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Document number: 7727
Date: 02 Nov 1858
Recipient: TALBOT William Henry Fox
Author: WHEATSTONE Charles
Collection: British Library, London, Manuscripts - Fox Talbot Collection
Collection number historic: LA58-93
Last updated: 31st December 2012

Lower Mall
Hammersmith <1>
Novr 2 /58

My dear Sir

Mr Crookes <2> has informed me that you have had some difficulty in finding large glass photographs to convert into engravings. <3> I have four pairs of positive stereoscopic pictures on glass plates, about 12 by 8 inches; they were taken for me by Ferrier <4> of Paris. All the subjects are architectural. The bird’s eye view of Paris along the Seine <5> would, I think be a good subject for you. They are quite at your service, and if you can make use of them I will desire Messrs Murray & Heath <6> to deliver them to your order, or forward them to you. A pair of stereographs would be perhaps a better test of the accuracy of your process than a single picture would be; <7> M. Pretsch <8> engraved a pair for me from paper positives, but there was too much touching up in them.

Yours very truly
C. Wheatstone


1. London.

2. Sir William Crookes (1832–1921), chemist & physicist. Crookes, as editor of the Photographic News, took an avid interest in WHFT’s new photoglyphic engraving process and published early examples in 1858 and 1859.

3. WHFT was actively working on his photoglyphic engraving process during this period. It required a positive photographic image to make the printing plate and WHFT generally worked with images donated by other photographers.

4. Claude Marie Ferrier (1811–1889), photographer & photographic publisher, Paris. A large proportion of WHFT’s photoglyphic engravings were produced from photographs issued by the firm of Soulier & Clouzard, and later Ferrier & Soulier. See Larry J Schaaf, Sun Pictures Catalogue Twelve: Talbot and Photogravure (New York: Hans P Kraus, Jr, 2003), pp. 40–41 and 48–49.

5. For a photoglyphic engraving probably of this image see ‘Aerial View over Paris’, reproduced in Larry J. Schaaf, Sun Pictures Catalogue Twelve: Talbot and Photogravure (New York: Hans P. Kraus, Jr., 2003), p. 53.

6. Murray & Heath (Robert Murray & Vernon Heath), instrument makers & photographers, London.

7. By observing differences between the paired plates, it was possible to separate the anomalies introduced by the photographic process from characteristics of the actual subject. It is fitting that the Scottish astronomer Charles Piazzi Smyth was one of the first to take advantage of this comparison, for similar techniques are still in use today in astronomy and in space imaging. See Larry J Schaaf, ‘Piazzi Smyth at Teneriffe: Part II, Photography and the Disciples of Constable and Harding’, History of Photography, January 1981, v. 5, no. 1, pp. 27–50.

8. Paul Pretsch (1808–1873), Austrian photographer & inventor; founder of the Photogalvanographic Company. Pretsch’s photomechanical process, especially in the form then practised by the Photogalvanographic Company, relied heavily on hand-retouching of the printing plate, an anathema for WHFT. The Patent Photo-Galvanographic Company (commonly, The Photogalvanographic Company), based on the work of Pretsch, was located in Holloway Road, Islington, London, from 1856-1857. Pretsch took over as manager and Roger Fenton (1819–1869), photographer & lawyer, was a partner and their chief photographer. Starting in late 1856, they published a serial portfolio, Photographic Art Treasures, or Nature and Art Illustrated by Art and Nature, illustratated with photogalvanographs derived from several photographer's works. Photogalvanography was uncomfortably closely based on elements of WHFT’s patented 1852 Photographic Engraving but, unlike Talbot, the plates were heavily retouched by hand. Compounding the legal objections of Talbot, their former manager, Duncan Campbell Dallas, set up a competing company to produce the Dallastype. The company collapsed and near the end of 1860 Pretsch, out of money, allowed his patent to lapse. A public appeal was launched in 1861 to assist him but he returned to Vienna in 1863 in ill health, going back to the Imperial Printing Establishment, but finally succumbing to cholera.

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