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Henry Fox Talbot
Articles of China
[The Pencil of Nature, Part 1, pl. 3]
Hans P. Kraus, Jr., Inc.
Taken from the reproductions in Larry J. Schaaf, H. Fox Talbot's The Pencil of Nature; Anniversary Facsimile (New York: Hans P. Kraus, Jr. Inc., 1989). The originals selected for this publication were the best single examples available for each plate. Not to be reproduced without permission of H.P. Kraus, Jr.
From the specimen here given it is sufficiently manifest, that the whole cabinet of a Virtuoso and collector of old China might be depicted on paper in little more time than it would take him to make a written inventory describing it in the usual way. The more strange and fantastic the forms of his old teapots, the more advantage in having their pictures given instead of their descriptions.
And should a thief afterwards purloin the treasures if the mute testimony of the picture were to be produced against him in court it would certainly be evidence of a novel kind; but what the judge and jury might say to it, is a matter which I leave to the speculation of those who possess legal acumen.
The articles represented on this plate are numerous: but, however numerous the objects however complicated the arrangement the Camera depicts them all at once. It may be said to make a picture of whatever it sees. The object glass is the eye of the instrument the sensitive paper may be compared to the retina. And, the eye should not have too large a pupil: that is to say, the glass should be diminished by placing a screen or diaphragm before it, having a small circular hole, through which alone the rays of light may pass. When the eye of the instrument is made to look at the objects through this contracted aperture, the resulting image is much more sharp and correct. But it takes a longer time to impress itself upon the paper, because, in proportion as the aperture is contracted, fewer rays enter the instrument from the surrounding objects, and consequently fewer fall upon each part of the paper.
H. Fox Talbot, The Pencil of Nature, (London: Longman, Brown, Green and Longmans, 1844)
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The Pencil of Nature. By Henry Fox Talbot, F.R.S. Parts I. and II. Longman & Co,
The ' Pencil of Nature' is the first attempt at photographic publication. Daguerreotype plates have been etched, but as yet no etching process has been entirely successful with them. Skilful artists, indeed, have engraved them, and from these engraved plates prints have been taken and sold as Daguerreotypes; but until Mr. Fox Talbot made this experiment, no productions, which have been entirely the result of solar influence, have passed through the publishers to the public. The experiment of photographically illustrated books is now before the world; and all who see Mr. Talbot's publication will be convinced that the promise of the art is great, and its utility and excellence, in many respects, of a high order. Whilst the French have attended only to the Daguerreotype process, and stuck to the silver plates, the English, following in the footsteps of Mr. Talbot, have diligently sought after processes of equal sensibility on paper; and their zeal in the inquiry has been well rewarded : we now possess several preparations capable of receiving images with equal rapidity with the Daguerreotype; and for the cumbrous metal, we substitute the more convenient material, paper.
This process possesses the great advantages of giving us after we have procured and well fixed a good original any number of pictures of equal excellence and of unvarying fidelity, which is impossible with the Daguerreotype.
The Eclectic Magazine of Foreign Literature, Science, and Art, Volume 4, April, 1845, p.572
Larry J. Schaaf, H. Fox Talbot's The Pencil of Nature; Anniversary Facsimile (New York: Hans P. Kraus, Jr. Inc., 1989).