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

For today's DagNews, I have three items, the second item being quite a bit longer than my typical posts, but I consider it of special interest because of the early date. ---------------------------------------------------------------------- On this day, May 25, in the year 1848, the following advertisements appeared in the "Independent Democrat & Freeman" of Concord, N.H.(Vol. IV, No. 4): ---------------------------------------- Kimball's Daguerreotypes, Are universally admitted to be superior to any put up in this region, and equal to any in the world. Mr. K. Would call the particular attention of Artists, Amateurs, and indeed all, to the peculiar excellencies of his pictures--the superior rotundity of features, and general relief of the whole figure--the depth, purity, and brilliancy of tone--the transparency of shading, always blending into the lights with a softness not excelled in any department of art, or even nature itself; while the lights are so managed as never to be overdone--the slightest lines and most delicate shades being preserved, and yet kept perfectly pure. From a rapid and steady increase of patronage, he feels assured that these excellencies are generally appreciated, and in order to meet the demands of the community more efficiently, he will be assisted in future by his brother, having disposed of his rooms in Manchester, with the determination to spend his undivided efforts in meeting the wants of his friends and patrons in Concord. Pictures put up in every desired style and form, and copying of all kinds satisfactorily executed, Invalids will be waited upon at their residences, if desired. To Operators. The subscriber would say this he is prepared to furnish them an article of Sensitive Coating, superior to anything of the kind to be had in New England; also, Chloride of Gold and gilding ready for use. Instruction given in the art, including a complete knowledge of the preparation of every chemical preparation used, the latter of which will be a saving to any operator, in six months, of more than the whole expense of acquiring the art. Rooms, 142 Main Street, first door South of Eagle Coffee House, Concord, March 9, 1848 WM. H. KIMBALL ---------------------------------------- GREAT IMPROVEMENT IN DAGUERREOTYPING!! JOHN A. WHIPPLE, 96 WASHINGTON STREET, Boston. Has added to his expensive establishment a MINIATURE STEAM ENGINE, for executing the mechanical parts--the first any only application of Steam Power to this art. This power gives a more perfect, exquisite and sensitive polish to his plates, especially large plates for Groups and Family Pictures, and enables him to make GREAT IMPROVEMENT on pictures which have been pronounced very perfect. He received one of the highest premiums for the art at the late Mechanics' Fair. The best judges say his Family and other Groups wholly excel anything of the kind in the Daguerreotype Art. But he very much prefers to have his pictures speak for him, and therefore respectfully invites the public to call, examine and judge for themselves. Among the Groups, Family and single specimens in his extensive Gallery, may be seen Rev. S. Bliss and Family. Hon. Wm. Jackson and Family, of 16--Gov. Briggs and Council, seated as in their Chamber and the four Hon. Judges of the Mass. Supreme Court as in their seat--with many other distinguished personages. Likenesses of Children taken best with clear sky.--Adults in any weather. Prices reasonable. Perfect satisfaction warranted. Secure the Shadow while the substance is in Life. ----------------------------------------------------------------------- The following article appeared under the header of "French Literature" in the May 25, 1839 issue of THE NEW-YORK MIRROR, A WEEKLY JOURNAL, DEVOTED TO LITERATURE AND THE FINE ARTS. (VOLUME XVI, NUMBER 48) ------------------------------------------------------------- Translated for the New-York Mirror. ------------------- THE DAGUERROTYPE. We have thus far said but little on the subject of the new and striking discovery of M. Daguerre, which is supposed by many to be the beginning of a total revolution in the arts of drawing and engraving. We do not share in these extravagant anticipations, not, on the other hand, have we any private reasons or peculiar information to induce us to undervalue what almost every one is loud in praise of. All we know is, that common sense tells us we must wait some time longer, and see and know much more about this new discovery than we do at present, before we can indulge in any reasonable or well-founded enthusiasm on the subject. While waiting for time to furnish us these developments, we may remark that it is somewhat curious to note how may competitors for the honour of the invention start up all around us. No sooner is M. Daguerre's theory hinted at, than a rival candidate for fame presents himself in the person of Mr. Talbot, and English F.R.S., who we no learn, has been long engaged in the same experiments as the French philosopher, and arrived at similar results. The next, we hear, is from Berne, in Switzerland, which boldly brings forward its claims alongside of London and Paris. A letter from that place, published in one of the Paris journals, assures us "that the art of producing images of objects with the aid of the camera obscura; that he has found a way of representing the effect of light and shade; finally, that he was acquainted with a process founded on the same principle by the help of which, any desired number of copies might be taken of any experiment. The professor intended making some further experiments, but has not succeeded in finding such a room as he wished. From the other side of the channel comes the voice of Mr. Talbot, also claiming the honour of the discovery. Like Professor Gerber, he uses paper instead of M. Daguerre's copper plates; but he obtains exactly opposite effects, that is, lights where M. Daguerre has shades, and vice versa. But he does not pretend , as M. Gerber does, that he can multiply the impressions of any such copy. We are to observe that Dr. Gerber seems thus far hardly to have reached his journey's end, since he has not arranged such an apartments as he wishes. Messrs. Biot and Arago, of the French academy, with a natural desire to indicate the fame of their countryman, have taken pains in their report on this subject to state distinctly and of their own knowledge, that M. Daguerre had been employed on this matter for may years before he published his discovery. M. Arago informs us that as early as 1805, a M. Nieps, of Chalons, had invented an apparatus which imperfect as it was, gave M. Daguerre the first hint of his discovery. There is besides an agreement made in 1829, between M. Nieps and M. Daguerre, which proves that the two had at that early day, associated themselves in pursuit of the great discovery that M. Daguerre has been so fortunate as to make. M. Nieps obtained drawing in this way, but he required twelve hours for each one; and every one knows, that in that time, the sun changes its place completely, so that the shadow indicated on the right of the picture at the beginning of the operation, would