Daguerreian Society

Today's DagNews is one of the two earliest notices of the daguerreotype in 
US press of which I am aware.  This notice appeared in the "Boston 
Mercantile Journal" which was a semi-weekly publication. I've taken this 
article from the Vol. 14, No. 441 issue, dated February 26, 1839, but the 
article itself falls under the banner: "Boston: Saturday, Feb. 23." The 
article contains obvious errors in the details of Daguerre's discovery.
  (The other of the two earliest notices comes from the "Boston Daily 
Advertiser," of 23 February 1839, and was posted as last year's DagNews for 
February 23.)

On this day (February 23) in the year 1839, the following article appeared 
in the "Boston Mercantile Journal" (Vol. IV, No. 441) under the header: 
"Boston: Saturday, Feb. 23":
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

English papers received by the latest arrivals from Europe, an account of 
one of the most remarkable discoveries, which has been made during the 
present age.  The account is contained in the Paris Constitutionnel.  The 
discovery was communicated to the Academy of Sciences by M. Arago--and the 
author of it is M. Daguerre, who has already acquired great celebrity by 
his wonderful Diorama.  It is well known that certain chemical substances, 
such as chlorate of silver, have the property of changing their color by 
the mere contact of light; and it is by a combination of this nature that 
M. Daguerre has succeeded in fixing upon paper prepared with it, the rays 
that are directed on the table of the camera obscura, and rendering the 
optical tableau permanent.  The exact representation of whatever objects 
this instrument is directed to, as every body is aware, is thrown down with 
vivid colors, upon the white prepared to receive them, and the rays of 
light that are thus reflected have the power of acting in the way above 
alluded on chlorate of silver, or certain preparations of it.  In this 
manner an exact representation of light and shade of whatever object may be 
wished to be viewed, is obtained with the precise accuracy of nature 
herself, and it is stated to have all the softness of a fine aquatint 
engraving--these pictures, however, do not produce color, but only outline, 
the lights and shadows of the model.  They are not paintings, they are 
drawings; but drawings pushed to a degree of perfection which art can never 
  The editor of the Constitutionnel has been permitted to examine some of 
these curious specimens of art, where nature has delineated herself--which 
he describes with enthusiasm, in the following language:  "At every picture 
placed before our eyes, we were in admiration.  What perfection of 
outline--what effects of chiaro scura--what delicacy--what finish!  But how 
can we be assured that this is not the work of a clever draughtsman?  As a 
sufficient answer, M. Daguerre puts a magnifying glass in our hand.  We 
then see the minutest folds of drapery, the lines of a landscape, invisible 
to the naked eye.  In the mass of buildings, accessories of all kinds, 
imperceptible accidents, of which the view of Paris from the Pont des 
Arts, is composed, we distinguish the smallest details, we count the stones 
of the pavement, we see the moisture produced by rain, we read the sign of 
a shop.  Every thread of the luminous tissue has passed from the object to 
the surface retaining it.  The impression of the image takes place with 
greater or less rapidity, according to the intensity of the light; it is 
produced quicker at noon than in the morning or evening, in a summer than 
in a winter.  M. Daguerre has hitherto made his experiments only in Paris; 
and in the most favorable circumstances, they have always been too slow to 
obtain complete results, except on still or inanimate nature.  Motion 
escapes him, or leaves only vague and uncertain traces.  It may be presumed 
that the sun of Africa would give him instantaneous images of natural 
objects in full life and action."
  It is said that M. Daguerre made the discovery some years ago--but he had 
not then succeeded in making the alteration in color, permanent on the 
chemical substance.  This main desideratum he has now accomplished, but the 
secret of the invention is unknown.

(Original errors of spelling/grammar maintained. --G. E.)
Posted for your enjoyment.     Gary W. Ewer     

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