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Document number: 5780
Date: 02 Dec 1846
Recipient: TALBOT William Henry Fox
Author: MALONE Thomas Augustine
Collection: British Library, London, Manuscripts - Fox Talbot Collection
Collection number historic: LA46-129
Last updated: 28th January 2012

44 Manchester St
Manchester Sqre
Dec 2nd/46


It gives me much pleasure to hear, that you intend opening an Establishment, for portraiture, in London. The Talbotype, has now a chance of taking that position it truly merits. The pictures have a warmth (as it is termed by Artists) which we look for in vain, in the Daguerréotype M Claudet <1> acknowledges, that for himself, he prefers a good Talbotype, to one of his own pictures. – Henneman, is so enthusiastic about Photography, that he cannot fail to be a valuable assistant, in carrying out your plans. –

I fear I have little to communicate beyond that which you are already acquainted with. At present, I find the proto-sulphate of Iron is the most delicate test for the Action of light. When used in the manner you direct, it often blackens spontaneously, if not placed in the Camera very soon after it is prepared. to prevent this I omit the Iron, in the first stage of the process, & use a strong solution of Silver, which I think quite as sensitive. thus, Iodized paper, washed over with a solution of Nitrate of Silver (100 grains to 1 ounce of water & 2 drachms of Glacial Acetic Acid) blotted & placed in the Camera gave an image in eight seconds Voigtlander’s double lenses were used, diameter 4, inches focal length, 13, inches. Sunshine, with white curtain interposed. with an apparatus of shorter focal length & in the Sun, this must be instantaneous.

To develop this picture I used a solution of proto-sulphate of Iron, 20, grains to 1, ounce of water & 2 drachms, of Glacial Acetic Acid, after brushing it over rapidly with this I immerse it in water for 10 minutes blot. & then wash it over with a solution of Nitrate of Silver 20, grains to 1, ounce of water & 1, drachm of Glacial Acetic Acid –

I have found this last silver wash bring out the Iris of the eye in a portrait. it appears to act upon the half tints. lastly wash in water & remove the Iodide of Silver if necessary by soaking for 15 minutes in a cold saturated solution of Hyposulphite of Soda, this is less trouble than heating a dilute solution. & it may be used again as long as it remains white. I find the Gallic Acid, pictures are lowered by it; The Iron: I think are not injured by it. –

I fear no good portraits will be taken until we have better paper. If by chance a perfect sheet is selected – the sitter has perhaps moved, or it has not been the proper time in the Camera. for the next sheet the sitter has been firm but the paper is bad the chances of success are few. –

The paper at present in use is imperfectly sized this & the Iron spots are a constant source of annoyance. I would suggest soaking the pulp or the unsized paper in dilute Hydrochloric Acid which is a cheap solvent for Iron. –

The position of the sitter with regard to the light appears to be very important. I have carefully watched the effects produced in the Daguerréotype my notes may be useful when you arrange your operating room. No good pictures are produced during the Sunshine under a curtain. the curtain reflects too much light under the features & produces what we term a “flat” picture. –

I do not think a South aspect favourable the sun may be partially obscured by clouds but still the direct rays, light very strongly, the forehead & nose, the parts under the eye brows are lighted by a weaker reflected light this is seldom in a proper ratio to the direct one. & strong shadows are the result. or if left in the Camera long enough to get rid of them the prominent portions of the face are “overdone” & thus lose their roundness. I should prefer a room looking to the North – having on its South Side, a screen of brick, or wood, sufficiently high to throw it into the shade. I would place the sitter at the East end, his face to the West. this end, should also have a screen, for too much light before the sitter, will produce the “flatness” spoken of –


I should mention, in the evening you could place the sitter at the West end of the room. –

I will not say portraits cannot be taken in a South aspect, but I am certain they are not so round, & softly shaded, as those taken with the sun behind the sitter. –

The black hand screens, are very useful. Thus [illustration]. I shall be most happy to explain anything which appears obscure, if you will kindly apprise me of it at your leisure; & if it is not trespassing too much on your time, I should like to know which you think the best position for the room –

I remain Sir your Humble & Obedient Servant
T. A Malone

H F. Talbot Esqre


1. Antoine Françoise Jean Claudet (1797–1867), London; French-born scientist, merchant & photographer, resident in London.

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