Daguerreian Society

On this day (March 26) in the year 1840, the following article appeared in 
the "Boston - Daily Advertiser and Patriot." (Vol. XLV, No. 14964, 
Thursday, March 26, 1840, page 2):
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Gouraud for the following communication, in which he describes the progress 
by which portraits may be taken by the Daguerreotype.  It has been in our 
hands from the 16th inst., the publication having been in the meantime 
deferred for want of room.--
  Within fifteen days after the publication of the process of M. Daguerre, 
in Paris, people in every quarter were making portraits.  At first they 
were all made with the eyes shut. M. Susse, of the place de la Bourse, was 
one of the first amateurs who succeeded in making them in the most 
satisfactory manner.  The achromatic lens, recommended by M. Daguerre was 
naturally first made use of.  But these amateurs soon perceived that in 
using a glass of this kind, a very long time was required to make the 
drawing. Every one began to look about for some means of shortening, as 
much as possible, the period of from fifteen to twenty-five minutes, which 
M. Susse, who had the whole disposal of his time, had employed in making 
his pretty portraits--with the eyes shut.  Almost at the same time a young 
man, in the employment of the Minister of Public instruction, Mr. Abel 
Rendu, directed by the most simple optical principles, adopted an idea 
which seemed new to him, and produced to the admiration of some of the 
Paris circles, portraits of men and women, with the eyes open, executed in 
the most satisfactory manner.  The mathematical perfection in the 
representation of the eyes, which M. Daguerre had been seeking for so long 
a time, was to be sure, not to be found in these portraits; but this 
difference was so minute, that it was scarcely perceptible at first sight 
even by the most practiced eye.  On expressing the astonishment with which 
I was struck, and giving the warmest compliments of encouragement to M. 
Abel Rendu, that gentleman, without seeking to make the slightest mystery 
of the means he had employed, told me immediately that he had obtained 
these first results by means of a Meniscus!  I immediately made a trial of 
this method.  I used at first the Meniscus recommended by Wollaston, then 
the common one with one side plain, then one with a parabolic concavity, 
and obtained also the most satisfactory results, thanks to the information 
communicated in a manner so obliging by M. Abel Rendu.  As these 
experiments were made just on the eve of my departure, it was impossible 
for me to repeat them, and not being able to resist the request of the 
person in whose portrait I had succeeded in making the very best of my 
attempts, I left this most successful specimen behind with him, intending 
to supply myself with specimens at New York or elsewhere, when the fine 
summer sun should return, to offer us his brilliant light, so essential to 
the rapid execution of this operation.  The portraits I had made in Paris, 
as well as those obtained by Mr. Abel Rendu, were formed in from one minute 
to two minutes twenty-seven seconds, at the farthest.  Considering the 
foggy atmosphere of Paris, this was already an immense step, but as M. 
Rendu did not attach any great importance to a discovery which did not 
offer the positively mathematical perfection which M. Daguerre required, 
and which M. Daguerre had undoubtedly himself, already disdained, he did 
not wish to make the thing an affair of reputation, but authorized me to 
make any use of it in America which I pleased.  Before I quitted Paris, I 
made use of his Meniscus to take the pretty view of the Pont Louis 
Phillipe, and the magnificent facade des Tuilleries, which are found in my 
collection.  From the slightly nebulous sides of these two pictures, in 
contrast with the clearness of the centre, may be seen at a glance the 
adaptation of the Meniscus, in preference to the other kinds of glasses, as 
regards the art of making portraits with the Daguerreotype.  It will be 
perceived that the centre of the design, offers in sharpness, in the lines, 
and in general clearness a vigor in inverse proportion to the nebulosity of 
the sides.  The reason why the Meniscus should give more clear lines, and 
act in a shorter space of time on the iodine plate in the camera obscura, 
will be obvious to all persons acquainted with the most simple principles 
of optics.
  What is important, then, to the amateur in Daguerreotype drawing to know, 
is the manner of making use of it.  The following is the process, (with the 
exception of some minute details, which it would be impossible to give in 
the columns of a newspaper,) as I communicated it on my arrival at New York 
to all who wished to hear it, and in fact as I have described it, (even to 
its details) in my crowded public lectures.  I render it thus public, by 
means of the press, in order that those who may not have the opportunity of 
hearing my verbal information on the subject, may make experiments for 
