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

The October 1839 issue of "The American Journal of Science and Arts" (New Haven; Vol. XXXVII, pages 374-375) included the following article under the "Miscellanies" header: --------------------------------------------------------------------- 51. Solar Painting.--The barbarous term, Daguerrotype, invented to commemorate M. Daguerre, the discoverer of the improved method of copying figures by the sun's light, denotes the instrument by which this beautiful result is obtained. M. Arago has recently revealed the secret to the French Institute at Paris. We omit his recapitulation of the rise and progress of discovery in regard to the effect of the sun's rays on colors, and also the more appropriate notice of the labors of M. Niepce, who preceded M. Daguerre in the research. The following is the account of the process of M. Daguerre:--A copper sheet, plated with silver, well cleaned with diluted nitric acid, is exposed to the vapor of iodine, to form the first coating, which is very thin, as it does not exceed the millionth part of a millimetre in thickness. There are certain indispensable precautions necessary to render this coating uniform, the chief of which is the using of a rim of metal round the sheet. The sheet thus prepared, is placed in the camera obscura, where it is allowed to remain from eight to ten minutes. It is then taken out, but the most experienced eye can scarcely detect any trace of the drawing. The sheet is now exposed to the vapor of mercury, and when it has been heated to a temperature of 60 degrees of Reaumur, or 167 Fahr., the drawings come forth as if by enchantment. One singular and hitherto inexplicable fact in this process is, that the sheet, when exposed to the action of the vapor, must be inclined, for if it were placed in a direct position over the vapor the result would be less satisfactory. The angle used is 48 degrees. The last part of the process is to place the sheet in a solution of the hyposulphite of soda, and then to wash it in a large quantity of distilled water. The description of the process appeared to excite great interest in the auditory, among whom were many distinguished persons connected with science and the fine arts. Unfortunately the locality was not adjusted suitably for the performance of M. Daguerre's experiments, but we understand that arrangements will be made for a public exhibition of them. Three highly curious drawings obtained in this manner were exhibited; one of the Pont Marie; another of Mr. Daguerre's atelier; and a third of a room containing some rich carpeting, all the minutest threads of which were represented with the most mathematical accuracy, and with wonderful richness of effect.--London Globe of 23d August. We have to add, that a professional gentleman in New York informed us before the late arrival of the British Queen, (which brought the first printed account of M. Arago's disclosure,) that he was in possession of the secret, and in connection with an eminent chemist in New York had already obtained beautiful results, but is not able as yet fully to arrest them. The surface of the mercury should be as large as the plate. Practical difficulties are encountered in giving the mercury the proper temperature and in avoiding the corrosive vapors so distressing to the eyes; but we trust that these and all other difficulties will be overcome, and that we may have the pleasure of announcing the entire success of the ingenious experimenters.--Eds. (Original spelling/grammatical errors maintained. -G.E.) ----------------------------------------------------------------- oct1-95

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