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Document number: 7071
Date: 29 Nov 1854
Recipient: STORY-MASKELYNE Nevil
Author: TALBOT William Henry Fox
Collection: British Library, London, Manuscripts - Fox Talbot Collection
Last updated: 26th January 2013

N S Maskelyne Esq

Athenæum <1>
Nov. 29

Dr Sir

In your letter of the 26th <2> you say you wish to see the descriptions in the Philosophl Transns <3> I do not quite know what descriptions you allude to, if to Sir J. Herschel’s papers, <4> that of 1839 contains nothing, that of 1840 only one sentence applicable to the question at issue, viz. where he names gallic acid as a reagent, but says its success is problematical vide his affidavit <5>

There is no intimation in what way he tried it, indeed his words rather convey the meaning that some one else had tried it <6> and with no decided result.

Yours Truly
H. F. Talbot

This last remark is perhaps erroneous, but if Herschel himself tried it unsuccessfully it only follows that the true manipulation was not so easy to discover as the defendant <7> and his friends now pretend –


1. Athenaeum Club, Pall Mall, London: WHFT’s club; a gentleman’s club composed primarily of artists and scientists.

2. Doc. No: 07066.

3. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London.

4. Sir John Frederick William Herschel (1792–1871), astronomer & scientist, ‘Note on the Art of Photography, or the application of the Chemical Rays of Light to the Purposes of Pictorial Representation’, read to the Royal Society of London 14 March 1839 but withdrawn from publication by Herschel; ‘On the Chemical Action of the Rays of the Solar Spectrum on Preparations of Silver and Other substances, Both Metallic and Non-metallic, and on Some Photographic Processes’, Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London, 1840, pp.1–59. This is a continuation of the earlier paper.

5. Herschel had sworn an affidavit for WHFT in the action against James Henderson, photographer, London. It was published in Notes and Queries, 8 July 1854, pp.35–36.

6. Whether or not this was Herschel’s meaning, WHFT knew that Rev Joseph Bancroft Reade (1801–1870), microscopist & photographer, had used gallic acid as a light-sensitive agent on paper [see Schaaf, Records of the Dawn of Photography, 5 April 1839]. See also Doc. No: 07059.

7. William Henry Silvester, professionally known as Martin Laroche.

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