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Document number: 6327
Date: 25 May 1850
Recipient: TALBOT William Henry Fox
Collection: British Library, London, Manuscripts - Fox Talbot Collection
Collection number historic: LA50-24
Last updated: 10th March 2012

May 25 1850


We have to acknowledge the receipt of Your favors of Decbr. 26. and March 9. which reached us both in due time. In the former You were kind enough to let us hope to receive from You soon another letter which caused us to wait with our answer, which otherwise we would have done at once. At the time when we received Your favor of March 9th we were at the point of finishing some of the most important experiments of a new and improved manner of taking impressions on glass, with which we had already experimented since 1848. <1> At the time of the receipt of Your letter we were just closing a series of experiments and all other thoughts and things were neglected and forgotten. May we hope that this circumstance will induce You to ensure the delay of our answer and not think unfavorably of us? The first leasure moment which presents itself after the victory obtained is devoted to write this letter.

First of all allow us to express our deepest gratitude for the kindness You have shown to us in extending the time for the payment of the two last installments, <2> which, at least for the moment, released us of a very uncomfortable situation .– The favor which You have shown to us is however only a temporary relief and with great anxiety we watch the progress of our operations. Up to this time we have not met with any encouraging prospects, all resulted in bitter disappointment and we feel ourselves under the very disagreeable necessity to renew our supplication in regard to a more favorable settlement of our liabilities to You. To enable You to judge of our situation we beg leave to give You a short sketch of our situations and proceedings:

When we purchased your patent we calculated not alone to recover at least the greater part of the purchase money but also, with good luck, to earn a reasonable profit of our investment from the Sale of Patent rights to others. Since that time we have tried every possible means and ways, which we could think of, without any success. We first advertised the exclusive right for the different States and to make the beginning we sold the States of Louisiana , Alabama, Florida & Texas to the firm of Maguire & Harrington in N. Orleans, mostly on a credit, hoping that, by the beginning being made, others would be induced to follow. – We not alone found us disappointed in that respect but also failed in obtaining the money from the purchasers of the Patent for those States, they having met with the same unfavorable result as we here, in regard to the business itself. We then thought that by disposing of the right in personal licences at a very reasonable price we would find purchasers more readily and we published a circular to that effect of which we transmitted to You a copy.– The result of this plan was still more disappointing and mortifying, not more than about 6 persons came forward who were willing to risk the small sum of $30, and after many fruitless efforts we had to abandon that plan again, which now places us in a very unpleasant position.

We saw very well that the cause of all these failures was the unprofitable state of our own business in taking Talbotype portraits, which as yet has not covered by far the actual expenses, which is partly owing to the entire unacquaintance of the american[sic] public with such new productions and partly to several defects which our pictures still retained when compared with Daguerreotypes – the real advantages of the Talbotypes not being as yet appreciated sufficiently and in most cases overlooked entirely. All our energy and all means were therefore required to accomplish the desired improvement in the Talbotypes. Such improvements could however not be accomplished without time, energy and money. We worked incessantly for the last 18 months and part of many a night has been spent in our chemical laboratory and after having now accomplished our object and, by assisted by good luck, obtained improvements and new discoveries we find our means exhausted and embarrassed by enormous liabilities, and without You were willing to a more favorable settlement of our liabilities our progress would be prematurely arrested. We therefore beg You to take our former supplication in earnest consideration: to release Mr Kreeft <3> from his guarantee for the payment of the two last installments and tak our own promise to pay You the sums yet due as soon as our circumstances will permit it, or to let us act as Your agent for the balance of the Patent, reserving for us and exclusively Philadelphia and N. York, in which latter place we have commenced an establishment. In making such a supplication we are well aware how much we ask and that the payment of the balance would depend on circumstances of which You are at present in dependant having Mr Kreefts guarantee for the same. We trust however that a more nobler sentiment than for money alone will induce You to assist us in the carrying out of Your invaluable invention in the new world.

Another proposition which we propose to You is to impart to You some new way of preparing glass plates for negatio as well as positio pictures, which we now have accomplished in a very simple and expeditious way, and which will keep ready for operations a very long time, and which furnish pictures which cannot be surpassed in sharpness and beauty. Some new discoveries which we have made renders them preferable to paper or any other substance, and can be prepared by hundreds or thousands beforehand and used for months afterwards, without needing any subsequent preparation.

