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Document number: 8661
Date: Mon 02 Mar 1863
Dating: ? Mar 1863 - Apr 1864
Postmark: Edinburgh 3 Mar 1863
Recipient: TALBOT William Henry Fox
Author: SMYTH Charles Piazzi
Collection: National Science and Media Museum, Bradford
Collection number: 1937-5420
Collection 2: British Library, London, Manuscripts - Fox Talbot Collection (envelope)
Collection number 2 historic: Acc 21729 (envelope)
Last updated: 20th November 2012

[printed notepaper:]
1 Hillside Crescent, Edinburgh


Dear Sir

Herewith I beg to send you two dreadfully coarse Teneriffe photographs. They represent the peak of Mt. Guajara, & are both from the same negative; & that one the same which you put on the big copperplate. <1>

The magnifying = 8·5 diameters & is far beyond what the original will bear, to be looked at with anything but the naked eye; but then that amount of magnifying has brought out [illegible deletion] to view the grains of silver forming the shades of the original, and that has made me think, though knowing next to nothing of your photoglyphic process, that you might use these grains at once, instead of an aquatint ground, & might by their means, bite in the plate to an unusual depth, so as to make a forcible print. Otherwise I should have had to apologize to you for asking you to accept two such sadly [illegible deletion] definition-less photographs.

Don't give yourself the trouble of answering this, if you please, except by the return, at your leisure, of the empty box.

Yours very truly
C. Piazzi Smyth

[envelope, imprinted on recto "Royal Observatory, Edinburgh":]
H. Fox Talbot Esqre F.R.S.
&c &c &c
11 Gt. Stuart Street


1. This refers to the photoglyphic engraving plate that WHFT made for Smyth's report on his 1856 expedition to Teneriffe. The photogravure was published along with several albumen prints. As Smyth astutely observed in his introduction, “To the inventor alike of photography and photoglyphy, it must be comparatively indifferent by which of his two methods these unusual Teneriffe landscapes are introduced into this book, though to readers in a future century it may make a great difference; for the photoglyph must last as long as the paper it is printed on, but the photograph may go the way of some of those beautiful specimens exhibited last year at the International Exhibition, and which faded before the eyes of the nations then assembled.” Charles Piazzi Smyth, Astronomical Observations Made at the Royal Observatory, Edinburgh, vol. XII1, 1855-1859 (Edinburgh: Neill and Co., 1863). For a fuller discussion of Talbot’s experiments in this period, see Larry J. Schaaf, “Piazzi Smyth at Teneriffe: Part 2, Photography and the Disciples of Constable and Harding,” History of Photography, v. 5 no. 1, January 1981, pp. 27-50.

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