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Document number: 7122
Date: Mon 22 Jan 1855
Recipient: TALBOT William Henry Fox
Collection: British Library, London, Manuscripts - Fox Talbot Collection
Collection number historic: LA55-6
Last updated: 9th March 2012

Dear Mr Talbot

I have been in my bed ever since a few hours after I left Lincoln’s Inn, <1> the day you were there, with an Influenza. This has prevented my being able to write to you. I assure you I feel very much regret at the turn your trial <2> took; indeed I have not for long been annoyed by anything so much. But I feel that it might have been worse, and that besides taking from you the naturally ripened fruit of your discovery, they might have taken or rather stolen away the honor of having planted & reared the seed & tender plant. I expressed to Mr Bolton <3> my opinion as to the ad[v]isability of the course you have pursued, <4> & I cannot but think you have done both wisely & liberally; as, were you bent on annoying your opponents, you have it still in your power to do so in no small degree.

I hope you will now let your mind grow quiet on the subject. I fear it must have cost you much, not in pocket only but in time trouble & wearing anxiety, and not a little in that mistrust and bitterness against one’s fellow men, which this kind of annoying & really selfish assaults upon one are so apt to engender –

From the beginning – since I became a man – I have always looked on the Photographic idea as one of the true poet-ideas of this marvellous age – and on you as its herald and enunciator. My sympathy is of little value to you – but you will always have it.

Believe me, always Your’s very faithfully
Nevil Story-Maskelyne

Ashmolean Museum. <5>
Monday Jany 22. 1855


1. One of the four Inns of Court, the ‘colleges’ of barristers at the English Bar. Talbot’s solicitor was a member of Lincoln’s Inn and had his chambers [offices and, at the time, living-quarters also] there.

2. Story-Maskelyne had been asked to be a witness for Talbot in the trial concerning his patent, in which he sought to prove that he had invented the Calotype process and that the collodion process was covered by the Calotype patent, and thus not a new invention. The trial took place from Monday 18 to Wednesday 20 December 1854. In 1852 Talbot had thrown open his photographic patents as far as amateur photography was concerned, though he retained them regarding professional portraiture. He won several injunctions against professional portrait-photographers who infringed them, and in 1854 he sought to obtain one against Martin Laroche, a professional photographer who took portraits using the collodion process, who, he claimed, had infringed two important elements of his patents. He then found himself having to defend his right to his patents and even his claim to the invention of photography on paper. [For an account of the patent cases, and the opposition to Talbot’s patents, see Arnold, pp. 198–209.]

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

4. Talbot had let his patent lapse. See Doc. No: 07119.

5. 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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