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Document number: 6326
Date: 25 May 1850
Recipient: TALBOT William Henry Fox
Author: MALONE Thomas Augustine
Collection: British Library, London, Manuscripts - Fox Talbot Collection
Collection number historic: LA50-23
Last updated: 16th February 2012

122 Regent St <1>
25th May 1850

To H F Talbot Esqr


The length of time that has elapsed since I last wrote will, to relate all that has happened concerning Photography occasion rather a long letter. I shall be glad if I can make its interest proportionate to its length.

I have already informed you that a visit to Paris was part of a plan of action I had laid down for the approaching season. That visit has been made & has proved satisfactory and useful. I was afterwards going into Staffordshire with Dr Playfair and Mr Sylvester <2> Dr Playfair has not been. He is too much occupied with the exposition of 1851. However Mr Sylvester has been & succeeded in getting Mr Minton<3> “into the humour” of doing his best for the Porcelain. Mr Sylvester does not at present like Mr Mintons plan nor mine but proposes that a thick slab shall be made & sawn into thin ones. There are several points of detail suggested which I need not trouble you with.

The time & expense of my journey was saved by Mr Sylvester’s kindness. My reason for proposing to go was principally that I feared they might forget the subject if I were not present.

One chief point is gained Mr Sylvester who is a man of experience in these matters is satisfied that we have established the principle. He sees no serious difficulty in carrying it out but thinks it best to leave the manufacture in the hands of Minton whose business it is and who (or some other maker) must ultimately be employed as we cannot burn them properly ourselves. I hope you will find this a satisfactory progress and quite as much as under the circumstances could be made

It happens singularly that we have good news of the paper manufacture Mr Turner & his brother of Chafford mills<4> (good makers) have been conversing with Henneman<5> & myself & some Amateurs his friends on the requisites for a good sheet of Photographic paper. They have already made improvements & promise they will not rest until much more has been accomplished In Paris I found the opinion general that good paper is the best certainly the most convenient substance. Bayard<6> mistook the copy of Clare Hall for a “glass picture”.<7>

From all I have seen & heard I think this praise of the paper is just but I would add that under many circumstances the porcelain will have a greater value a value that will increase with time. The pictures of antiquity have perished at least those on organic materials Had they employed porcelain we should now derive great pleasure from tracing their progress in Art.

Allow me to suggest that your own Portrait fixed in Porcelain will be an object of the highest interest in – as many centuries hence as you may please to imagine!

The process on Albumen is attracting much attention but I think only for a time. Already our Amateurs here are getting tired of it and Martens<8> is anxious for nothing but good paper & good porcelain; for on finding him very fair & liberal in his dealings & conversation I entrusted him with the secret. He then told me that he had some idea of associating himself with Niepce<9> to try to take portraits on Albumen but now he felt inclined to wait & see the result of the Porcelain He then asked why not patent it in Paris & make him the licensee to work it.?

I consider myself well informed on the state of Photography in France having seen nearly all its distinguished professors.

M Fizeau<10> gave me an introduction to M Becquerell<11> of the Jardin des Plantes. There I saw the natural colours on silver plates not only the spectrum but a copy of a water colour drawing of a soldier. The colours are not merely sombre shades expressed by the phrase reddish greenish &c but clear lively tints.

My conversation with M Ed Becquerell who is quite a young man has left me the privilege of corresponding with him This may be of service as he is still engaged with Photography.

M Becquerell sent me to the Abbé Moigno who resides at the Lycée Louis le grande near the Sorbonne. The author of the Repertoire d’Optique. The abbé shewed me the proof sheets of his 4th vol in which he has made a reclamation in your favour on the subject of polarised light.

The Abbe after desiring to hear from me on my return to England sent me to M Niepce – the first to to [sic] introduce the Albumen And also to M. Balard<12> the discoverer of Bromine a chemist & a member of the Institute 0ho occupies himself much with Photography & who had discovered a phenomenon on glass plates identical with one I described for the Athenæum 3 weeks since but which has not yet been published<13> It was the conversion of a Talbotype negative into apparently a Daguerreotype positive. The thing was so likely to occur to other experimentalists that I decided on publishing it first I lose priority because M Balard presented to the Academy a note on the subject, on the 13th I sent to the Athenæum on the 2nd but they did not print it I also saw Bayard.

From all these gentlemen I have learned many things I found them very liberal I must not omit that I met Sir David Brewster<14> in Paris to whose kindness I owe much of the attention I received. Sir David is now staying here for a few days at 4 Albemarle St

Since my return I have attended Lord Rosse’s<15> Soirée I there had the honour of showing Prince Albert the progress of the Art also to Lord Brougham<16> & others I enclose Portraits of Lord Brougham & Sir J South. <15> I had not time to fix them they are only washed in water.

Martens will make good glass negatives for 50 francs each. Bayard 30 francs but Martens is the best operator. I will send you specimens soon. I have so many things in hand that I have but little spare time.

your very obedt Servt
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. Dr Lyon Playfair, 1st Baron Playfair (1818–1898), chemist and John Sylvester (1798–1852). [See Doc. No: 06316].

3. Thomas Minton, Stoke-upon-Trent, a china manufacturer who was best known for their popular Blue Willow pattern. Malone was experimenting with slabs of porous china as a possible base for photographs - [see Doc. No: 06301].

4. The paper manufacturer, G W & R Turner, Chafford Mills – owned by the brothers George William Turner and Richard Turner at Chafford, Penshurst, Kent, with another mill at Bermondsey, Surrey. In 1830, they dissolved their partnership, with Richard taking Chafford and George William taking Bermondsey. Their only other known brother, William, may have been involved, but he died in an insane asylum in 1838.

5. Nicolaas Henneman (1813–1898), Dutch, active in England; WHFT’s valet, then assistant; photographer.

6. Hippolyte Bayard, the photographic pioneer.

7. Although there are numerous images of Clare Hall, Cambridge, in Talbot collections, this is probably the one that is titled in ink on verso ‘N. Henneman Aug 29/48’ – former Royal Photographic Society Collection, RPS025286, now in the NMeM, Bradford. Although the negative is not known to have survived, there are prints of this in numerous collections. Schaaf 2822.

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

9. Claude Félix Abel Niepce de Saint-Victor (1805-1870), photographic experimenter.

10. Hippolyte Fizeau.

11. Misspelling of Edmund Becquerel.

12. Antoine Jérôme Balard (1802–1876) isolated bromine from seaweed (initially calling it muride) and published his results in 1826.

13. Malone’s ‘Photography on Glass’, dated 2 May, was finally published in the 1 June 1850 Athenæum, no. 1189, p. 589, with the apology: ‘As we perceive that M. Ballard [sic] has just communicated a similar discovery to the Academy of Sciences, we think it right to call the attention of our readers to the date of Mr Malone’s letter. It has been in our hands since the 2nd of May.

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

15. William Parsons, 3rd Earl of Rosse (1800–1867), astronomer & MP.

16. Henry Peter Brougham, Baron of Brougham & Voux (1778–1868), Lord Chancellor.

17. Sir James South (1785–1867), astronomer.

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