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Henry Fox Talbot
Leaf of a Plant
[The Pencil of Nature, Part 2, pl. 7]
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.
Hitherto we have presented to the reader the representations of distant objects, obtained by the use of a Camera Obscura. But the present plate represents an object of its natural size. And this is effected by quite a different and much simpler process, as follows.
A leaf of a plant, or any similar object which is thin and delicate, is laid flat upon a sheet of prepared paper which is moderately sensitive. It is then covered with a glass, which is pressed down tight upon it by means of screws.
This done, it is placed in the sunshine for a few minutes, until the exposed parts of the paper have turned dark brown or nearly black. It is then removed into a shady place, and when the leaf is taken up, it is found to have left its impression or picture on the paper. This image is of a pale brown tint if the leaf is semi-transparent, or it is quite white if the leaf is opaque.
The leaves of plants thus represented in white upon a dark background, make very pleasing pictures, and I shall probably introduce a few specimens of them in the sequel of this work: but the present plate shews one pictured in the contrary manner, viz. dark upon a white ground: or, speaking in the language of photography, it is a positive and not a negative image of it. The change is accomplished by simply repeating the first process. For, that process, as above described, gives a white image on a darkened sheet of paper: this sheet is then taken and washed with a fixing liquid to destroy the sensibility of the paper and fix the image on it.
This done, the paper is dried, and then it is laid upon a second sheet of sensitive paper, being pressed into close contact with it, and placed in the sunshine: this second process is evidently only a repetition of the first. When, finished, the second paper is found to have received an image of a contrary kind to the first; the ground being white, and the image upon it dark.
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).