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

On this day (June 1) the following article appeared in "The American Journal of Photography" (Philadelphia) Vol. 9, No. 12 (1 June 1867) pp. 268-270. The author of this text is P. H. Van der Weyde, who also authored an article on the daguerreotype in the February 1869 issue of "The Manufacturer and Builder." (posted to DagNews on 2-10-98.) - - - - - - - Colored Daguerreotypes by the reversed action of light. _______ BY P. H. VAN DER WEYDE, M. D. _______ TWENTY-EIGHT years ago, when photography possessed the fascinating charm of novelty, many amateurs took pictures, almost daily, simply for the pleasure of verifying the reality of the then newly published daguerreotype process, and to experiment about the different effects produced by different subjects and different circumstances. I resided at that time in Holland, and induced by a happy concourse of circumstances, had, during the whole preceeding year, gone through a series of private experiments on refraction, interference, and polarisation of light, solar microscope, etc., taking as a guide the 3rd and 4th volume of Biot's Traite de Physique. A camera obscura had been constructed with a non-achromatic meniscus lens, of which the curves after Biot's prescription for a camera lens, were as 3 to 5.* No wonder that being engaged in such a way I was soon one of the first amateur daguerreotypists of that part of the world, only out of love for the now beautiful art; among the objects I often took for exercise, and to try modifications in apparatus or chemicals, was an old Gothic Tower, about 300 feet high, built of gray sand-stone about the year 1460. The church being burned, the tower was quite isolated, and always projecting against the sky. In the rays of the setting sun that tower often assumed a beautiful finished gray tone of color, with which every one there was perfectly familiar. Once, in a view taken of this tower, the sky was solarized by over exposure, that means it showed the peculiar dull blue color obtained by the reversed action of the light on a daguerreotype plate, when it acts too strong by or for too long a time; the tower itself was perfect, and exhibited all its gothic ornaments in the minutest detail. When a few months afterward the fixing and toning solution of hypo-sulphate of gold and soda was discovered, I applied it to all the old daguerreotypes I had preserved, and it brought the tone of the tower out with that peculiar, beautiful finished gray appearance, so well known to daguerreotypists of the old photographic school, and always desired and attempted to reproduce. But this happened to be exactly the tone this building had naturally every sunny afternoon. The blue overspread sky behind it was of course little affected by the fixing solution, but remained blue, and the contrast was so striking, and the color so perfectly tone to nature, that the rumor got abroad that I had discovered photography in colors. I need not say that it was pure accident, and that I never succeeded afterward in producing so satisfactory a result; I also never wondered afterwards if sometimes daguerreotypists were deceived, and believed they were on the track of photography in colors. I communicate this to your journal as corroberating the particulars mentioned by Mr. Dancer at the Manchester Society, (see p. 221 above.) My picture being fixed was preserved and exists still at the locality where it was taken. * Is it not singular that only quite recently we have returned to these first principles, and that some most excellent lenses have been introduced for the use of photography, which are also non-achromatic meniscus lenses? -------------------------------------------------------------- 06-01-98

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