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Document number: 6316
Date: 27 Apr 1850
Recipient: TALBOT William Henry Fox
Author: MALONE Thomas Augustine
Collection: British Library, London, Manuscripts - Fox Talbot Collection
Collection number historic: LA50-20
Last updated: 28th November 2012

122 Regent St <1>
Apl 27 1850

To H F Talbot Esqr


When I last wrote to you I promised to send some pictures, which have been delayed from several causes. We have been much more busy this month, than usual; 4 sets of Apparatus being sold; and three amateurs receiving lessons. The advertisements have brought but few portraits; yet I think they will answer on the whole. The profit of one set of apparatus will pay for a months advertising, in the Times, Literary Gazette, and Athenæum. <2>

It is important that we should have more portraits to do as they are profitable & do not demand a large outlay of capital.

I think the Public is waiting for the opinion of the Press. We think of inviting the three journals just enumerated to see our Establishment. In that case the reporters must be treated liberally Mr Beard <3> has set a bad example on this head. He provides wine and costly viands for their refreshment and then gives them their portraits promising to take their friends into the bargain. All this is extravagant and not required I propose to get from Paris the best negatives and to present copies say two or three to each reporter These copies they will have with them on the instant when writing their notices. This perhaps will put them in better humour than asking them to sit then & there supposing them to be difficult subjects they may become tired and give a notice if not unfavourable yet only containing “faint praise”

Mr J D Harding the Artist<4> came yesterday to ask if we can undertake to make copies from 25 negatives 12in by 10 in size A thousand copies from each for publication in some work He wants to compete in price with the engravers. Mr H says it is a new application of the Art and the result would be superior to any thing that is produced on “Metal Stone or Wood” With only our present establishment we should find it difficult to execute such a work. – We have not yet commenced Lord Ashburnham’s work of which I have before spoken.<5>

Sir David Brewster <6> has been with us. He brought from Scotland some good Talbotypes from glass negatives I was much annoyed at having nothing to show him so good. I immediately set to work & devised a plan and before Sir David’s second visit, succeeded in making a good negative, and copy from it. My mode of operating so pleased him that he asked permission, to send it to the Scotch operators, as superior in some respects to their own I dilute Albumen with water coat glass with it, dry the coat and expose to Iodine vapour then immerse in aceto-nitrate of silver – use in the camera – develop with saturated gallic acid and fix in hypoe Soda as usual

I fear you will not be well pleased at what may seem to be a neglect of the Porcelain. I had reasons for leaving that in abeyance First the Scotch operators advertised that they were the only professional persons who had succeeded with glass plates. Mr Sterling pointed this out and I could do no less than retrieve our credit by showing him, and Sir David Brewster my ability to compete with our Scotch rivals.

A graver reason for leaving the porcelain arose from Minton’s sending an unsatisfactory answer to a letter of mine urging haste. They hinted that the quantity of slab required would be small and, that the cavities which appear on grinding, of which I complained, were inherent to the process. On this ill news I anxiously consulted Dr Lyon Playfair <7> who kindly advises me on chemical matters He sent me to Mr Sylvester <6> (in a friendly way) a man of great experience in Porcelain He 8s the Chemist employed by Wedgwood & Minton He is an Amateur Talbotypist & brother in law to Creswick <9> the well known Landscape Painter – all favourable circumstances – he was much pleased with the idea of the Porcelain especially that on glass, sees no difficulty of serious importance and authorises me to tell Minton that such is his opinion.

He advised me not to waste much time on the subject as I could not compete with them & they must ultimately carry out the idea Dr Playfair & Mr Sylvester are going together to Mintons on business of their own. They will be pleased to have me join them & then they will advise Minton on the best mode of proceeding this is a very handsome offer of Dr Playfair It was Sir David Brewster who introduced the Dr to me – he is also, an amateur photographer.

To the fixing I have added another feature rendering failure less likely.

Dr Playfair is astonished that the Potash does not destroy the fibre of the paper He is pleased with my experiments. I have spoken in confidence only about our new processes.

I am sorry the Porcelain has not made greater progress. I am anxious to hear your remarks on the subject of this note that I may decide on the next active step.

Martens <10> has written from Paris asking information & offering to teach me his glass process in return – He does good things – Shall I go to Paris for a day or two – it costs little now – and we want lenses and paper &c – see Martens & Bayard<11> learn all I can, get negatives return and invite the Press and then join Dr Playfair and Mr Sylvester at the Potteries in a fortnights time the period fixed for their journey

I remain Sir very obediently yours
T A Malone


1. 122 Regent Street, London: base of Nicolaas Hennemans’ Talbotype or Sun Picture Rooms, later the firm of Henneman & Malone, photographers to the Queen.

2. The Times (London), The Literary Gazette and Journal of belles lettres, science and art, The Athenaeum (London).

3. Richard Beard (1801–1885), coal merchant & daguerreotypist, London.

4. James Duffield Harding (1797–1863), painter, writer on art theory and teacher of among others John Ruskin and Rev Calvert R Jones.

5. See Doc. No: 06310. Bertram Ashburnham, 4th Earl of Ashburnham (1797-1878), who had an extensive library of early and rare books. Given the fact that there was no rush, it is unlikely that these photographs were meant to illustrate the Catalogue of the entire and valuable collection of Italian, Flemish, Dutch, and French pictures, the property of the Earl of Ashburnham: which will be sold by auction, by Messrs. Christie and Manson ... on July 20, 1850. Perhaps he hoped to illustrate the Catalogue of the Manuscripts at Ashburnham Place (London: printed by C.F. Hodgson, 1853). From the descripton in WorldCat: "Includes, in addition to the collection known as the 'Appendix', the Libri manuscripts, bought by Lord Ashburnham in 1847, and the Stowe and Barrois manuscripts acquired in 1849./ The Stowe manuscripts were purchased from the estate in 1883 by the British museum, the Irish manuscripts being transferred to the library of the Royal Irish academy at Dublin. The British museum issued a catalogue of the collection in 1895-96./ In 1884 the Italian government bought all but 100 of the Libri manuscripts and deposited them in the R. Biblioteca mediceo-laurenziana at Florence. The remaining 100 of the Libri manuscripts and 66 of the Barrois were turned over in 1888 to the Bibliothèque nationale, having been proved to be manuscripts stolen from French libraries. The Bibliothèque nationale also bought 69 manuscripts at the auction sale of the remainder of the Barrois collection June 10-14, 1901. The 'Appendix' was bought by Henry Yates Thompson in 1898, and after some of the manuscripts had been selected for his own collection, the remaining 177 were sold by auction 1 May 1889."

6. Sir David Brewster (1781–1868), Scottish scientist & journalist.

7. Dr Lyon Playfair, 1st Baron Playfair (1818–1898), chemist.

8. John Sylvester (1798–1852).

9. Thomas Creswick (1811–1869), married Ann Sylvester (1806– ca.1852)

10. Friedrich von Martens (1809–1875), German inventor & photographer, active in Paris.

11. Hippolyte Bayard (1801-1887), photographer and in early 1839 an independent inventor of a direct positive paper based photographic process.

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