The Daguerreian Society


From The Diary of Philip Hone, 1828-1851
Edited by Bayard Tuckerman (New York: Dodd, Mead and Company, 1889) pp. 391-392.



(1839) December 4.—I went this morning, by invitation of Monsieur François Gouraud, to see a collection of the views made by the wonderful process lately discovered in France by Monsieur Daguerre, which is called by his name. Mr. Gouraud is the pupil and friend of the inventor, and comes to this country to make known the process. The pictures he has are extremely beautiful,—they consist of views in Paris, and exquisite collections of the objects of still life. The manner of producing them constitutes one of the wonders of modern times, and, like other miracles, one may almost be excused for disbelieving it without seeing the very process by which it is created. It appears to me a confusion of the very elements of nature. It is nothing less than the palpable effect of light occasioning in a reproduction of sensible objects. The reflection of surrounding images created by a camera, obscured upon a plate of copper, plated with silver, and prepared with some chemical substances, is not only distinctly delineated, but left upon the plate so prepared, and there remains forever. Every object, however minute, is a perfect transcript of the thing itself; the hair of the human head, the gravel on the roadside, the texture of a silk curtain, or the shadow of the smaller leaf reflected upon the wall, are all imprinted as carefully as nature or art has created them in the objects transferred; and those things which are invisible to the naked eye are rendered apparent by the help of a magnifying glass. It appears to me not less wonderful that light should be made an active operating power in this manner, and that some such effect should be produced by sound; and who knows whether, in this age of invention and discoveries, we may not be called upon to marvel at the exhibition of a tree, a horse, or a ship produced by the human voice muttering over a metal plate, prepared in the same or some other manner, the words "tree," "horse," and "ship." How greatly ashamed of their ignorance the by-gone generations of mankind ought to be!

(End of text. Please refer to our textnote regarding this text.)

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