States and all smaller places are visited by travelling operators, and still all that have any skill in the art do not complain of want of patronage. If properly introduced and kept alive by disseminating all real improvements we do not doubt but that the “Talbotype” will soon rank even with, and for some purposes higher than the Daguerreotype.

3. We have, as already stated, succeeded in making Portraits on Paper, which we are not afraid to expose to the criticism of the Public and we deem ourselves proficient enough, to teach the Art to any one who may buy of You or Your Agent the right to use Your Patent. It would be therefore to our mutual advantage, if you would appoint us Your Agents, because you cannot but be well aware that one days teaching and seeing the process going on would be worth more than a volume’s reading to those desirous of learning the art. At any rate we are sure that the people here would like to get the right, the instructions and the materials out of the same source. It would save time and labour, a great desideratum here.

In case you should be inclined to confer this Agency to us we submit the following conditions viz:

1. We sell the Patent Right in your name and behalf to every purchaser personally so that he may exercise it throughout the United States. We would not advise, to sell it for a certain State because the Americans are a locomotive race and we are sure that a great many more rights would be sold in the proposed way.

2. We receive for our trouble twenty five per cent of the amount of the Sales.

3. We pay for the necessary advertisements, hand bill, cards etc., so that you will receive the net amount of 75 per Cent.

4. Every 3 or 6 months, as you many desire, we render an account of the Sales (under oath if required) and forward the amount either direct in a letter of Exchange, or by paying it over to whom you may appoint here.

5. We sell the Patent right to every one to a fixe price. We would advise not to put this price too high, because it wold deter a great many from buying, while if the price is low, hundreds will buy it, even if they should never exercise it, to any great extent, and we are confident that the ultimate result will be greater than under a high price. We should advise about from Fifty or one hundred dollars as the standard gross price.

We submitt the above propositions to your kind consideration, hoping that they may receive your sanction, not so much on account of our mutual pecuniary interest than to enable us to serve in bringing your brilliant discoveries into general use, which would place your name much higher than that of Mr Daguerre, as your art, if properly applied, possesses extraordinary advantages over the Daguerreotype.

As we have made every preparation to come before the Public with the Talbotype in proper style we should be happy to received your early answer, and in case you accept our offer in regard to the Agency we would advise you to send us the necessary documents at once. Should you not think proper to accept our offer we would then ask on what terms you would let us begin and exercise your Art in Philadelphia, or N. York.?

To enable you to judge of our standing here we take the liberty to refer you to Dr. Paul B. Goddard of Philadelphia or to Professor Chls. G. Page, Patent Office, Washington, and in place of many others to which we could refer we give you the plain promise to fulfill faithfully our duties as your Agents, should you think proper to confer this favor to us.

With the highest esteem we have the honor to be, Sir, Your most obedient servants
W. & F. Langenheim

Per New York Steamer
H. Fox Talbot Esq
Care of the Secretary of the Royal Society

Lacock Abbey

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