Daguerreian Society

I am happy to present this text to you today, dear reader of Dagnews.
Although this text is much longer than what I usually wish to present in
this format, it is one of the best in describing the workings of a
daguerreian gallery. Although no author is indicated in the issue, the
"Household Words" Office Book gives the authors as William Henry Wills
and Henry Morley.  An error in the text regarding the use of pyrogallic
acid as a fixitive was corrected in a later "Household Words" article,
"The Stereoscope" (Vol. 8, No. 181 [10 September 1853] pp.37-42.)
  I'll also mention that the text was also reprinted in "The
Photographic Art-Journal" Vol. 5, No. 6 (June 1853) pp. 325-333.

On this day (March 19) in the year 1853, the following text appeared in
"Household Words" (London) Vol. 7, No. 156 (19 March 1853) pp. 54-61. 
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   WE have been ringing artists' bells.  We have been haunting the dark
chambers of photographers.  We have found those gentlemen--our modern
high priests of Apollo, the old sun god--very courteous, and not at all
desirous to forbid to the world's curiosity a knowledge of their inmost
   We rang a bell in Regent Street--which was not all a bell, for it
responded to our pull not with a clatter; but with one magical
stroke--and instantly, as though we had been sounding an enchanted horn,
the bolts were drawn by unseen hands, and the door turned upon its
hinges.  Being well read in old romance, we knew how to go on with the
adventure.  There were stairs before us which we mounted; swords we had
none to draw.  In a few seconds we reached another open door, that led
into a chamber, of which the walls and tables were in great part
overlaid with metal curiously wrought.  A thousand images of human
creatures of each sex and of every age--such as no painter ever has
produced--glanced at us from all sides, as if they would have spoken to
us out of the hard silver.  Here a face was invisible:  there it burst
suddenly into view, and seemed to peep at us.  Beautiful women smiled
out of metal as polished and as hard as a knight's armour on the eve of
battle.  Young chevaliers regarded us with faces tied and fastened down
so that, as it seemed, they could by no struggle get their features
loose out of the very twist and smirk they chanced to wear when they
were captured and fixed.  Here a grave man was reading on for ever, with
his eyes upon the same line of his book; and there a soldier frowned
with brow inanely fierce over a rampart of moustachios.
   The innumerable people whose eyes seemed to speak at us, but all
whose tongues were silent; all whose limbs were fixed (although their
faces seemed in a mysterious way to come and go as the lights shifted on
the silver wall)--what people were these?  Had they all trodden the
steps by which we had ourselves ascended?  Had they all breathed and
moved, perhaps, about that very room.  "They have," answered the genius
of the room, "they have all been executed here.  If you mount farther up
you also may be taken."
   The figures in the room were not all figures of enchantment.  There
were present four unmetamorphosed people; three of them were ladies, of
whom of course it would be rude flatly to say that there was nothing of
enchantment in their figures; but the fourth was a belted soldier with a
red coat, a large cocked hat, and a heavy sword.  Imprudently we had
come out without even so much weapon as an umbrella.
   The taker of men himself came down to us, affable enough;  but
smiling faces have been long connected with mysterious designs.  The
soldier was, in fact, a man of peace, a lamb in wolf's clothing; an army
doctor, by whose side, if army regulations suffered it, there should
have hung a scalpel, not a sword.  And the expert photographer--the
magic of whose art is fostered by no worse feeling than vanity, or by a
hundred purer sentiments--was followed very willingly upstairs.  It was
all wholesome latter-day magic that we went up to see practised under a
London skylight.
