2 de Março
THE LITERARY GAZETTE AND JOURNAL OF BELLES LETTRES, ARTS, SCIENCES
London, Saturday, MARCH 2, 1839
pag. 137, 138, 139
The new art.
the growing inetrest attached to this subject (of which we have evicence in almost every foreign journal taking cognizance of the Fine Arts that reaches us) will, we are sure, render the following communicatios very acceptable to our readers, at home and abroad. the new light let in upon the Discovery by Mr. Bauer is so curious, that we have not ventured to use his permission in making a single alteration. The originality of the invention is, we think, settled; and we consider it to be equally clear that the two processes of MM. Neipce and Talbot are different than distinct. At all events, we are glad to be the medium for diffusing every information on the subject. – Ed. L.G.
February 26, 1839
Sir, - I perceive with much satisfaction in some in the latter numbers of your valuable publication the Literary Gazette, the greatmattention you bestow upon what you call the new discovery in the fine arts; and I hope the few facts regarding this interesting subject, which I am communicating to you herewith, will attrac your attention still further. In the month of September, 1827, a french gentleman (M. Niéphore Niepce, of Chalons-sur-Saône), arrived at Kew, on a visit to a brother of his, who had been a long time in England, and them resided at Kew, and was dangerously ill. I soon become acquainted with M. Niepce; he informed me then that he had made the important and interesting didcovery of fixing permanently the image of any object by the spontaneous action of light. He exibeted to me several very interesting specimens, as well of images fixed upon polished pewter plates, as of impressions on paper, made from such plates after they had been prepared by his chemical process.
These specimens M. Niepce calls les premiers résultats de mes longue recherches. M. Niepce was very dessitous that this, his interesting and important discovery, might be notice by the Royal Society of London, and thus to establish the priority of his discovery. I, therefore, advised him to draw up a paper, or memoir, on the subject, which might then be presented to the Society. He did so; wrote and dated it at Kew, the 8th of December, 1827; and of that interesting memoir I have the pleasure of enclosing herewith a translation.
m. Niepce was soon introduced to somr of the most efficient members of the Royal Society to whom he presented his memoir and several very interesting specimens – the products of his discovery; but though he had several interviews with those gentlemen who had that memoir several weeks under consideration, because M. Niepce declined explaining the secret then, the Memoir and all the specimens were returned to him, and the subject was never laid before the Society. M. Niepce was obliged, by pressing family concerns, to return to France in the early part of February 1828; and about a fortnight after his departure, his brother died at Kiew: that event naturally caused a great interruption in M. Niepce’s scientific pursuits, but we continued a friendly correspondance for some time, but a latter dated 9th January, 1829, was his last letter I received. In that, as in all his preceding letters, he alludes always to his successful recherches, and expresses a confident hope that during the approaching summer season, hewill be enabled to complete his discovery, and promised to communicate to me faithfully and immediately the final result of his long researches, etc.; but from that day, viz,the 9th of January, 1829, I did not see nor hear any thing from M. Niepce nor of his Héliographic till the 12th January, 1839, when, in the Literary gazette, my attention was attracted to a paragraph taken from the Gazette de france, dated Paris, 6th of January, 1839, and signed, “H. Gaucheraud”, in which I found, to my very great surprise, that M. daguerre, of justly merited Diorama celebrity, not only claims the merit of first discovery of that interesting and important art, but even to stamp it with his own name. I well recollect that M. Daguerre was intimately acquainted with M. Niepce, but I never heard or understood that he ever took an active part in M. Niepce’s researches, more than constantly encouraging him to persevere in his pursuits; and I also know that M. Daguerre was zealously occupied in pursuing some researches, and making experiments, I which he also was successful, but his object was widely different from M. Niepce’s – it was that M. Daguerre now calls the decomposition of light and by which he produces that surprising and wonderful effect of his representations in the Diorama, and of which the newspapers are so full of most marvellous accounts (see “Morning Post”). But the discovery of the decomposition of light is a widely different thing from the discovery of permanently fixing images by the action of light; though of this later discovery a great deal is likewise said in the French papers (see the Gazette de France, Paris, January 6th, 1839), in which the first notice of the Daguerrotype is given, which is as follows: “ We have much pleasure in announcing an important discovery made by M. Dagnerre, the celebrated painter of the Diorama, &c.; and further, M. Daguerre has discovered a method to fix the images which are represented at the back of a camera obscure,” &c. And again, “ Messrs. Arago,Biot, and Von Humboldt, have ascertained the reality of this discovery, which excited their admiration ; and M. Arago will in a few days make it known to the Academy of Sciences,” &c. Towards the conclusion of the paragraph the author gives us the following important information :—“ M. Daguerre generously owns that the first idea of his process was given him fifteen years ago by M. Niepce, of Châlons-sur-Saône, but in so imperfect a state, that it has cost him long and persevering labour to attain the object.” Now I do not think M. Niepce could have given such a very imperfect idea fifteen years ago, as the specimens M. Niepce brought and exhibited in 1827 in England (and some of them are still in my possession) are quite as perfect as those productions of M. Daguerre described in the French newspapers of 1839. But, however, this is the first instance that M. Niepce’s name is mentioned. In a