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Document number: 7094
Date: 14 Dec 1854
Recipient: TALBOT William Henry Fox
Collection: British Library, London, Manuscripts - Fox Talbot Collection
Collection number historic: LA54-71
Last updated: 18th February 2012

My dear Sir

I took some pictures to day of a leaf on Talbotype <1> paper & on

1st paper prepared by Nitrate of Silver 60 grain solution, afterwards Gallic Acid – used moist

2nd paper similarly prepared but with watery solution of Galls <2> – (used moist.

Talbotype gave in 5 seconds and in 10 seconds pictures hardly to be preferred the one to the other –

The 1st preparation took 17 minutes to darken to the tone that seemed to correspond (rather redder) to the Talbotype picture –

The 2nd preparation was also in 17 minutes well darkened, but after 32 minutes did not seem to reach the tone of the Gallic acid picture –

I think we should be within the mark in putting the difference at that of from10 seconds Talbotype to 15 minutes Reades process <3>
i.e. 1 : 90

Obviously this is far within the mark – it is probably as 1 : 300, [illegible deletion] to 1 : 300 or to 400 or even more. The day was most sullen & dark & the light would not penetrate the leaf a bit.

I hope to be in Town on Saturday. Perhaps we may meet in the Evening at the Athenæum. <4> I will call on your Solicitor. <5>

Yours very truly
Nevil Story Maskelyne.

Ashmolean Museum. <6>
Decr 14. 1854.


1. Viz. Calotype. Story-Maskelyne’s pictures were made not in the camera but by laying a leaf direct on to the various treated papers [see penultimate paragraph]. See Doc. No: 07059: Talbot had tried to make camera pictures using Reade’s process.

2. See Doc. No: 07092 for Talbot’s contrast between an infusion and a tincture of galls.

3. Rev Joseph Bancroft Reade (1801–1870), microscopist & photographer. For an account of his process, see Doc. No: 07059. See also Doc. No: 07088 for Talbot’s request that Story-Maskelyne should test the process in comparison with the Calotype. The opponents of Talbot’s photographic patents asserted that Reade had invented the Calotype process before him. [For an account of the patent trials of 1854, and the opposition to Talbot’s patents, see H. J. P. Arnold, William Henry Fox Talbot: Pioneer of Photography and Man of Science (London: Hutchinson Benham, 1977), pp. 198–209.]

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

5. John Henry Bolton (1795–1873), solicitor, London.

6. Story-Maskelyne lectured on mineralogy and chemistry at the University of Oxford, and had a laboratory in the lower part of the museum building.

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