   Light from the sky is, in fact, the chief part of the stock-in-trade
of a photographer.  Other light than the sun's can be employed; but,
while the sun continues to pour down to us a daily flow of light of the
best quality, as cheap as health (we will not say as cheap as dirt, for
dirt is a dear article), sunlight will be consumed by the photographers
in preference to any other.  A diffused, mellow light from the sky,
which moderates the darkness of all shadows, is much better suited to
the purpose of photography than a direct sun-beam; which creates hard
contrasts of light and, shade.  For in the picture formed by light,
whether on metal, glass, or paper, such hard contrasts will be made
still harder.  Lumpy shadows haunt the chambers of all bad
   He who would not be vexed by them and would produce a portrait in
which the features shall be represented with the necessary softness,
finds it generally advantageous not only to let the shades be cast upon
the face in a room full of diffused rays--that is to say, under a
skylight--but also by the waving of large b1ack velvet screens over the
head to moderate and stint the quantity of light that falls on features
not thrown into shadow.  For this reason few very good photographic
pictures can be taken from objects illuminated only by a side light, as
in a room with ordinary windows.  The diffused light of cloudy weather,
if the air be free from fog, hinders the process of photography only by
lengthening the time occupied in taking impressions.  Light, when it is
jaundiced by a fog is quite as liable as jaundiced men to give erroneous
views of mankind.
   Photography, out of England has made its most rapid advances, and
produced its best results in the United States and in France ; but,
although both the French and the Americans have the advantage of a much
purer and more certain supply of sunlight, it is satisfactory to know
that the English photographers have throw as much light of their own on
the new science as any of their neighbours.
   Led by the military gentleman, whose cocked hat elevated him in our
civilians' eyes to something like the dignity of general, we mounted to
the door; through which we poured our forces into the room under the
skylight, where we found several defences thrown up in the shape of
folding screens, and faced an unusually heavy fire from a round tower of
a stove.  To maintain a high and dry temperature is customary in the
room used by the daguerreotypist for his operations; partly in order to
protect more thoroughly the delicate surface of the plates carried about
in it, partly to ensure to the sitter so much warmth as shall make
perfect repose of all the features, in the most natural way, quite easy.
For while the work of the photographer is done with an astonishing
rapidity, he is one of the few men who especially desire of those with
whom they have to deal that they should not look sharp.
   A group was to be made of Doctor Sword, and one lady, his wife.
Another lady, probably his mother-in-law, declared candidly that when
her turn came she must be held in some way, for she was too nervous to
sit still.  A younger lady, a friend to Mrs. Doctor S., looked
interested.  The group of two was to be first executed.  Now the lady's
dress was not at all ill chosen for a photographic sitting or a
masquerade.  It included extensive scalp-fixings of a savage style
introduced lately into this country, consisting of a ragged tuft of
streamers, knotted with Birmingham pearls nearly as large as coat
buttons; a great deal of gauze, wonderfully snipped about and overlaid
with divers patterns; with a border of large thick white lilies round
the cape.  The lady was placed on a chair before the camera, though at
some distance from it.  The gentleman leaned over the back of the chair;
symbolically to express the inclination that he had towards his wife: he
was her leaning tower, he was her oak and she the nymph who sat secure
under his shade.  Under the point of the gentleman's sword the Pilgrim's
Progress by John Bunyan was placed to prop it up; and one or two
trifling distortions were made at the extremity of the proposed picture
to neutralise the contrary distortions that would be produced on that
portion of the image in the camera.  We then peeped under a black pall
into the machine itself, where we beheld the gentleman and lady on a
piece of ground-glass, standing on their heads.  Leaving Doctor and Mrs.
Sword to stand at ease and talk to one another, we, Messieurs Pen,
departed from the camera for a few minutes and accompanied the artist to
his den behind the scenes.
   The den of the photographer, in which he goes through those
mysterious operations which are not submitted to the observation of the
sitter, is a small room lighted by a window, and communicating into a
dark closet, veiled with heavy curtains.  Our sense of the supernatural,
always associated with dark closets, was excited strongly in this
chamber, by the sound of a loud rumbling in the bowels of the house, and
the visible departure of a portion of the wall to lower regions.  We
thought instinctively of bandits who wind victims up and down in
moveable rooms or turn them up in treacherous screw bedsteads.  But, of
course, there was no danger to be apprehended.  What we saw was, of
course, only a contrivance to save labour in conveying pictures up or
down for colouring or framing.  Our consciences having been satisfied on
this point, the expert magician took a plate of the prescribed size,
made ready to his hand.  Such plates consist of a thin layer of silver
fixed upon copper, and are provided to the artist highly polished; but a
final and superlative polish is given to each plate, with a "buff" or
pad like a double handled razor strop, tinged with a fine mineral
powder.  Simple as it appears, the final polishing of the plate is an
operation that can only succeed well under a practised pair of hands,
that regulate their pressure by a refined sense of touch.  The plate
thus polished was brushed over finally and very lightly, as with the
touch of a cat's paw, with a warm pad of black velvet freshly taken from
an oven.
