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William Henry Fox TALBOT (English, 1800-1877) Lace, early 1840s Salt print from a photogenic drawing negative 22.7 x 18.7 cm on 22.9 x 18.8 cm paper "LA278" in ink on verso

William Henry Fox Talbot (English, 1800-1877)
Lace, early 1840s
Salt print from a photogenic drawing negative
22.7 x 18.7 cm on 22.9 x 18.8 cm paper
"LA278" in ink on verso
Schaaf 2818

A piece of lace was placed in contact with photographically sensitized paper to produce this boldly graphic, cameraless image. When Talbot first held it in front of a group of people, they thought it was an actual piece of lace and were stunned to learn instead that it was a photographic representation. Physically flat, highly detailed and possessing myriad distinctive anomalies such as torn threads, they provided Talbot with an early method of demonstrating the power of photography to capture detail comparable to the best Dutch painters.

Inquire
William Henry Fox TALBOT (English, 1800-1877) Table set for tea, 1841-1842 Varnished salt print from a calotype negative 8.5 x 16.8 cm mounted on card, ruled  "Patent Talbotype Photogenic Drawing" label on mount verso

William Henry Fox Talbot (English, 1800-1877)
Table set for tea, 1841-1842
Varnished salt print from a calotype negative
8.5 x 16.8 cm mounted on card, ruled 
"Patent Talbotype Photogenic Drawing" label on mount verso
Schaaf 2826

Talbot's views of neatly set tables are particularly delightful.  They encourage our imagination to picture ourselves sitting down to tea, observing the rituals and customs that would have come with that era and social class, thinking about who would be sitting there and what their conversations might have been.  Equally, they encourage the viewer to think about the descriptive powers of photography, as diverse surfaces and textures play with light.

They were powerful and evocative images in the Victorian era as well.  Starting in the late 1860s and continuing for some years, the reform-minded writer Eliza Meteyard enthusiastically promoted this particular image as "the first photograph" in talking about Thomas Wedgwood's pioneering attempts at photography.  She had known the Wedgwood family since her youth and was not deterred in the least by Wedgwood and Humphry Davy themselves having confessed that they had failed to secure an image in a camera obscura.  Some historians sought to clarify the record, and in 1863 Talbot replied to the enquiry by Dr Hugh Welch Diamond:

"In reply to your letter, I beg to inform you that I did make a photograph of china, knives and forks, &C, disposed upon a round table, which is seen very obliquely in the photograph.  It was an early attempt, about 1841 or 1842.  The view was taken out of doors, on the grassplot in the centre of the cloisters of Lacock Abbey.  I have no doubt I have copies of it still left in my collection at Lacock.  Wedgwood, in his memoir of 1802 (Journal of the Royal Institution), says that he had thought of the possibility of making photographic views with a camera, but that, on trying the experiment, he had found that no length of time sufficed to produce any visible impression.  Therefore, if any ancient photographs should ever be discovered, they will not be his production."

Meteyard's claim remained powerful.  The frame for another print of this in the collection of The Royal Photographic Society has a 1920s label, applied when it was on exhibit in the Science Museum, discussing the attribution of the image to Wedgwood.

The present print was probably sold early on by Nicolas Henneman's printing establishment in Reading or may have been sold by him in London.  Talbot originally called his new negative process "Calotype Photogenic Drawing" and friends encouraged the substitution of Talbotype to honor the inventor.  However, the term photogenic drawing was soon dropped in favor of a simpler one, changing Calotype from an adjective to a noun.  The style of the ruled mount derived originally from the plates in The Pencil of Nature and was continued by Henneman for individual prints. 

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William Henry Fox TALBOT (English, 1800-1877) Bridge of Sighs, St. John's College, Cambridge*, circa 1845 Salt print from a calotype negative 16.4 x 20.8 cm

William Henry Fox Talbot (English, 1800-1877)
Bridge of Sighs, St. John's College, Cambridge, circa 1845
Salt print from a calotype negative
16.4 x 20.8 cm 
Schaaf 143

Talbot, who discovered photography on paper in 1839, was a Cambridge man. At first it may seem counterintuitive that he photographed far more in Oxford than in his own university city. However, Oxford was much easier to reach from his home at Lacock, especially with the introduction of the new railways. When he did photograph in Cambridge, it is not at all surprising that Talbot turned his camera towards the Bridge of Sighs. 