What we have now accomplished is the following:

In a very short time, say 2 hours, we can prepare several hundred glass plates all ready to receive an impression in the Camera obscura. We prepare such plates beforehand and keep them for weeks without they being in the least injured and which take just as good impressions as when used immediately, which is owing to our discovery of the application of a chemical not as yet employed as far as we know. The exact time, how long these plates can be kept without losing their good qualities, we can only determine by experiments, we have however kept some now 3 weeks without they showing any injury – Such plates ready prepared, may be carried any distance and impressions taken without needing anything except the Camera and the plates, to produce impressions which surpass anything as yet produced or known to us.

With our mode of preparing the plates and the chemicals employed by us we guarantee that not a single impression will be a failure in hundreds so taken, as the preparation is an absolute certainty and far surpasses in that respect the preparation on paper and Daguerreotype plates.

The plates are with the above advantages so [?] that we take portraits in our rooms with a very moderate quantity of light generally in one minute, and views have been taken by us in 5 Seconds and less.

The great advantages of such a preparation suggests itself at once without any comment and we have no doubt that it would be for England of the greatest importance. Having read in one of the English Journals that You have applied for a patent of taking impressions on glass, we thought proper to mention to You what we have accomplished in case You should think it of sufficient importance to enter into any negotiations with us for the details of our improvements and new features.

Since we made the discovery of our improvement we have at once declined to give instructions in it here, as that would greatly interfere with our operations, and as no persons would be willing to invest the necessary funds to obtain our improvement. We assure You that what we stated in regard [illegible] to out improvements is true to the letter and to enable You to judge of the productions obtained by our process we enclose hereby a few portraits and a small view of the Philada Exchange, which must be received through the magnifying glass to be fully appreciated. – Our improvements are the results of a long series of expensive experiments and we could, on that account, not part with them without a fair compensation. If You should feel inclined to become a purchaser we would instruct You or any body You may authorize for the sum which we paid You for Your U. S. Patent, of which we have had as yet no benefit whatever and is very doubtful if we shall ever have. Should You feel inclined at all to make this exchange without us, we of course will give You any further information and description, as far as we can do without imparting our preparation. The view of the Exchange was taken on a plate which had been prepared 2 weeks. We have also prepared plates in Philada and carried them to N. York, where we took several views on them an [sic] returned with the impression to Philada. We intend now to take Talbotype impressions with our improvements and publish them in monthly numbers, which we are enabled to do now with the greatest facility, as to obtain several hundreds good impressions it needs but a few hours of preparation.

In reply to Your several questions in Your letters of March 9 we would state that we are very happy to read Your favorable expressions in regard to several of them, and express at the same time the hope that You will find a decided improvement in those we have now the pleasure to send to You. We are under the impression that the negatio pictures of which we send You some positio ones last fall, were all taken on glass, [illustration] As we have taken no notes of them when we send them, we could not say so of all with certainty. In obtaining impressions on glass we followed at first in 1848 Mr Niepce’s plan, which afterwards however was superceeded by new improvements and decided advantages in every respect.

In regard to the Pamphlet which we intended to publish we would state that we have abandoned the idea entirely. We would not like to publish valuable discoveries and improvements for which we have worked many years and the publication of which in that form would not offer any adequate recompensation for our labor and incurred expenses. The copies of Your steel engraving were duly received, for which we beg to express our best thanks, regretting at the same time that most probably we shall be prevented from using the same for the pamphlet, as we do not to publish the same.

Hoping that our propositions may favorably be received by You we remain

Your mst obdt servts
W. & F. Langenheim

H.F. Talbot Esqr
Lacock Abbey



1. This was in reference to their payments for the US rights to WHFT's calotype: Improvement in Photographic Pictures, US Letters Patent 5171, 26 June 1847. The Langenheims had proposed the payment schedule themselves - see Doc. No: 06221.

2. This was in reference to their payments for the US rights to WHFT's calotype: Improvement in Photographic Pictures, US Letters Patent 5171, 26 June 1847. The Langenheims had proposed the payment schedule themselves - see Doc. No: 06221.

3. John Christopher Tobias Kreeft, Christopher Kreeft (1787-1850), merchant & Mecklenburg Consulate General, London.

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