subsequent paper is a paragraph, dated “Paris, January 9,1839,” in which, after much eulogy, it is stated, “M. Arago made, on the 7th of this month, a verbal communication to the Academy of Sciences, on the fine discovery of M. Daguerre ; and the next paragraph is considering the great utility of the discovery to the public, and the extreme simplicity of the process, which is such that any person may practise it. M. Arago is of opinion that it would be impossible by means of a patent or otherwise to secure to the inventor the advantages which he ought to derive from it, and thinks that the best way would be for the government to purchase the secret and make it public; but the name of M. Niepce is not mentioned in that report, which is, I confess, quite unaccountable to me, for I have the honour of personally knowing the Baron von Humboldt and M. Arago, and more scientific and more honourable men I think cannot exist; and I think every impartial reader, when coupling the formal declaration of M. Niepce and the generous avowal of M. Daguerre, will agree with me that M. Niepce is the inventor of this interesting art; though during the long period of ten years since the interruption and total cessation of our correspondence in 1829, M. Daguerre may have made many improvements, and if M. Niepce really had ceded and legally transferred the secret to M. Daguerre, that, I think, certainly would entitle him to derive the advantages which might accrue from the sale of the secret, but the merit of the invention of the Heliograph would still belong to my esteemed friend, Niéphore Niepce.
Of Mr. Talbot’s Photogenic drawings I have not yet seen any thing; but what I can gather from the newspapers I find some very interesting experiments he states to have made during the last four or five years; but it appears to me that his process is also grounded upon the same principle as M. Niepce’s discovery; and if Mr. Talbot ever succeeds in fixing permanently the image from nature upon paper, he will certainly have the merit of having made the most important, because the most useful, application of that principle.
Before M. Niepce left England he presented to me several interesting specimens of his newly discovered art, one of which is the first successful experiment of fixing the image from nature; another plate prepared by what he calls a chemical process, for taking impressions from it like from copperplate etchings, and some impressions of the same plate, &c.
If you, sir, or any other scientific gentleman or artist to whom this subject might be interesting, should wish to see those specimens in my possession, and would take the trouble to call at my house, I shall be happy to shew them and give any explanation.
This communication, sir, is entirely at your service, and you may make what use of it you think proper ; but if you think it or part of it fit for publication, I must beg of you to have the kindness to correct my grammatical and orthographical errors, of which I fear you will find too many.
By acknowledging the receipt of this communication in your next publication, that I might know it has come to your hands, you will greatly oblige, sir, your humble servant,
Francis Bauer, F.R.S.
Eglantine Cottage, Kew Green,
Feb. 27, 1839.
P.S. Since the above was written, I received the melancholy intelligence from good authority that my worthy friend, M. Niepce, is no more ! — he died several years ago.
[Here follows the communication to the Royal Society, alluded to.]
(Designs and Engravings.)
Description of some results obtained spontenously by the action of light
The examples which I have the honour of presenting, are the first results of my long researches on the manner of fixing the image of objects by the action of light, and of reproducing the same by impressions, according to the known process of engraving.
I was occupied with these researches, when a circumstance of recent occurrence urged my departure for England, which prevented my continuing them and arriving at more satisfactory results. I beg, then, that these few first trials may be judged of not so much as they regard the arts, but as chiefly with respect to the presumed means employed for producing the effect itself, for it is on the efficiency of these means that a complete success depends. I will presume to claim, at the same time, in behalf of my work, that indulgence which is generally granted to a first adventurous step in a perfectly new field of discovery.
It will be found, undoubtedly, that my heliographic designs made on pewter plates and framed, are much too weak in tone. This defect arises principally from the light not contrasting sufficiently with the shades, owing to the metallic reflection. It would be easy to remedy this by giving more whiteness and more brightness to the parts representing the effects of light, and receiving the impression of this fluid upon metal plated with silver, well polished mid burnished ; for then the contrast between the white aud black would be so much more marked, and the latter colour, by being rendered more intense by means of some chemical agent, would lose that brilliant reflection which is disagreeable to the sight, and produces even an effect of dimnees
My examples in engraving will show that much more remains to be done, both as regards the fineness of stroke and depth of cut, so that I was not decided on presenting them but with the view of establishing this important application of my process, and the possibility of improving it. The obstacles I have had to surmount arose less, indeed, from the nature of the process itself than from my want of proficiency in an art with which I was very little acquainted. It may be proper to observe, that it may be applied on copper as well as pewter. I have tried it several times on stone successfully, and I am led to believe that glass would be, perhaps, preferable. It is sufficient, after having operated, to blacken, slightly, the part engraved on, and place it on white paper, to obtain a strong impression. M. Daguerre, the painter of the Diorama at Paris, has advised me not to neglect this mode of application, which, indeed, would not have the advantage of multiplying the copies, but because he considers it eminently adapted for displaying the most delicate traits of nature.