   To witness the next process we went into the dark closet itself, the
very head quarters of spectredom.  There, having carefully excluded
daylight, the operator lifted up the lid of a small bin, rapidly fixed
the plate, silver side downwards, in a place made underneath for its
reception, shut down the lid, and began to measure seconds by counting,
talking between whiles, thus:--"One--that box--two--contains--three--
chloride of iodine--four--strewn--five--six--at the bottom.  Now!"
Presto, out came the plate in a twinkling, and was held against a sheet
of white paper, upon which it reflected a ghastly straw colour by the
light of a small jet of gas.) "Ah, tint not deep enough!"  The plate was
popped into its vapour bath again with magic quickness. "Seven--the
action of the iodine" (continued the operator, counting seconds, and
teaching us our lesson in the same breath) "rising in vapour upon the
surface--eleven--of the plate--twelve--causes it to take in succession
--thirteen--fourteen--fifteen--all the colours of the spectrum--sixteen
--seventeen; and deposits upon it a film.  As he went on solemnly
counting we asked how long he exposed the plate to the visitation of
that potent vapour.  A very short time," he replied;  but it varies--
thirty--thirty-one--according to the light in the next room--thirty-five
--thirty-six--thirty-seven.  Adjusting the plate to the weather,
thirty-eight--is the result of an acquired instinct--thirty-nine--forty.
Now it is ready."  The plate was out and its change to a deeper straw
colour was shown.  The lid of an adjoining bin was lifted and the
iodized plate was hung in the same way over another vapour; that of the
chloride of bromine, that the wraiths of the two vapours might mingle,
mingle, mingle as black spirits with white, blue spirits with gray.  In
this position it remained but a very short time, while we stood watching
by in the dark cupboard.  The plate having had its temper worked upon by
these mysterious agencies was rendered so extremely sensitive, that it
was requisite to confine it at once, in a dark hole or solitary cell,
made ready for it in a wooden frame; a wooden slide was let down over it
and it was ready to be carried to the camera.
   Before quitting this part of the subject, we must add to the
preceding description two or three external facts.  We have been
discussing hitherto the kernel without touching the nutshell in which
these, like all other reasonable matters in this country, may be (and
usually are) said to lie.  The nutshell is in fact as important to a
discussion in this country as the small end of the wedge or the British
Lion:--In the action of light upon surfaces prepared in a certain manner
lies the whole idea of photography.  The camera obscura is an old
friend;  how to fix chemically the illuminated images formed in the
camera by light, was a problem at which Sir Humphrey Davy, half a
century ago, was one of the first men who worked.  Sir Humphrey
succeeded no farther than in the imprinting of a faint image, but as he
could not discover how to fix it, the whole subject was laid aside.
Between the years 1814 and 1828, two Frenchmen, M. Daguerre and M.
Niepce, were at work upon the problem.  In 1827 M. Niepce produced
before the Royal Society what he then called heliographs, sun-pictures,
formed and fixed upon glass, copper plated with silver, and
well-polished tin.  But, as he kept the secret of his processes, no
scientific use was made of his discovery.  M. Daguerre, working at the
same problem, succeeded about the same time in fixing sun-pictures on
paper impregnated with nitrate of silver.  M. Daguerre and M. Niepce
having combined their knowledge to increase the value of their art, the
French government--in the year 1839--acting nobly, as it has often acted
in the interests of science, bought for the free use of the world the
details of the new discovery.  For the full disclosure of their secrets
there was granted to M. Daguerre a life pension of two hundred and forty
pounds (he died not many months ago), and a pension of one hundred and
sixty pounds to the son of M. Niepce, with the reversion of one half to
their widows.
   Six months before the disclosure of the processes in France, Mr. Fox
Talbot is England had discovered a process leading to a like result--the
fixing of sun-pictures upon paper.  As the English parliament buys
little for science, nothing unfortunately hindered the patenting of Mr.
