The Daguerreian Society


The October 1839 issue of "The American Journal of Science and Arts" 
(New Haven; Vol. XXXVII, pages 374-375) included the following article 
under the "Miscellanies" header:
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  51. Solar Painting.--The barbarous term, Daguerrotype, invented to 
commemorate M. Daguerre, the discoverer of the improved method of 
copying figures by the sun's light, denotes the instrument by which this 
beautiful result is obtained.
   M. Arago has recently revealed the secret to the French Institute at 
Paris.  We omit his recapitulation of the rise and progress of discovery 
in regard to the effect of the sun's rays on colors, and also the more 
appropriate notice of the labors of M. Niepce, who preceded M. Daguerre 
in the research.
   The following is the account of the process of M. Daguerre:--A copper 
sheet, plated with silver, well cleaned with diluted nitric acid, is 
exposed to the vapor of iodine, to form the first coating, which is very 
thin, as it does not exceed the millionth part of a millimetre in 
thickness.  There are certain indispensable precautions necessary to 
render this coating uniform, the chief of which is the using of a rim of 
metal round the sheet.  The sheet thus prepared, is placed in the camera 
obscura, where it is allowed to remain from eight to ten minutes.  It is 
then taken out, but the most experienced eye can scarcely detect any 
trace of the drawing.  The sheet is now exposed to the vapor of mercury, 
and when it has been heated to a temperature of 60 degrees of Reaumur, 
or 167 Fahr., the drawings come forth as if by enchantment.  One 
singular and hitherto inexplicable fact in this process is, that the 
sheet, when exposed to the action of the vapor, must be inclined, for if 
it were placed in a direct position over the vapor the result would be 
less satisfactory.  The angle used is 48 degrees.  The last part of the 
process is to place the sheet in a solution of the hyposulphite of soda, 
and then to wash it in a large quantity of distilled water.  The 
description of the process appeared to excite great interest in the 
auditory, among whom were many distinguished persons connected with 
science and the fine arts.
   Unfortunately the locality was not adjusted suitably for the 
performance of M. Daguerre's experiments, but we understand that 
arrangements will be made for a public exhibition of them.  Three highly 
curious drawings obtained in this manner were exhibited; one of the Pont 
Marie; another of Mr. Daguerre's atelier; and a third of a room 
containing some rich carpeting, all the minutest threads of which were 
represented with the most mathematical accuracy, and with wonderful 
richness of effect.--London Globe of 23d August.
   We have to add, that a professional gentleman in New York informed us 
before the late arrival of the British Queen, (which brought the first 
printed account of M. Arago's disclosure,) that he was in possession of 
the secret, and in connection with an eminent chemist in New York had 
already obtained beautiful results, but is not able as yet fully to 
arrest them.
   The surface of the mercury should be as large as the plate.
   Practical difficulties are encountered in giving the mercury the 
proper temperature and in avoiding the corrosive vapors so distressing 
to the eyes; but we trust that these and all other difficulties will be 
overcome, and that we may have the pleasure of announcing the entire 
success of the ingenious experimenters.--Eds.

(Original spelling/grammatical errors maintained. -G.E.)
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Posted for your enjoyment.      Gary W. Ewer       
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oct1-95


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