Among the principal means of improving the discovery, those furnished by optics ought to hold the highest rank. I have, as yet, been deprived of these aids in one or two trials in taking points of view by means of the camera obscura, notwithstanding my efforts to supply their place by different contrivances. It is only, however, with an apparatus of this kind, carried to the greatest perfection of which it Is capable, that one can obtain a faithful image of nature and fix it properly.
I regret that I cannot explain myself on other improvements more closely connected with the principle of my discovery, and on this account more deserving of interest. I shall abstain, then, from speaking of them, being well convinced besides, that this explanation is not indispensably necessary for any one to form an opinion on the subject in question. I have proposed to myself an important problem for the arts of design and engraving. If I have not been able to collect the data necessary for its complete and entire solution, I have, at least, pointed out those means, which, in the actual state of my researches, can, most efficaciously, contribute thereto, although they may be only secondary. It will be at once admitted that the difficulty having been overcome, appears to me to afford a happy omen for future successful results, which I have reason to look forward to when those means of execution are in my power which I have not hitherto possessed.
I will not advert to the advantages which my discovery offers from the various applications of which it is susceptible. I will content myself with characterising it as an object of very powerful attraction, from its novelty, in order to recommend it eventually to the attraction of the curious. I deem it fitting to declare formally that I am the author of this discovery; that I have not confided the secret of it to any one; and that this is the first time I have given it publicity. I congratulate myself for making it known in a country as justly celebrated for its taste in the cultivation of the arts, as for its reception and protection which it affords to talent.
(Signed) M. Niepce
Rue de l’Oratoire, Departement de Saône et Loire.
Kew, 8th December, 1827.
(From the French original.)
Since the foregoing was in the hands of our printer, we have received La Quotidienne, Paris journal, of the 20th ultimo, which breaks silence respecting M. Niepce, and is somewhat more explicit than the preceding mysterious announcements respecting M. Daguerre’s experiments and claims. Palmam qui meruit feral, is all we have to urge; and with this view we extract the following passages. After observing that Mr. Talbot did not commence his inquiries respecting it until the spring of 1834, and after adverting to the unsuccessful experiments of Sir Humphry Davy and Mr. Wedgwood, recorded in the Journal of the Royal Institution for 1802, the writer thus proceeds:
“In France, at the same time, Charles, of the Academy of Sciences, produced some silhouettes, or chlorure of siver, in his public lectures, and threw out the first idea of a great discovery. Did Charles precede or follow Wedgwood ? That is a question of priority which is undecided, but which M. Arago has undertaken to answer hereafter. A more certain priority, because it rests on dates positively known, is that of M. Niepce to Mr. Talbot. It was in 1814 that M. Niepce, of Châlons-sur-Saône, of whom M. Daguerre is the successor, took up Charles’s idea. By the assistance of new preparations, he succeeded, some years afterwards, in producing images which resisted all external agents. The artistical world still recollects a superb head of Christ which was exhibited, in 1826, in the workshop of M. Chevalier, an optician (with whom M. Niepce was intimately connected), which had been obtained at the focus of a camera obscura. On the 14th of December, 1829, MM. Niepce and Daguerre entered into partnership, by a registered deed, for the purpose of pursuing the details of an invention to which they had both contributed; and drawings attest the gradual advance of their constant efforts. The priority on their part cannot, therefore, be placed in doubt. But what can be more extraordinary than this coincidence of labour, directed towards the same end, by different means ! Nothing can, in fact, be more distinct than the nature of the preparation employed in France and in England, although Mr. Talbot does not explain his secret very clearly ;* ([ii]) talking first of nitrate of silver, then of chlorure of the same metal, and finally of a substance much more susceptible, which he calls “sensitive paper.” It is certain — and it is M. Arago, who knows the French process, that states it—that M. Daguerre operates in a different manner. • • •
We repeat, that the nature of the preparation appears to be essentially distinct in the two processes. Mr. Talbot, whose revelations are much fuller than those of our countryman, tells us that the sensitive paper which he now uses is visibly affected in half a second. M. Daguerre is less expeditious ; the substance which he employs requires eight or ten minutes of luminous action. Nevertheless, nothing could, in our opinion, be more rash, than thence to conclude that the English method is preferable. No such decision can be formed without a comparison of the results on both sides. We, who have seen M. Daguerre’s, doubt if it be possible to attain to a higher degree of perfection in London.”