While the 1624 date on the "New Library" building suggests antiquity, the celebrated Bridge of Sighs was a response to a much more modern problem. It had been completed in 1831, just a few years before Talbot’s photograph, to allow expansion across the only remaining available space, the river.   

According to Talbot scholar, Larry Schaaf "the Venetian Bridge of Sighs took its name from its role in connecting the Doge's Palace to the public prisons. Talbot's photograph replicates this feeling for Cambridge. Symbolically bright on the left of Talbot's image is the relative freedom of the halls of residence. On the right, shrouded in dark mystery, are the symbols of power and restraint, the chapel and the administrative offices."

Talbot’s use of light here is exquisite. He timed his exposure for that brief period during the day while the ancient college buildings on the right were in deep shadow, bringing out the bridge out in relief. The relatively long exposure time of the calotype allowed the water to flow into a silvery mass. The shadow in the lower left completes the framing.

The undated but waxed negative is still in nearly perfect condition, with only a couple of flaws that would be visible in all the prints. (1937-2254, Talbot Collection, National Media Museum, Bradford)

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William Henry Fox TALBOT (English, 1800-1877) Charles Porter and another man, circa 1843 Calotype negative 18.8 x 22.9 cm Ruled at edges, inscribed "C.P." and "n. 6 Double" in pencil

William Henry Fox Talbot (English, 1800-1877)
Charles Porter and another man, circa 1843
Calotype negative
18.8 x 22.9 cm
Ruled at edges, inscribed "C.P." and "n. 6 Double" in pencil
Schaaf 4264

With its elaborate urn, mismatched chairs and casually draped backdrop, this tableau was almost certainly set up at Lacock Abbey, either on the lawn or perhaps in the more protected area of the Cloisters.  It is similar to other constructions like this, including the “Group Taking Tea.” Talbot was uncomfortable photographing strangers, but clearly understood the appeal of such images, so he often turned to his family and the staff of Lacock Abbey as subjects. In his text for “The Ladder,” Plate XIV, in The Pencil of Nature, Talbot said “portraits of living persons...form one of the most attractive subjects of photography.... Groups of figures take no longer time to obtain than single figures...since the Camera depicts them all at once, however numerous they may be…at present we cannot well succeed in this branch of the art without some previous concert and arrangement…but when a group of persons has been artistically arranged, and trained by a little practice to maintain an absolute immobility for a few seconds of time, very delightful pictures are easily obtained...”

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William Henry Fox TALBOT (English, 1800-1877) "Abbotsford", 1844 Salt print from a calotype negative 15.3 x 22.0 cm on 18.5 x 22.9 cm paper Titled in pencil, and "LA27" in black ink, on verso

William Henry Fox Talbot (English, 1800-1877)
"Abbotsford", 1844
Salt print from a calotype negative
15.3 x 22.0 cm on 18.5 x 22.9 cm paper
Titled in pencil, and "LA27" in black ink, on verso
Schaaf 2782

One of the most famous houses in the world, Sir Walter Scott purchased Abbotsford in 1811. With the addition of a fantastical pile of turrets and crow-stepped gables, Scott transformed the once humble farmhouse into his own fairy tale castle. One of the most intensely creative periods of Talbot's life was the fortnight spent in Scotland in October 1844, crafting a new publication that would build on the increasing interest in Sir Walter Scott. After attending the annual meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science in York, Talbot and Nicolaas Henneman headed north, soon to arrive at the home of Sir Walter himself. When Talbot arrived, one of the first views he would have seen, and one that undoubtedly appealed to his botanical interests, was this prospect over the walled kitchen garden with the melon ground added by Scott in the expansion of 1824. The deeply rich tones of this print display the house like an elaborate jewel, mysterious and inviting at the same time. This view became plate three in Sun Pictures in Scotland.

