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

On this day (March 23) in the year 1839, the following text appeared in "The New-Yorker" Vol. 7, No. 1 (23 March 1839) pg. 8. The author of this article could only speculate regarding the then-secret process. - - - - - - - - - - - IMPORTANT DISCOVERY.--Few persons of any observation have failed to remark the wonderful rapidity with which one invention follows another, in the present day. Scarcely a month passes in which we are not struck with surprise at some astonishing discovery in art or science. Twenty years past have done more than the hundred years that went before; the last five years more than the preceding twenty--and who can tell what the next fifty years may develope? We were led to these brief thoughts by noting the following in one of the newspapers of the day: "M. Daguerre, at Paris, has effected all that painting or printing can achieve, by means of a camera obscura, passing a light upon a metallic surface, covered with a black composition. 'It is upon this black surface that the solar rays draw in white, more or less pure, all the objects upon which the object-glass (lentille) is directed. The shades from white to black are given by the combinations of light and shadow. The drawing finished, and it is done in a few minutes, a slight preserving varnish is passed over it, and the image remains inattackable by the action of the air or of light. The intensity of the light is of great importance in the apparatus of M. Daguerre, for M. Biott assures us that the same objects, drawn at eight o'clock, at noon, and four o'clock, present such differences, that it may be judged at what time of the day the operation took place.' M. Arago, the celebrated astronomer, also speaks in the highest terms of it: 'The operation of M. Daguerre a good deal resembles engraving after the black manner.' The colors are not reproduced, says M. Arago; objects are only represented by the combinations of light and of shade; but the precision is beyond any thing that can be expressed. It is so correct that the design may be examined with a microscope, and the details lose nothing of their astonishing neatness. With regard to the exactness of the proportions, it is mathematical. This instrument has decided the important fact that the moon's rays have action on the surface of the earth by their light and heat. They produced, when concentrated, a large white spot on the black surface. -------------------------------------------------------------- 03-23-98

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