Reference numberAP/23/19
TitleUnpublished paper, 'Some account of photogenic drawing or, the process by which natural objects may be made to delineate themselves, without the aid of the artist's pencil' by Henry Fox Talbot
DescriptionTalbot describes how in spring 1834 he began to put in practice a method he had devised some time previously, for employing 'to purposes of utility the very curious property which has been long known to chemists to be possessed by the nitrate of silver: namely its discoloration when exposed to the violet rays of light'. He explains his process:

'I proposed to spread on a sheet of paper a a sufficient quantity of the nitrate of silver; and then to set the paper in the sunshine, having first placed before it some object casting a well defined shadow. The light, acting on the rest of the paper would naturally blacken it, while the parts in shadow would retain their whiteness. Thus I expected that a kind of image or picture would be produced, resembling to a certain degree the object from which it was derived. I expected however also, that it would be necessary to preserve such images in a portfolio, and to view them only by candlelight: because, if by daylight, the same natural process which formed the images, would destroy them, by blackening the rest of the papers. Such was my leading idea, before it was enlarged and corrected by experience.'

He enquires as to whether this process had been proposed or attempted before, finding that it has, but to 'unsatisfactory' results:

'The only definite account of the matter which I have been able to meet with, is contained in the first volume of the Journal of the Royal Institution page 170 from which it appears that the idea was originally started by Mr Wedgewood, and a numerous series of experiments made both by him and Sir Humphrey Davy, which however ended in failure.'

Subject: Photography / Photomechanical processes

Received 28 January 1839. Read 31 January 1839.

Whilst the Royal Society declined to publish this paper in full, an abstract of the paper was published in volume 4 of Abstracts of the Papers Printed in the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London [later Proceedings of the Royal Society] as 'Some account of the art of photogenic drawing, or the process by which natural objects may be made to delineate themselves without the aid of the artist’s pencil'.
Physical descriptionInk on paper, disbound from volume and housed in a presentation box
Digital imagesView item on Science in the Making
Access statusOpen
Related materialDOI: 10.1098/rspl.1837.0051
Related records in the catalogueMC/3/5
Fellows associated with this archive
NA5837Talbot; William Henry Fox (1800 - 1877)1800 - 1877
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