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William Henry Fox TALBOT (English, 1800-1877) Magdalen Bridge, Oxford, 30 July 1842 Calotype negative, waxed 16.2 x 20.7 cm Inscribed in pencil on verso "30 July 1842"

William Henry Fox Talbot (English, 1800-1877)
Magdalen Bridge, Oxford, 30 July 1842
Calotype negative, waxed
16.2 x 20.7 cm
Inscribed in pencil on verso "30 July 1842"
Schaaf 2681

 

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William Henry Fox TALBOT (English, 1800-1877) "The Martyrs' Monument" Oxford, 1843 Salt print from a calotype negative 20.3 x 14.4 cm on 22.3 x 18.8 cm paper, corners trimmed "LA21" in ink on verso

William Henry Fox Talbot (English, 1800-1877)
"The Martyrs' Monument" Oxford, 1843
Salt print from a calotype negative
20.3 x 14.4 cm on 22.3 x 18.8 cm paper, corners trimmed
"LA21" in ink on verso
Schaaf 1923

Printed from the same negative as Plate XXI in The Pencil of Nature.

 

 

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William Henry Fox TALBOT (English, 1800-1877) Merton College from the fields, Oxford, circa 1843 Hand colored (possibly by André Mansion) salt print, from a calotype negative 13.6 x 20.2 cm on 18.7 x 22.7 cm paper Inscribed "M' and "X" and [illegible] in pencil on verso

William Henry Fox Talbot (English, 1800-1877)
Merton College from the fields, Oxford, circa 1843
Hand colored (possibly by André Mansion) salt print, from a calotype negative
13.6 x 20.2 cm on 18.7 x 22.7 cm paper
Inscribed "M' and "X" and [illegible] in pencil on verso
Schaaf 1338

André Léon Larue Mansion (1785-1870), a miniature painter who first established his reputation in Brussels, then became a noted miniaturist on ivory in Paris. By 1845 Mansion had become the chief daguerreotype colourist in London.

The negative is in the collection of the National Media Museum, Bradford, no. 1937-1867.

Two other prints are in the collection of the British Library: LA1009 is hand colored, and LA598 is uncolored.

Talbot found “the number of picturesque points of view” in Oxford to be “almost inexhaustible.”  Although he was a Cambridge man, Oxford was one of Talbot’s favorite locations; it is also closer than Cambridge to Talbot’s ancestral home, Lacock Abbey. This is a rare example of a Talbot photograph which was hand-colored, showing the full border. The coloring was possibly by Andre Mansion, a miniature painter who first established his reputation in Brussels, before becoming a noted miniaturist on ivory in Paris.  By 1845 Mansion had become the chief daguerreotype colorist in London.

Inquire
William Henry Fox TALBOT (English, 1800-1877) Melrose Abbey, 1844 Salt print from a calotype negative 17.3 x 21.2 cm on 18.7 x 22.6 cm paper "LA32" in ink on verso

William Henry Fox Talbot (English, 1800-1877)
Melrose Abbey, 1844
Salt print from a calotype negative
17.3 x 21.2 cm on 18.7 x 22.6 cm paper
"LA32" in ink on verso
Schaaf 2796

This image is Plate 8 in Sun Pictures in Scotland, 1845

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William Henry Fox Talbot (English, 1800-1877) 
Bust of Patroclus, 1842
Salt print from a calotype negative
13.0 x 12.8 cm
Schaaf 190

Patroclus, the defender of Achilles, was Talbot's first and favorite portrait sitter. The plaster cast he had at Lacock Abbey was a copy of the marble in the British Museum. Talbot's chemistry required lengthy exposures and a stationary object, such as this bust, was ideal as a subject. The brush strokes around the border of this exceptional print indicate that Talbot coated the sheet of paper by hand.
Printed from the same negative as Plate V in The Pencil of Nature.

