Basset-Down House <1>
December 11th 1845 –
I fear that I am taking a very great liberty in trespassing on your valuable time and good-nature, being so complete a stranger to you.
I hope, however, that this accompanying letter <2> from Dr Daubeney <3> may induce you to look with a favourable eye upon my boldness – I have been for my amusement, during the past summer, endeavouring to realize some of the beautiful effects which the agency of Light has placed in the hands of the Chemist, and which appeared to me as the most interesting of all the practical fascinations of Chemistry –
My attention, in fact, was first called to that Science by a Calotype which I saw in London two or three years ago; and the excessive beauty of detail in "The Pencil of Nature" <4> has convinced me that no species of Photography can compare to your masterly process.
I have, in vain, endeavoured to imitate it, even at a very humble distance, and am thus bold in addressing you to ask if you would throw me in the way of procuring any real information upon this subject. I need hardly say, that any such information would remain with me, at your desire, in the custody of my honour – I will not trespass further on your valuable time, than to say, that if I am taking too great a liberty in making this request,
you I hope you will excuse it in the Grandson of the founder <5> of "The Nautical Almanac", <6> whose Memory, as an astronomer, you, I am sure, entertain feelings of respect for –
With sentiments of deep respect, I am, Sir Your obedient humble Servant
Nevil Story Maskelyne
Henry Fox Talbot Esqre
31 Sackville Str
1. Basset Down House, about three miles southwest of Swindon, Wilts, the home of Story-Maskelyne’s father.
3. Prof Charles Giles Bridle Daubeny (1795–1867), MD & chemist
4. WHFT, The Pencil of Nature (London: Longman, Brown, Green, & Longmans, June 1844–April 1846 [issued in six fascicles]).
5. Nevil Maskelyne (1732–1811), Astronomer Royal.
6. N. Maskelyne, The Nautical almanac and astronomical ephemeris (London: W. Richardson & S. Clark, 1767 – and thereafter annually until 1812 [published by T. Bensley].