Talbot's method.  That patent in certain respects very much obstructed
the advance of photography in this country and great credit is due to
Mr. Talbot for having recently and voluntarily abandoned his exclusive
rights, and given his process to the public for all purposes and uses,
except that of the portrait-taker.  By so doing he acted in the spirit
of a liberal art born in our own days, and peculiarly marked with the
character of our own time.  It does one good to think how photographers,
even while exercising the new art for money, have pursued it with a
generous ardour for its own sake, and emulate each other in the
magnanimity with which they throw their own discoveries into the common
heap, and scorn to check the progress of their art for any selfish
motive.  After the completion of the French discovery two daguerreotype
establishments were formed in London armed with patent rights, and their
proprietors, Messrs. Claudet and Beard, do in fact still hold those
rights, of which they have long cheerfully permitted the infringement.
Mr. Beard tried to enforce them only once, we believe; and M. Claudet
with distinguished liberality, never.
   At first the sitting was a long one, for the original daguerreotype
plate was prepared only with iodine.  We see it stated in the jury
reports of the Great Exhibition, that to procure daguerreotype
portraits, it was then "required that a person should sit without moving
for twenty-five minutes in a glaring sunshine."  That is a glaring
impossibility, and in fact the statement is wrong.  It is to M. Claudet
that the public is indebted for the greater ease we now enjoy in
photographic sittings, and it is the same gentleman who informs us that
five minutes--not five-and-twenty--was the time required for the
formation of a good picture on the plates prepared in the old way.
   The discovery of the accelerating process, by the use of the two
chlorides of iodine and bromine, was at once given to all photographers
by M. Claudet; it having been made public by him.  In England, through
the Royal Society, and in France, through the Académie des Sciences.  By
the use of this double application, plates are made so sensitive that
portraits may be taken in a period varying, according to the measure of
the light, between a second and a minute.  We have said something about
varying the degree of sensitiveness in the plate according to the
weather.  In the account just given of our visit to a photographic
studio, it will be seen that a very skilful artist (Mr. Mayall) lessens
at times the sensitiveness of the plate, but in this respect the
practice is not uniform.  In illustration of the extreme sensitiveness
that can be communicated to the prepared plate, reference has often been
made to an experiment performed at a meeting of the Royal Society, the
account of which we quote from Dr. Lardner.  "A printed paper was
fastened upon the face of a wheel, which was put in revolution with such
rapidity that the characters on the paper ceased to be visible.  The
camera, with the prepared photographic surface, being placed opposite
the wheel and properly adjusted, the room was darkened.  The room and
wheel were then illuminated, for an instant, by a strong spark taken
from the conductor of a powerful electric machine.  This instantaneous
appearance of the wheel before the camera was sufficient to produce a
perfect picture."  In reading of this experiment we are not to direct
our attention to the sensitiveness of the plate so much as to the power
of the light.  Such a spark as was taken for the purpose produced an
instantaneous light, greatly surpassing in intensity the ordinary
sunlight used by the photographers.  M. Claudet, in reply to our
questions about the adjustment of the sensitiveness of his plates,
replied simply, "I always try to make my plates as sensitive as
possible."  A walk through his gallery satisfied us that if; by so
doing, he increases the demand on his dexterity in sunny weather, the
demand is met.  His results fully justify his practice.
   We may say the same for Mr. Mayall, the photographer whose operations
led us into the preceding digression.  From the dark cupboard, cleared
by a strong up draught of escaping fumes, we brought the prepared plate
in its frame, carefully excluded from the light by a protecting slide.