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William Henry Fox TALBOT (English, 1800-1877) Portrait of Ela Theresa Talbot, contemplating a rose, circa 1843-1844 Salt print from a calotype negative 8.9 x 6.8 cm on 11.7 x 9.3 cm paper

William Henry Fox Talbot (English, 1800-1877)
Portrait of Ela Theresa Talbot, contemplating a rose, circa 1843-1844
Salt print from a calotype negative
8.9 x 6.8 cm on 11.7 x 9.3 cm paper

 

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William Henry Fox TALBOT (English, 1800-1877) Four ferns, 1852 or soon after Photographic engraving 12.8 x 20.3 cm plate on 17.0 x 25.9 cm paper Inscribed "Rob. Murray" in ink and "From a Photographic Engraving on Steel by H. Fox Talbot Esqr" in pencil

William Henry Fox Talbot (English, 1800-1877)
Four ferns, 1852 or soon after
Photographic engraving
12.8 x 20.3 cm plate on 17.0 x 25.9 cm paper
Inscribed "Rob. Murray" in ink and "From a Photographic Engraving on Steel by H. Fox Talbot Esqr" in pencil

Talbot's first photogravure process, patented in 1852 and called photographic engraving, produced some wonderful images (as seen here), but suffered one drawback. The lines of the image were etched deeply into the plate, forming valleys. Ink was applied over the whole surface of the plate, then the excess was swept off by a squeegee called a "doctor." This worked well with fine lines, leaving the ink below the surface of the plate, however capillary attraction pulled the ink out of the center of the broader lines, leaving it clinging only to the edges, and producing an outline print.

The present example was inscribed and preserved by Robert Murray.

Inquire
William Henry Fox TALBOT (English, 1800-1877) A strip of lace, with selvage*, 1852-1857 Photographic engraving 13.0 x 20.3 cm plate on 16.9 x 25.6 cm paper

William Henry Fox Talbot (English, 1800-1877)
A strip of lace, with selvage, 1852-1857
Photographic engraving
13.0 x 20.3 cm plate on 16.9 x 25.6 cm paper

The overall impression of this image is one of great accuracy, but on close examination it will be seen that the sense of three-dimensionality of the more densely knotted portions derives from the edge effect characteristic of photographic engraving.

Inquire
William Henry Fox TALBOT (English, 1800-1877) Lace, early 1840s Salt print from a photogenic drawing negative 22.7 x 18.7 cm on 22.9 x 18.8 cm paper "LA278" in ink on verso

William Henry Fox Talbot (English, 1800-1877)
Lace, early 1840s
Salt print from a photogenic drawing negative
22.7 x 18.7 cm on 22.9 x 18.8 cm paper
"LA278" in ink on verso
Schaaf 2818

A piece of lace was placed in contact with photographically sensitized paper to produce this boldly graphic, cameraless image. When Talbot first held it in front of a group of people, they thought it was an actual piece of lace and were stunned to learn instead that it was a photographic representation. Physically flat, highly detailed and possessing myriad distinctive anomalies such as torn threads, they provided Talbot with an early method of demonstrating the power of photography to capture detail comparable to the best Dutch painters.

William Henry Fox TALBOT (English, 1800-1877) Table set for tea, 1841-1842 Varnished salt print from a calotype negative 8.5 x 16.8 cm mounted on card, ruled  "Patent Talbotype Photogenic Drawing" label on mount verso

William Henry Fox Talbot (English, 1800-1877)
Table set for tea, 1841-1842
Varnished salt print from a calotype negative
8.5 x 16.8 cm mounted on card, ruled 
"Patent Talbotype Photogenic Drawing" label on mount verso
Schaaf 2826

Talbot's views of neatly set tables are particularly delightful.  They encourage our imagination to picture ourselves sitting down to tea, observing the rituals and customs that would have come with that era and social class, thinking about who would be sitting there and what their conversations might have been.  Equally, they encourage the viewer to think about the descriptive powers of photography, as diverse surfaces and textures play with light.