be on the left before its close. When this report was presented, M. Arago begged leave to state, that he was acquainted with M. Daguerre's secret, and that his process was as simple as he represented it to be. He added, that in ten minutes he had himself obtained a perfect view of the Boulevard de Temple. M. Arago and M. Daguerre have not yet thought proper to enlighten the publick as to this simple and most precious secret, but Mr. Talbot has given us a full account of the process invented by him. It may be found in the March number of the Philosophical Journal, in a communication made by Mr. Talbot to the Royal Society, at some length and with great minuteness, to which, as chancery pleaders say, for greater certainty, we be leave to refer our scientifick readers. It is also more briefly stated in a letter from M. Talbot to M. Biot, read at a late sitting of the French Academy. From this we learn, to quote the philosopher's own words, that "to make what we may call ordinary photogenick paper, I choose in the first place a firm paper of good quality, I dip it in a weak solution of common salt, and dry it with a linen cloth, so as to distribute the salt as equally as possible over the surface; I then spread over one side of the paper a solution of nitrate of silver, mixed with a large quantity of water. I dry it by the fire, and it is ready for use. When this experiment is repeated often, it will be found that there is a certain proportion between the quantities of salt and the solution of silver, which is better to preserve. If the quantity of salt is increased beyond this point, the effect diminishes, and in some cases vanishes almost entirely. This paper, if well prepared, may serve for a great variety of ordinary uses in obtaining images; nothing, for instance, can be more perfect that the representations of leaves and flowers obtained by this means, under a warm sun; the light, penetrating the leaves, delineates every vein on them.: "Now, let us take a sheet of paper thus prepared, and spread over it a solution saturated with seasalt, and dry it before the fire, and we will usually find the sensibility of the paper very much diminished by it, sometimes reduced to almost nothing, especially if it has been kept for some weeks before making this experiment; but if the solution of silver is applied again, the paper becomes a second time sensible to the light, and even more so that it was at first. In this way, I succeed in rendering it sufficiently sensitive to fix with considerable rapidity the images presented by a camera obscura. There is, however, one thing to be attended to here. As by this means we obtain results sometimes more, and sometimes less satisfactory, owing to slight accidental variation, we shall find, if we repeat the experiment often, that at times the chlorure of silver obtained in this way is apt to grow gradually black without being exposed to the light. Therefore, after preparing a certain number of sheets of paper, each with different chemical preparations, I take a bit of each, numbered, and expose these bits to a feeble diffuse light, for a quarter or half and hour. If I find among these pieces one that shows a decided superiority over the others, I choose that paper it belongs to, and never fail to make use of it as soon as possible after preparing it." "It now remains to state what means I use to fix the images thus obtained. After several unsuccessful attempts, the first thing that I found to answer, was to wash the drawing with iodure of potass, mixed with a large quantity of water. An iodure of silver is thus formed, on which the sun has no action whatever. This process, however, requires care, for if we use too strong a solution, it will carry of the dark parts of the picture; but a moderately weak solution answers the purpose very well. By this means, I have preserved drawings perfectly for five years, though often exposed to the sun. But a simpler mode, and one I have used very often myself, is to dip the drawings in a strong solution of common sea-salt, wipe them lightly, and let them dry. The more brilliant the sun at the time of taking the drawing, the more efficacious will this method be; for then the dark parts will suffer no injury from the sun. The light, when exposed to the sun, sometimes take a bright lilack colour, and then disappear. By repeated times take a bright lilack colour, an then disappear. By repeated experiments, I have ascertained that this lilack colour is not uniform, and that when certain proportions are used, it does not appear, and the lights are perfectly white." "Sir John Herschell has lately suggested to me a beautiful invention of his for the preservation of photogenick pictures, I do not feel at liberty to mention it, but can state, that its success is complete." After Mr. Talbot's paper was read, M. Dumas made some remarks on the theory of all these operations. It was clear, he said, that chlorure of silver was produced here, as in M. Daguerre's first experiments, which would turn completely black, if it was not dissolved; and that common salt, or chlorure of sodium, as well as iodure of potassium, readily dissolved the chlorure of silver when recently formed, by the reaction of a former portion of chlorure on the nitrate of silver, but had no effect on it after it had turned black, while an excess of salt formed with it a compound much less while an excess of salt formed with it a compound much less affected by light. Sir John Herschell's method he suggested, must be the use of the hyposulphite of potash or of soda, which, as was remarked in some of Sir John's early writings, have the quality of dissolving very readily the chlorure of silver, when not yet acted on. We will not bore our readers with any more chemistry, but barely add, that as all stories grow larger from day to day, so is it with this matter of the Daguerrotype. The latest improvement is that of M. Colas, but which this same principle is applied to statuary, and that in such perfection, that in the copies, you can distinguish a statue from a bas- relief, and see even the stain produced by age on the marble. We suppose the next advance will be to give us in landscapes, not only the foliage of the trees, but the songs of all the birds that may happen to be perched on their branches; and in portrait, to furnish us, besides an accurate copy of the subjects' face, with a short sketch of his life, and the number of his residence. We have heard of so many such brilliant discoveries, in our day, that promised to revolutionize art and science, and after being talked of and admired awhile, vanished into nothing, that we are a little sceptical as to all these magnificeient results, resting as they do, on hearsay and newspaper reports. At the same time, it is evident that the process invented by M. Daguerre, may reasonably be expected to facilitate greatly the imitation of some objects, and to furnish us with many pretty effects that are beyond the reach of the pencil and graver. (Original spelling of the above text has been retained. - G.E.) ----------------------------------------------------------------- 05-25-95

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