The frame was made to fit into the camera, but before placing it, the
final adjustment of the sitters had to be made.  The Doctor and his lady
having resumed their positions, we again observed, upon the ground glass
of the camera, the artistic effect of the group in an inverted
miniature, coloured of course.  This observation was made with the head
thrust under a black velvet pall.  Upon the ground glass we saw drawn
four squares, one within another, and we remembered well what pictures
we had seen of trines and squares and houses of the planets drawn by
Albertus Magnus and Agrippa.  These were, however, squares, the adept
told me, corresponding respectively in size to the plates, differing in
price, on which it is in the choice of the sitter to have a likeness
taken.  A frame corresponding to each size has the plate so fixed in it
that, when placed in the camera, it occupies precisely the position of
the square marked on the glass.  Our picture was to be of the third
size--the third square was to be the house of Mars and Venus--and the
object of the operator was to arrange the sitters and the camera in such
a way as to procure a telling group within the boundaries of that third
square upon the glass.  This having been done, and a fixed point
supplied, on which the eyes should feast, the velvet pall was thrown
over the back of the camera to exclude the light and a black stopper
(the obturator) was clapped over the glass in front, making the chamber
of the box quite dark.  The frame was then inserted in its place, the
slide removed, and the prepared silver reposing in the darkness was laid
open to receive the meditated shock upon its sensibility.  The sitters
were requested then to close their eyes for a minute, that the eyelids
might be rested, then to look fixedly in the direction indicated by a
little picture pinned against a screen.  Then "Now, quite still; try to
look pleasant--a little pleasanter!" The cap was off, and the two
figures, fixed as statues, shone upon the magic mirror in the camera,
rigidly pleasant.  In half a minute,--counted accurately by the
operator--suddenly, the stopper was again clapped over the glass in
front; the slide was let down over the tablet, upon which light, haying
done its work, must shine no more until the plate was light-proof.  Mars
and Venus in conjunction having entered the third house, we retired into
the necromancer's den to observe what would follow.
   The necromancer there addressed us in manner following:  "The
chemical action of light has decomposed the delicate compound formed
upon this tablet between the silver and the chlorides of iodine and
bromine.  The decomposition has been greatest, of course, where the
light has been most intense, and its action has been manifested
everywhere by the piercing of the sensitive surface with minute holes.
Where the light has been the strongest, the number of these microscopic
holes, contained upon a space equal to the area of a pin's head, is
greater than in those parts on which the chemical action of the light
has not been so intense.  The portrait is thus minutely and delicately
dotted out, dots signifying light.  That is the sun picture which I now
hold in my hand."  After this brief parliamentary address the adept went
on with his labour.
  Still hiding his dark deeds from the face of day he took the plate to
a small bath of quicksilver, from which a subtle vapour slowly ascended,
the quicksilver being placed over the faint blue flame of a spirit-lamp.
Suspended over this bath it received upon its polished surface the fine
vapour; which, penetrating into the minute holes formed by light upon
the plate, and there condensing into microscopic drops, tinged out with
its own substance the surface on which light had fallen--more abundant
where its action had been greatest, and less marked where the
decomposition had been less.  When this process was complete, the
picture was complete; all the lights being expressed and graduated by a
white metal, and the shadows by the darker ground.  There were the
allied images of gentleman and lady revealed suddenly before us with a
startling accuracy, only unnaturally sensitive and altogether wanting in
stability of character.
  Nothing remained then but to fix the picture; to destroy the
sensitiveness of the surface.  This was done by pouring over it some
dilute pyrogallic acid, and finally submitting it to the action of a
salt of gold; of which a solution was washed over the plate, and warmed
upon it for one or two minutes.  The portrait was in this way perfectly
spell-bound.  It might be carried about loose in the pocket and
indiscriminately handled, without suffering more hurt to its charms than
can be worked by those ugly disenchanters, grease and dirt and
scratches.  For protection, however, against these, and for the better
setting off of the picture, it will be delivered to its owner as a well
known imp was once sold, in a bottle under glass; and as the Moors were
arch magicians, with traditions of Bagdad about them, it will very fitly
be enclosed in a morocco case.
   Truly, a fine picture it is.  The lady's dress suggests upon the
plate as much delicate workmanship as would have given labour for a
month to the most skilful of painters.  The lilies that we did not like
upon the cape, how exquisite they look here in the picture!  But as this
group was destined to be coloured, we were courteously invited to the
colouring room, a tiny closet in which two damsels were busily at work,
one upon a lady's dress, the other upon the forehead of a gentleman,
putting in the yellow rather lavishly, but with a good effect.  "The
faces," she informed us, "must be coloured strongly, or they will be put
out by the bright blue sky."  We pointed to a small box labelled "Sky,"
remarking that the fair painters were magicians, to carry the sky in a
wafer-box.  To which one of them promptly answered "Yes; and Ogres, too,
for that pill-box contains gentlemen's and ladies' 'Flesh.'"