They were powerful and evocative images in the Victorian era as well.  Starting in the late 1860s and continuing for some years, the reform-minded writer Eliza Meteyard enthusiastically promoted this particular image as "the first photograph" in talking about Thomas Wedgwood's pioneering attempts at photography.  She had known the Wedgwood family since her youth and was not deterred in the least by Wedgwood and Humphry Davy themselves having confessed that they had failed to secure an image in a camera obscura.  Some historians sought to clarify the record, and in 1863 Talbot replied to the enquiry by Dr Hugh Welch Diamond:

"In reply to your letter, I beg to inform you that I did make a photograph of china, knives and forks, &C, disposed upon a round table, which is seen very obliquely in the photograph.  It was an early attempt, about 1841 or 1842.  The view was taken out of doors, on the grassplot in the centre of the cloisters of Lacock Abbey.  I have no doubt I have copies of it still left in my collection at Lacock.  Wedgwood, in his memoir of 1802 (Journal of the Royal Institution), says that he had thought of the possibility of making photographic views with a camera, but that, on trying the experiment, he had found that no length of time sufficed to produce any visible impression.  Therefore, if any ancient photographs should ever be discovered, they will not be his production."

Meteyard's claim remained powerful.  The frame for another print of this in the collection of The Royal Photographic Society has a 1920s label, applied when it was on exhibit in the Science Museum, discussing the attribution of the image to Wedgwood.

The present print was probably sold early on by Nicolas Henneman's printing establishment in Reading or may have been sold by him in London.  Talbot originally called his new negative process "Calotype Photogenic Drawing" and friends encouraged the substitution of Talbotype to honor the inventor.  However, the term photogenic drawing was soon dropped in favor of a simpler one, changing Calotype from an adjective to a noun.  The style of the ruled mount derived originally from the plates in The Pencil of Nature and was continued by Henneman for individual prints. 

William Henry Fox TALBOT (English, 1800-1877) Bridge of Sighs, St. John's College, Cambridge*, circa 1845 Salt print from a calotype negative 16.4 x 20.8 cm

William Henry Fox Talbot (English, 1800-1877)
Bridge of Sighs, St. John's College, Cambridge, circa 1845
Salt print from a calotype negative
16.4 x 20.8 cm 
Schaaf 143

Talbot, who discovered photography on paper in 1839, was a Cambridge man. At first it may seem counterintuitive that he photographed far more in Oxford than in his own university city. However, Oxford was much easier to reach from his home at Lacock, especially with the introduction of the new railways. When he did photograph in Cambridge, it is not at all surprising that Talbot turned his camera towards the Bridge of Sighs. 

While the 1624 date on the "New Library" building suggests antiquity, the celebrated Bridge of Sighs was a response to a much more modern problem. It had been completed in 1831, just a few years before Talbot’s photograph, to allow expansion across the only remaining available space, the river.   

According to Talbot scholar, Larry Schaaf "the Venetian Bridge of Sighs took its name from its role in connecting the Doge's Palace to the public prisons. Talbot's photograph replicates this feeling for Cambridge. Symbolically bright on the left of Talbot's image is the relative freedom of the halls of residence. On the right, shrouded in dark mystery, are the symbols of power and restraint, the chapel and the administrative offices."

Talbot’s use of light here is exquisite. He timed his exposure for that brief period during the day while the ancient college buildings on the right were in deep shadow, bringing out the bridge out in relief. The relatively long exposure time of the calotype allowed the water to flow into a silvery mass. The shadow in the lower left completes the framing.

The undated but waxed negative is still in nearly perfect condition, with only a couple of flaws that would be visible in all the prints. (1937-2254, Talbot Collection, National Media Museum, Bradford)

William Henry Fox TALBOT (English, 1800-1877) Charles Porter and another man, circa 1843 Calotype negative 18.8 x 22.9 cm Ruled at edges, inscribed "C.P." and "n. 6 Double" in pencil

William Henry Fox Talbot (English, 1800-1877)
Charles Porter and another man, circa 1843
Calotype negative
18.8 x 22.9 cm
Ruled at edges, inscribed "C.P." and "n. 6 Double" in pencil
Schaaf 4264

