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  The research archive of Gary W. Ewer regarding the history of the daguerreotype

In my studies of the literature of the daguerreotype, my interest has been piqued as to when and where the first mention of the daguerreotype appeared in an American newspaper. Today's post is, according to my current research, the earliest, and appears re-printed here (to my knowledge) for the first time. * * * * * * On this day (February 23) in the year 1839, the following item appeared on the front page of the "Boston Daily Advertiser): ------------------------------------------------------------ Remarkable Invention.--In the Journal des Debats we find the following: At a session of the Academy of Sciences, held the 8th of January, M. Arago gave an account of a curious invention lately made by M. Daguerre; for making drawings. The manner in which the camera obscura produces images of objects, by means of a lens, is well known. The new invention is a method of fixing the image permanently on the paper, or making a permanent drawing, by the agency of the light alone; ten or fifteen minutes being amply sufficient for taking any view, though the time varies with the intensity of the light. By this machine M. Daguerre has made accurate drawings of the gallery of the Louvre and of Notre Dame; any object indeed, or any natural appearance may be copied by it--it reproduces the freshness of morning--the brilliancy of noon--the dim twilight and the dullness of a rainy day. The colours are marked by a gradation of shades similar to aqualuita. M. Arago did not give all the details of the invention, but the general principle of it is thus described: One of the substances, discovered by modern chemistry, which changes its color on exposure to the light, is chloride of silver, and it is evident, therefore; that if one part of a sheet of paper, prepared with this substance, is exposed to the light, while the remainder is in the shade, a design will be produced, corresponding to the different intensities of the shades. To carry out this idea, M. Daguerre has labored many years, and has finally attained a result so simple, that any one could imitate it, and a patent, therefore, would be no protection to him. On this account he keeps his discovery secret. M. Arago announced his intention of applying to the ministry to purchase M. Daguerre's secret, and the demand will probably be acquiesced in, if the details of the invention prove as satisfactory as stated. M. Biot expressed his admiration of the invention, which he could only justly praise by comparing it to a kind of physical retina as sensible as the retina of the eye. ----------------------------------------------------------------- 02-23-96

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