   These terrific creatures--who had quite the ways of damsels able to
eat rice pudding in an honest manner--then made us acquainted with a few
dry facts.  The colours used by them were all dry minerals, and were
laid on with the fine point of a dry brush; pointed between the lips,
and left to become dry before using.  A little rubbing caused these
tints to adhere to the minute pores upon the plate.  Each colour was of
course rubbed on with its own brush, and so expertly, that a large plate
very elaborately painted, with a great deal of unquestionable taste, had
been, as we were told, the work only of an hour.  On a subsequent
occasion, we saw in the same room our picture of the Doctor under the
painter's hands, and undergoing flattery.  We admired the subdued tone
which the artist had, as we thought, taken the wise liberty of giving to
the glare of the red coat.  "Yes," she replied, "but I must make it
redder presently; when we don't paint coats bright enough, people
complain.  They tell us that we make them look as if they wore old
  And we may observe here that another illustration of our vanities was
furnished to us on a different occasion.  Daguerreotype plates commonly
present faces as they would be seen in a looking-glass, that is to say,
reversed:  the left side of the face, in nature, appearing upon the
right side of the miniature.  That is the ordinary aspect in which every
one sees his own face, for it is only possible for him to behold it
reflected in a mirror.  This reversing, of course, alters in the
slightest degree the similitude.  The sitter himself is generally
satisfied.  But M. Claudet has taken up the parable of the poet; and has
undertaken to be the kind soul who, by virtue of a scientific notion,

                      the giftie gie us
             To see ourselves as others see us."

Few of us would thank him for it morally, and it is a curious fact that
few of us are content to have even our faces shown to us as others see
them.  The non-inverted daguerreotypes differ too much from the dear
images of self that we are used to learn by heart out of our
looking-glasses.  They invariably please the friend to whom they are to
be given, but they frequently displease the sitter.  For this reason,
though M. Claudet has of course made public the secret of his "giftie,"
we are not aware that any other photographer has thought it profitable
for his use.
   Somebody asks, "how are those non-inverted images produced?"  The
question causes us again to drop the kernel of our story, and apply
ourselves to a discussion of the nutshell.  A daguerreotype formed in
the usual way and inverted, if held before a looking-glass, becomes
again inverted, and shows therefore a non-inverted picture of the person
whom it represents.  If the picture in the camera fell, by a previous
reflection, inverted on the plate, it would in the same way be restored
by a second inversion to its first position.  This object could not be
attained by any arrangement of glass mirror in the camera, because a
piece of looking-glass reflects both from its outer surface and from the
quicksilver behind, and this; though unimportant for all ordinary
purposes, would make it perfectly unfit for photographic use.  A piece
of polished metal would have but a single surface; but the exquisite
polish necessary would make the preparation of it difficult and costly,
and its liability to damage great.  The first reflection is made,
therefore, by turning the side of the camera to the sitter and causing
his image to fall upon one face of a large prism placed before the
glasses otherwise in use:  an image is then deflected into the camera,
which falls in the required manner on the plate.
   In the present state of photographic art, no miniature can be utterly
free from distortion; but distortion can be modified and corrected by
the skilful pose of the sitter, and by the management of the artist.
The lens of the camera being convex (in order to diminish the object,
and to concentrate the rays of light upon the silver plate) the most
prominent parts of the figure to be transferred--those parts, indeed,
nearest to the apex of the lens--will appear disproportionately large.
If you look through a diminishing glass at a friend who holds his fist
before his face, you will find the face very much diminished in
proportion to the appearance of the fist.  The clever artist, therefore,
so disposes his sitter, that hands, nose, lips, &c., shall be all as
nearly as possible on the same plane in apposition to the lens.  In a
sitting figure hands placed on the knees would seem prodigious--placed
on or near hips, no more prominent than the tip of the nose, they would
seem of a natural size.  It is for this reason that daguerreotypes taken
from pictures instead of living figures, are never distorted, because
they are actually on a flat surface.
