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

Three items today; a correction, an advertisement and a technical article... In my post of October 22, ("The Daguerreotype has been introduced into the Sandwich Islands..."--Daily Republican) I accidently omitted the year of the publication. The notice was from the October 22, 1845 issue. On this day (October 25) in the year 1852, the following appeared in the "Boston Daily Evening Transcript": - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - CITY AMUSEMENTS...BUSINESS...NOTICES MONDAY EVENING, OCTOBER 25, 1852 Southworth & Hawes' Daguerreotype Fair and Exhibition of their Grand Parlor and Gallery Stereoscope, 5 1/2 Tremont Row. -------------------------------------------------- MR. WHIPPLE, with his usual success, has obtained decidedly the best likeness of the Democratic nominee, Gen. Pierce, that has yet been made. So say his friends. The Yankee Blade thus justly remarks of Mr. W.'s skill in his favorite art: The daguerreotypes taken by J. A. Whipple, 96 Washington street, can be recognized at a glance as possessing all those traits which stamp them as the production of a genius of no "common mould." There is an exquisite taste displayed in the pictures, a knowledge of artistic effect, a depth of tone, a softness and beauty of finish, which makes his portraits and groups unrivalled. More beautiful specimens of the art are no where to be found. We would say to all our readers, if you want a life portrait and exquisite picture, visit the gallery of Mr. Whipple. - - - - - - - more.. The following article appeared In the October 1840 issue of "The American Journal of Science and Arts" (New Haven, Vol. XXXIX.): 9. Method of permanently fixing, Engraving, and Printing from Daguerreotype Pictures: by Dr. Berres, of Vienna. The method of permanently fixing the Daguerreotype picture with a transparent metal coating, consists in the following process:-- I take the pictures produced in the usual manner, by the Daguerreotype process, hold them for some minutes over a moderately-warmed nitric acid vapor, or steam, and then lay them in nitric acid of 13 degrees to 14 degrees Reaumur, in which a considerable quantity of copper or silver, or both together, has been previously dissolved. Shortly after being placed therein, a precipitate of metal is formed, and can now be changed to what degree of intensity I desire. I then take the heliographic picture coated with metal, place it in water, clean it, dry it, polish it with chalk or magnesia, and a dry cloth or soft leather. After this process, the coating will become clean, clear and transparent,(1) so that the picture can again be easily seen. The greatest care and attention are required in preparing the Daguerreotype impression intended to be printed from. The picture must be carefully freed from iodine, and prepared upon a plate of the most chemically pure silver. That the production of this picture should be certain of succeeding, according to the experiments of M. Kratochwila, it is necessary to unite a silver with a copper plate; while upon other occasions, without being able to explain the reason, deep etchings or impressions are produced, without the assistance of the copper plate, upon pure silver plate. The plate will now, upon the spot where the acid ought not to have dropped, be varnished;(2) then held for one or two minutes over a weak warm vapor or steam, of 25 degrees to 30 degrees (Reaumur) of nitric acid, and then a solution of gum arabic, of the consistence of honey, must be poured over it, and it must be placed in a horizontal position, with the impression uppermost, for some minutes. Then place the plate, by means of a kind of double pincette, (whose ends are protected by a coating of asphalt or hard wood,) in nitric acid, at 12 degrees or 13 degrees (Reaumur.) Let the coating of gum slowly melt off or disappear, and commence now to add, though carefully and gradually, and at a distance from the picture, a solution of nitric acid, of from 25 degrees to 30 degrees, for the purpose of deepening or increasing the etching power of the solution. After the acid has arrived at 16 degrees to 17 degrees (Reaumur,) and gives off a peculiarly biting vapor, which powerfully affects the sense of smelling, the metal becomes softened, and then generally the process of changing the shadow upon the plate into a deep engraving or etching. This is the decisive moment, and upon it must be bestowed the greatest attention. The best method of proving if the acid be strong enough, is to apply a drop of the acid in which the plate now lies, to another plate: if the acid make no impression, it is, of course, necessary to continue adding nitric acid; if, however, it corrode too deeply, then it is necessary to continue adding nitric acid; if, however, it corrode too deeply, then it is necessary to add water, the acid being too strong. The greatest attention must be bestowed upon this process. If the acid has been too potent, a fermentation or white froth will cover the whole picture, and thus not alone the surface of the picture, but also the whole surface of the plate, will quickly be corroded. When, by a proper strength of the etching powers of the acid, a soft and expressive outline of the picture shall be produced, then may we hope to finish the undertaking favorably. We have now only to guard against an ill-measured division of the acid, and the avoidance of a precipitate. To attain this end, I frequently lift the plate out of the fluid, taking care that the etching power shall be directed to whatever part of the plate it may have worked the least, and a seek to avoid the bubbles and precipitate, by a gentle movement of the acid. In this manner, the process can be continued to the proper points of strength and clearness of etching required upon the plates from which it is proposed to print. I believe that a man of talent, who might be interested with this art of etching, and who had acquired a certain degree of dexterity in preparing for it, would very soon arrive at the greatest clearness and perfection; and, from my experience, I consider that he would soon be able to simplify the whole process. I have tried very often to omit the steaming and the gum arabic, but the result was not satisfactory, or the picture very soon after was entirely destroyed, so that I was compelled again to have recourse to them. The task which I have undertaken is now fully performed, by placing in the hands of the public my method of etching and printing from the Daguerreotype plates, which information, being united to the knowledge and mechanical experience we already possess, and published to the world, may open a road to extensive improvement in the arts and sciences. By thus laying open my statement to the scientific world, I hope to prove my devotion to the arts and sciences, which can end only with my life.--Atheneum, (London) May 23 __________________________________ (1) We do not well see how a film of metallic silver, however thin, can be transparent. (2) This and some other passages, are a little obscure. ----------------------------------------------------------------- 10-25-96

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