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Document number: 7031
Date: 31 Jul 1854
Dating: 1854 assumed
Recipient: TALBOT William Henry Fox
Collection: British Library, London, Manuscripts - Fox Talbot Collection
Collection number: 33047
Collection number historic: LAM-105
Last updated: 18th February 2012

Ashmolean Museum <1>Oxford
July 31.

My dear Mr Talbot

I forgot to write a note & to leave it for you before I left Town a few days ago, as I had hoped to see you there. The Photographic Society <2> carried by a contemptible minority, I think 15 voted for it – a clause absurd in itself & still more absurd in its issue – compelling the council to draw up a memorial on the subject of the Patent <3> to go before the Privy Council. <4> You will see the terms of it in the last number of the Photographic Society’s Journal. But the absurdity of the thing was that it was done the day after the last day on which any such document could be sent in & so it of course comes to nothing!

I wish you all success & have little doubt of your having it.

Yours very faithfully
Nevil S Maskelyne


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

2. This had begun in 1847 as the Photographic Club. It subsequently became the Royal Photographic Society. It spearheaded the attack on Talbot’s patent rights in the lawsuits he brought against James Henderson, photographer, London in the summer of 1854 and Martin Laroche later in the same year.

3. 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 another against James Henderson, photographer, London, a professional photographer who took portraits using the collodion process. Later in the same year, and before the Henderson case was concluded, he failed to obtain an injunction against another portrait-photographer, Martin Laroche, who, he claimed, had infringed two important elements of his patents. [For an account of these significant cases, 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.] Story-Maskelyne was one of the supporters of Talbot on the otherwise hostile council of the Photographic Society.

4. Talbot had applied to the Privy Council [the body of private advisors to the British sovereign, which regulated patents at the time] for a renewal of his photographic patents [see Doc. No: 06999]; the Photographic Society had missed the deadline for sending in objections.

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