   Concerning the action of light in the formation of the picture on the
iodized plate within the camera, one or two facts are curious.  Light
contains rays that are not luminous.  In the dark spaces above and below
the solar spectrum some of the most decided chemical effects of light
are manifested.  It is probable that the chemical rays of light are, to
our eyes, perfectly dark.  Cover a picture with a piece of yellow glass,
and you can see it very well.  But place it before the camera, and you
will get no photographic copy.  Cover a picture with a piece of
dark-blue glass, and it is totally invisible;  but, placed before the
camera, the chemical rays pass through and imprint a photographic image
as distinct and clear as if there had been no blue glass whatever.  The
distinct properties of the yellow and blue rays are manifested as
strongly in the germination of plants.  Germination is prevented by the
action of the yellow ray, while to the blue ray it is mainly indebted.
   The rays that have passed through to form the picture, have been
called the photogenic rays: they refract not quite in the same way as
the luminous or colorific rays, and therefore the focus of the
photogenic picture and that of the picture thrown on the ground glass
will not exactly coincide.  For this, allowance has to be made in
practice, and accurate instruments for ascertaining the true photogenic
focus have been invented, one by M. Claudet, and another by Mr. G.
Knight.  They are called Focimeters.  There are hidden mysteries,
however, connected with this portion of the subject.  Means have been
already here and there discovered, by which the colours of the spectrum
may be printed at once on photographic tablets, and the sun--most
brilliant of artists--may paint his pictures at the same time that he is
engraving them.  The process is not yet disclosed.  Mr. A. Hill, of New
York, affirms that he has taken many pictures from Nature, having all
the beauty of natural colouring upon them.  A new material is said to
have been introduced in aid of this effect.  When all mechanical details
have been perfected, we may therefore expect this new step to be made
publicly, by which Apollo will be raised above Apelles in the world of
   The application of photography to the stereoscope produces an
extremely pretty toy, that is of no use except as an elegant and
valuable illustration of a train of scientific reasoning.  The
instrument itself was invented some years since by Professor Wheatstone,
to illustrate his discovery of the principles of binocular vision.  In
1849 Sir David Brewster exhibited to the British Association at
Birmingham a stereoscope adapted to the inspection of daguerreotype
pictures.  Afterwards he happened to describe the instrument to an
optician in Paris, M. Duboscq Soleil, who being an enterprising man,
constructed a number of such instruments on speculation.  At the
beginning of 1851 some of these were exhibited at one of the soirees of
Lord Rosse; they excited attention, and the photographers of London,
seizing the notion, very soon began to take stereoscopic portraits.  In
the stereoscope two exactly similar pictures are placed side by side
under a pair of prisms, which are so adjusted, that one image falls on
each eye, and the images on the two eyes do not fall on precisely
corresponding parts.  This gives the idea of distance.
  For it is to the use of two eyes that we are indebted for the facility
with which we derive ideas of form, solidity, and distance.  There is
only one point before us, to which both eyes can be turned in the same
way at the same time. Every other point before and behind that will fall
upon both eyes, will fall upon the retina of each eye in a different
place, and the amount of variation presents itself through the optic
nerve to the brain as the idea of distance.  Upon this hint the
stereoscope is formed, and the effects of roundness and distance are
presented to the mind by a pair of flat photographic pictures.  M.
Claudet has constructed an ingenious variation on the ordinary
stereoscope, by placing under it two plates not perfectly identical.  In
one, for example, there are two men fighting: one strikes, the other
wards.  The companion plate contains precisely the same men; with this
difference in their attitude, that the one who struck now wards, and the
aggressor stands on the defensive.  In looking at this group, and at the
same time rapidly moving to and fro a small slide behind the glasses,
which covers now one eye and now another, the two impressions run into
each other and produce the appearance of an active sparring match.
Again, a needle-woman, represented on one plate with her needle in her
work, and in the other with her thread drawn out to its full length,
appears, when the slide is shifted to and fro, to be industriously
   Among ingenious contrivances we ought not to omit to rank Mr.
Mayall's very neat method of producing what are called crayon portraits
in daguerreotype.  His plan is to place between the sitter and the
camera a revolving plate, having a hole cut into the middle of it, from
which there proceed broad rays as of the sun upon a signboard.  The
result is a picture upon which the head is engraved with unusual
distinctness, and the bust is gradually shaded down into the general
colour of the plate, so that the effect is that of a crayon portrait.