With its elaborate urn, mismatched chairs and casually draped backdrop, this tableau was almost certainly set up at Lacock Abbey, either on the lawn or perhaps in the more protected area of the Cloisters.  It is similar to other constructions like this, including the “Group Taking Tea.” Talbot was uncomfortable photographing strangers, but clearly understood the appeal of such images, so he often turned to his family and the staff of Lacock Abbey as subjects. In his text for “The Ladder,” Plate XIV, in The Pencil of Nature, Talbot said “portraits of living persons...form one of the most attractive subjects of photography.... Groups of figures take no longer time to obtain than single figures...since the Camera depicts them all at once, however numerous they may be…at present we cannot well succeed in this branch of the art without some previous concert and arrangement…but when a group of persons has been artistically arranged, and trained by a little practice to maintain an absolute immobility for a few seconds of time, very delightful pictures are easily obtained...”

William Henry Fox TALBOT (English, 1800-1877) "Abbotsford", 1844 Salt print from a calotype negative 15.3 x 22.0 cm on 18.5 x 22.9 cm paper Titled in pencil, and "LA27" in black ink, on verso

William Henry Fox Talbot (English, 1800-1877)
"Abbotsford", 1844
Salt print from a calotype negative
15.3 x 22.0 cm on 18.5 x 22.9 cm paper
Titled in pencil, and "LA27" in black ink, on verso
Schaaf 2782

One of the most famous houses in the world, Sir Walter Scott purchased Abbotsford in 1811. With the addition of a fantastical pile of turrets and crow-stepped gables, Scott transformed the once humble farmhouse into his own fairy tale castle. One of the most intensely creative periods of Talbot's life was the fortnight spent in Scotland in October 1844, crafting a new publication that would build on the increasing interest in Sir Walter Scott. After attending the annual meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science in York, Talbot and Nicolaas Henneman headed north, soon to arrive at the home of Sir Walter himself. When Talbot arrived, one of the first views he would have seen, and one that undoubtedly appealed to his botanical interests, was this prospect over the walled kitchen garden with the melon ground added by Scott in the expansion of 1824. The deeply rich tones of this print display the house like an elaborate jewel, mysterious and inviting at the same time. This view became plate three in Sun Pictures in Scotland.

William Henry Fox TALBOT (English, 1800-1877) Magdalen Bridge, Oxford, 30 July 1842 Calotype negative, waxed 16.2 x 20.7 cm Inscribed in pencil on verso "30 July 1842"

William Henry Fox Talbot (English, 1800-1877)
Magdalen Bridge, Oxford, 30 July 1842
Calotype negative, waxed
16.2 x 20.7 cm
Inscribed in pencil on verso "30 July 1842"
Schaaf 2681

 

William Henry Fox TALBOT (English, 1800-1877) "The Martyrs' Monument" Oxford, 1843 Salt print from a calotype negative 20.3 x 14.4 cm on 22.3 x 18.8 cm paper, corners trimmed "LA21" in ink on verso

William Henry Fox Talbot (English, 1800-1877)
"The Martyrs' Monument" Oxford, 1843
Salt print from a calotype negative
20.3 x 14.4 cm on 22.3 x 18.8 cm paper, corners trimmed
"LA21" in ink on verso
Schaaf 1923

Printed from the same negative as Plate XXI in The Pencil of Nature.

 

 

William Henry Fox TALBOT (English, 1800-1877) Merton College from the fields, Oxford, circa 1843 Hand colored (possibly by André Mansion) salt print, from a calotype negative 13.6 x 20.2 cm on 18.7 x 22.7 cm paper Inscribed "M' and "X" and [illegible] in pencil on verso

William Henry Fox Talbot (English, 1800-1877)
Merton College from the fields, Oxford, circa 1843
Hand colored (possibly by André Mansion) salt print, from a calotype negative
13.6 x 20.2 cm on 18.7 x 22.7 cm paper
Inscribed "M' and "X" and [illegible] in pencil on verso
Schaaf 1338

André Léon Larue Mansion (1785-1870), a miniature painter who first established his reputation in Brussels, then became a noted miniaturist on ivory in Paris. By 1845 Mansion had become the chief daguerreotype colourist in London.

