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Document number: 8695
Date: 25 Apr 1863
Recipient: TALBOT William Henry Fox
Author: OSBORNE John Walter
Collection: British Library, London, Manuscripts - Fox Talbot Collection
Collection number historic: Acc 35181 (envelope)
Last updated: 8th November 2012

57 Beaumont St
Portland Place
London W.

25 April 1863

Dear Sir

I have just received your specimens <1> & am much indebted to you for them, & obliged for your kindness in responding so promptly to my request. I presume they are the result of an etching with perchloride of iron, not with the platinum salt, & I suppose also that an aquatint etching ground had been laid with powdered resinous matter, in preference to your earlier method of employing a photographic screen or veil. If not trespassing too much upon your time I would be glad if you would answer me these questions, in addition to which I will also mention the following. – Do you prefer working upon steel or copper, & have you found the coating of iron deposited by M. Joubert’s process a satisfactory method of protecting engravings on the softer metal?<2>

Is any ordinary copper-plate printer capable of pulling impressions from your plates, or is great nicety required?

How do you explain the fact that dilution of the perchloride of iron increases the energy of its action as an etching fluid? I presume that as the protochloride is less soluble than the salt you use, it cannot be formed & therefore the plate cannot be etched, unless a certain amount of available water is present, to retain the new salt in solution.

I admired your specimens very much, in many respects the structureless character of a photograph has never been so well rendered in the press. I think further development in the direction you have marked out, may yet be made.

With regard to the specimen of hill shading <3> of mine to which you refer, I may state that the original drawing was good, but it was also three times the dimensions (linear) of the specimen, it was a somewhat coarse but clear copy of a positive photograph on chloride of silver paper of a model of a hilly tract of country.

Thanking you again for the specimens

I am dear Sir Yours truly
J W. Osborne

H. F. Talbot Esqre

I have <4> got a single Specimen by some Frenchman named “Mante” <5> he calls it “Photography on steel.” The subject is an ape grasping a stump of a tree. It is very like photoglyphic engraving in character, but has evidently been worked upon afterwards. Do you know the operator’s name, or have you ever seen the specimen to which I refer?

J. W. O.


H. F. Talbot Esqr
11 Great Stuart St

J W Osborne


1. The specimens that WHFT sent to Osborne eventually became part of the Graphic Arts Collection at the Smithsonian Institution. See Helena Wright, "The Osborne Collection: Photographic Incunabula", History of Photography, v. 24 no. 1, Spring 2000, pp.42-46.

2.This was the process of steel-facing a copper plate to extend its printing life, invented by Ferdinand Jean Joubert de la Ferté (1810-1884), French-born engraver & photographer; British citizen from 1855, active in London; sometimes worked for Warren De La Rue.

3. See Doc. No: 07845.

4. Postscript is written on inside of envelope flap.

5. The photographer Louis Amédée Mante (d. 1913) was an early experimenter in photomechanical reproduction: he was cited in ‘Gravure héliographique sur plaque d'aciér’, La Lumière, s. 3, no. 37, 10 September 1853, p. 146.