   Photographic processes on glass and paper are even more valuable as
aids to knowledge than daguerreotypes.
   There are many processes by which photographic impressions may be
taken upon paper and glass; a book fall of them lies at this moment
before us:  we have ourselves seen two, and shall confine ourselves to
the telling of a part of our experience.  We rang the artist's bell of
Mr. Henneman in Regent-street, who takes very good portraits upon paper
by a process cousin to the Talbotype. By that gentleman we were
introduced into a neat little chamber lighted by gas, with a few pans
and chemicals upon a counter.  His process was excessively simple:  he
would show it to us.  He took a square of glass, cleaned it very
perfectly, then holding it up by one corner with the left hand, he
poured over the centre of the glass some collodion, which is, as most
people know, gun-cotton dissolved in ether.  By a few movements of the
left hand, which appear easy, but are acquired with trouble, the
collodion was caused to flow into an even coat over the surface of the
glass, and the excess was poured off at another corner.  To do this by a
few left-handed movements without causing any ripple upon the collodion
adhering to the glass is really very difficult.  This done, the plate
was left till the ether had almost evaporated, and deposited a film of
gun-cotton--which is in fact a delicate paper--spread evenly over the
surface of the glass.  The glass covered with this delicate paper,
before it was yet quite dry, was plunged carefully into a pan or bath,
containing a solution of nitrate of silver, about eight grains of it to
every hundred of distilled water.  In about two minutes it was taken
out, and ready for the camera.  It was a sheet of glass covered with a
fine film of cotton-paper impregnated with nitrate of silver, a
colourless salt blackened by light.
   It was removed in a dark frame to the camera.  Then an assistant,
opening a book, assumed an attitude and sat for his picture.  In a few
seconds it was taken in the usual way, and the glass carried again into
the operator's room.  There it was dipped into another bath--a bath of
pyrogallic acid--and the impression soon became apparent.  To bring it
out with greater force it was then dipped into a second and much weaker
bath of nitrate of silver.  The image was then made perfect; but, as the
light parts were all depicted by the blackest shades, and the black
parts were left white, the courteous assistant was there represented as
a negro.
   That negro stage was not of course the finished portrait, it was "the
negative"--or stereotype plate, as it were--from which, after it had
been fixed with a solution of the sulphate of the peroxyde of iron, any
number of impressions could be taken.  For it is obvious that if a plate
like this be placed on sensitive paper, and exposed to daylight, the
whole process will be reversed.  The black face will obstruct the
passage of the light and leave a white face underneath, the white hair
will allow the light to pass, making black hair below, and so on.
Impressions thus taken on paper, and afterwards fixed, may either serve
for portraits, as they are, or, like the silver plates, they may be
   The paper processes, of which we say so little, are in fact
practically the most important branches of the art of the photographer.
For it is not only--or indeed chiefly--by the reproduction of our own
features that we bring photography into the service of our race.  One
application of the art has produced an apparatus which enables many
natural phenomena to register themselves.  Mr. Brooke's little cylinder
of photographic paper, revolving in measured time under a pencil of
light thrown from a small mirror attached to a moving magnet or an
anemometer, tells for itself the tale of every twelve hours' work, and
has already superseded the hard night-work that was necessary formerly
at the Greenwich, and at other great observatories.  Photography already
has been found available by the astronomer; the moon has sat for a
full-face picture, and there is hope that in a short time photographic
paper will become a common auxiliary to the telescope.  History will be
indebted to photography for facsimiles of documents and volumes that
have perished; travellers may bring home incontestible transcripts of
inscriptions upon monuments, or foreign scenery.  The artist will no
longer be delayed in travelling to execute his sketches on the spot.  He
can now wander at his ease, and bring home photographic views, from
which to work, as sculptors from the model. Photography is a young art,
but from its present aspect we can judge what power it will have in its
maturity.  The mind may readily become bewildered among expectations,
but one thing will suggest many.  We understand that a catalogue of the
national library of Paris has been commenced, in which each work is
designated by a photographic miniature of its title-page.

Posted for your enjoyment.     Gary W. Ewer     

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