The negative is in the collection of the National Media Museum, Bradford, no. 1937-1867.

Two other prints are in the collection of the British Library: LA1009 is hand colored, and LA598 is uncolored.

Talbot found “the number of picturesque points of view” in Oxford to be “almost inexhaustible.”  Although he was a Cambridge man, Oxford was one of Talbot’s favorite locations; it is also closer than Cambridge to Talbot’s ancestral home, Lacock Abbey. This is a rare example of a Talbot photograph which was hand-colored, showing the full border. The coloring was possibly by Andre Mansion, a miniature painter who first established his reputation in Brussels, before becoming a noted miniaturist on ivory in Paris.  By 1845 Mansion had become the chief daguerreotype colorist in London.

William Henry Fox TALBOT (English, 1800-1877) Melrose Abbey, 1844 Salt print from a calotype negative 17.3 x 21.2 cm on 18.7 x 22.6 cm paper "LA32" in ink on verso

William Henry Fox Talbot (English, 1800-1877)
Melrose Abbey, 1844
Salt print from a calotype negative
17.3 x 21.2 cm on 18.7 x 22.6 cm paper
"LA32" in ink on verso
Schaaf 2796

This image is Plate 8 in Sun Pictures in Scotland, 1845

William Henry Fox Talbot (English, 1800-1877) 
Bust of Patroclus, 1842
Salt print from a calotype negative
13.0 x 12.8 cm
Schaaf 190

Patroclus, the defender of Achilles, was Talbot's first and favorite portrait sitter. The plaster cast he had at Lacock Abbey was a copy of the marble in the British Museum. Talbot's chemistry required lengthy exposures and a stationary object, such as this bust, was ideal as a subject. The brush strokes around the border of this exceptional print indicate that Talbot coated the sheet of paper by hand.
Printed from the same negative as Plate V in The Pencil of Nature.

William Henry Fox TALBOT (English, 1800-1877) Portrait of Ela Theresa Talbot, contemplating a rose, circa 1843-1844 Salt print from a calotype negative 8.9 x 6.8 cm on 11.7 x 9.3 cm paper

William Henry Fox Talbot (English, 1800-1877)
Portrait of Ela Theresa Talbot, contemplating a rose, circa 1843-1844
Salt print from a calotype negative
8.9 x 6.8 cm on 11.7 x 9.3 cm paper

 

William Henry Fox TALBOT (English, 1800-1877) Four ferns, 1852 or soon after Photographic engraving 12.8 x 20.3 cm plate on 17.0 x 25.9 cm paper Inscribed "Rob. Murray" in ink and "From a Photographic Engraving on Steel by H. Fox Talbot Esqr" in pencil

William Henry Fox Talbot (English, 1800-1877)
Four ferns, 1852 or soon after
Photographic engraving
12.8 x 20.3 cm plate on 17.0 x 25.9 cm paper
Inscribed "Rob. Murray" in ink and "From a Photographic Engraving on Steel by H. Fox Talbot Esqr" in pencil

Talbot's first photogravure process, patented in 1852 and called photographic engraving, produced some wonderful images (as seen here), but suffered one drawback. The lines of the image were etched deeply into the plate, forming valleys. Ink was applied over the whole surface of the plate, then the excess was swept off by a squeegee called a "doctor." This worked well with fine lines, leaving the ink below the surface of the plate, however capillary attraction pulled the ink out of the center of the broader lines, leaving it clinging only to the edges, and producing an outline print.

The present example was inscribed and preserved by Robert Murray.

William Henry Fox TALBOT (English, 1800-1877) A strip of lace, with selvage*, 1852-1857 Photographic engraving 13.0 x 20.3 cm plate on 16.9 x 25.6 cm paper

William Henry Fox Talbot (English, 1800-1877)
A strip of lace, with selvage, 1852-1857
Photographic engraving
13.0 x 20.3 cm plate on 16.9 x 25.6 cm paper

The overall impression of this image is one of great accuracy, but on close examination it will be seen that the sense of three-dimensionality of the more densely knotted portions derives from the edge effect characteristic of photographic engraving.

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