themselves, and in fine, that by the means already made use of, they may 
know that I am able to make the portrait of any person who wishes it.
  The shortness of the description will be equal to the simplicity of the 
method, and I am desirous that this new proof of my efforts to please the 
enlightened community in the midst of which I am placed, and by which I 
every day continue to be so kindly patronized--I desire, I say, in offering 
something of actual utility, as well as a source of intellectual amusement, 
that this new proof of my efforts, small as it may be in value of itself, 
may nevertheless be acceptable to all.  Reserving for my public lectures a 
description of the general process, in obtaining drawings by the beautiful 
method of M. Daguerre, I will describe, in a few words, for the benefit of 
those who have already a notion of that process, how it is possible at the 
present time, to obtain a miniature portrait by the Daguerreotype.
  In the first place you will begin by preparing a room exposed to the sun, 
the south east if possible.  You will give to this room the form of a 
truncated pyramid lying down, of which the base will be the whole breadth 
of the window--which window you will make as large as possible, and 
extending from the floor to the ceiling.  The floor, the ceiling, and the 
two sides of the room, should be plastered with the whitest kind of lime 
plaster.  Those who cannot dispose a room in this manner, can fix the sides 
of the room with sheets or other cloth of perfect whiteness.  The focus of 
the room must be covered with a tapestry of white cotton, with knotted or 
raised figures, which is designed to form the drapery. These are always 
agreeable to the eye, and should always be shown in interior views.  The 
chair on which the person sits must be of yellow wood.  The person, if a 
man, must be dressed in a clear grey coat, pantaloons of a little deeper 
hue, a vest of a fancy ground, yellow, orange, if possible, with figures of 
a colour to make a contrast, the whiteness of the shirt contrasting with a 
cravat of a grey ground, either a little less dark or more deep than the 
coat.  The toilet of a lady should be of the same shades, and in all cases 
black must be constantly avoided, as well as green and red.  This 
arrangement, however, is pointed out as the best means of obtaining the 
best effect; for, as in a portrait, the face is what is most cared for, the 
costume can be studied more or less at will, but the portrait, with other 
arrangements, will not be so agreeable to the eye.  By means of mirrors 
properly disposed at the window or in the room, you will concentrate the 
strongest possible light on the person, and will considerably augment that 
of the chamber, which has already been made as clear as possible.  If the 
sun should be too brilliant, and the patient is not able comfortably to 
bear the reflection of it, use may be made of the blue glass, recommended 
by M. Daguerre.
  Having covered your plate well with the coating of iodine--you will fix 
the sitter.  His head should be placed on a semi-circle of iron, fitted to 
the back of the chair.  His arms may be arranged at pleasure. He should fix 
his eyes on some well defined object in any direction which he may 
prefer--the focus of the camera obscura must be regulated and provided with 
a good Meniscus.  Now, if every thing has been arranged as it should be, 
your portrait will often be made, even in less than twenty seconds, and in 
the most satisfactory manner.
  This is, at present, the most approved method of making a miniature by 
the Daguerreotype. Others may perhaps pretend to improve or invent, after 
my explanations have been made, because while employing the same means, 
they will change their places, or call them by other names. But until other 
methods shall have better success, it is certainly right that those who 
attach any importance to a futile celebrity should render to Caesar the 
things which are Caesar's, and it is right that the method of Mr. Abel 
Rendu, rendered public by me in this country, should be attributed entirely 
to him.
  I will now say, at the close, that by adopting a confidential 
communication which I have received from M. D. G., the French Professor at 
Cambridge, since I arrived in Boston, I think it is very probable that we 
shall succeed in obtaining a Daguerreotype portrait in much less time than 
by the process above described. 
                     F. G.

This text was also included in: Fauvel-Gouraud, Francois "Description of 
the Daguerreotype Process, or a Summary of M Gouraud's Public Lectures, 
According to the Principles of M. Daguerre. (Boston: Dutton and Wentworth's 
Print, 1840.) Also available in reprint: Sobieszek, Robert A. "The 
Daguerreotype Process; Three Treatises, 1840-1849" (New York: Arno Press, 
1973.)  Thanks to Mr. Chris Steele and Ms. Ann Donaghy for a photocopy of 
the original 26 March 1840 newspaper publication of the text.
Posted for your enjoyment.     Gary W. Ewer    

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