A State Pension for L. J. M. Daguerre

for the secret of his daguerreotype technique


R. Derek WOOD,

Received 7 December 1996

Published in the quarterly journal Annals of Science, September 1997 (Vol 54, No.5, pp. 489-506), this online version appears with the kind permission of Taylor & Francis Group London


L. J. M. Daguerre realised it was impossible to capitalize by subscription or to patent his daguerreotype technique. In January 1839 François Arago, both scientist and Republican politician, suggested that financial support for Daguerre should be sought from the state in return for his secret. The idea made no immediate headway because of governmental breakdown. Only after a new cabinet was established in May 1839 could any procedure be set in motion to obtain the agreement of Parliament. After discussing attitudes towards patents and pensions during the July monarchy, the article documents the way the Bill for a pension passed through parliament in June and July 1839. An annotated bibliography of the government Bill, and Arago’s Report to the Chambre des Députés, are provided, as well as on Arago’s Lecture of 19 August 1839 by which a description of Daguerre’s process was released to the world.


1. ‘Une juste récompense’............................... 489
2. Approaching the Government...................... 491
  2.1  Patents and Pensions............................ 491
  2.2 The first steps to acquire a pension  ..... 494
  2.3  Provisional Covenant of 14 June 1839. 495
  2.4  Passage of the Bill through Parliament.. 496
3. The daguerreotype secret revealed .............. 498
4.  Annotated Bibliography .............................. 502
  4.1  Government Bill and Arago‘s Report  .. 502
  4.2 Arago’s Lecture of 19 August 1839 ....... 504

1. ‘Une juste récompense’

In the summer of 1837, L. J. M. Daguerre (1786–1851) felt his work on the daguerreotype technique had advanced enough to make an agreement with Nicéphore Niepce’s son to sell the process the following year: if a single purchaser could not be found at 200,000 francs (£8000 Sterling), then at least one hundred persons would be sought to pay 1000 francs each.[1] This idea to sell the technique and apparatus to subscribers proved unfruitful, but a new suggestion came up when Daguerre met the influential François Arago (1786–1853)[2], physicist, astronomer, perpetual secretary of the Académie des Sciences, and republican politician, in the last days of 1838. Daguerre wrote to Isidore Niepce on 2 January 1839 about his discussion with Arago.

He sees difficulty with this proceeding by subscription; it is almost certain — just as I myself have been convinced ever since looking on my first specimens — that subscription would not serve. Everyone says it is superb: but it will cost us the thousand francs before we learn it [the process] and be able to judge if it could remain secret. M. de Mandelot himself knows several persons who could subscribe but will not do so because they thinkit [the secret]would be revealed by itself, and now I have proof that many think in this way. I entirely agree with the idea of M. Arago, that is get the government to purchase this discovery, and that he himself would pursue this in the chambre. I have already seen several deputies who are of the same opinion and would give support ; this way it seems to me to have the most chance of success; thus, my dear friend, I think it is the best option, and everything makes me think we will not regret it. For a start M. Arago will speak next Monday at the Académie des Sciences...[3]

Thus the principal announcement about L. J. M. Daguerre’s invention of the Daguerreotype was made by F. Arago to the Académie des Sciences in Paris on 7 January 1839. His concluding words were reported in the official Comptes–rendus de l’ Académie des Sciences as follows:[4]

M. Daguerre’s invention is the fruit of assiduous work over several years, during which he had as collaborator his friend the late M. Niepce of Châlons–sur–Saône. In wondering how he could be compensated for his trouble and expense, the distinguished painter quickly realised that a patent would not reach that goal: once disclosed his process would be available to everyone. It seemed, therefore, indispensable that the Government directly compensate M. Daguerre, and that France nobly endow the whole world with this discovery that could contribute so much to the progress of the arts and sciences. M. Arago announced that to further this aim he was addressing a request to the Ministry, or to the Chambres, as soon as M. Daguerre has initiated him into all the details of his method, and has proved that as well as providing the brilliant results seen, that the method has the merit to be economical, to be easy and capable of being used anywhere by travellers.

This intention to approach the French government to financially compensate Daguerre immediately became widely disseminated to the public through Paris newspapers such as Le Moniteur Universel. On 9 January that official gazette reported ‘Arago suggested that the minister acquire Daguerre’s process and to provide an equitable recompense’ – une juste récompense.[5]

2. Approaching the government

Yet these plans for the French government to purchase Daguerre’s secret did not make speedy headway, for the administration was in considerable political disarray. Parliament was dissolved at the end of January but although an election took place on 4 March 1839 it did not result in political stability. Even by the time the Chambre des Députés was due to open its first new session one month later it had still not been possible to form a definite cabinet of ministers. The political situation during the first months of 1839 can be characterised as one of ‘interminable ministerial crisis.’ It was a most common perception of the time, but this quoted phrase happens to have been specifically used by Comte Apponyi, the Austrian Ambassador long resident in Paris writing on 25 March 1839 about the uneasy situation, predicting ‘Si, cependant, la crise ministérielle devait se prolonger encore, il serait possible que, malgré tous ces efforts, nous ayons quelques petits massacres dans les rues’. When armed ‘Republican’ riots lead by members of the Société des Saisons began in the streets of Paris early on Sunday 12 May, resulting in many deaths, a common immediate response was to ‘attribute it in great measure to the want of a government ’ – and indeed on that very evening ministers were at last decisively appointed.[6] By 23 May Apponyi was writing of ‘horrible massacres’ which seem to have the greatest significance for him in the way they were able to add a frisson to ‘Tout ce monde, pimpant et parfumé ’, the diplomatic world of unabated dinners, balls and fetes of ‘Paris et les Parisiens resteront tourjours les mêmes, avides de plaisirs’, where a great dinner given by him on 30 May was attended by the new ministry.[7] In these circumstances of ministerial crisis it should not be surprising, even with the support of such an influential Deputy as Arago (a parliamentary Republican), that consideration of compensation for Niepce and Daguerre’s many years work remained so long in abeyance during the first months of 1839.

The exact date of Arago’s first approach to a Minister has not been established. The text of a letter addressed by Arago to the Minister of the Interior has survived, but without a date. C.–M. Tanneguy Duchâtel (1803–1867) had been put forward as the new minister of the Interior at the end of March and was established in the post on the evening of 12 May, so Arago’s letter may have been written towards the end of May. Arago delicately wished to know if the Minister had ‘l’intention de solliciter des Chambres une récompense nationale en favour de M. Daguerre’, in which case he offered assistance at all stages: otherwise, if the Minister did not think that the government should take the initiative, Arago himself would be prepared to place the proposition formally before the parliament as an individual deputy. [8]


2.1 Patents and Pensions

Patenting in France was founded by two laws of 1791. It was not a system that functioned well in France, and Arago was very discontented with the situation. When a new patent law went through the French parliament in 1844,[9] Arago tried to persuade his fellow Députés to adopt practices followed in England and America.[10] The railway age in which he lived inspired Arago to hold up James Watt as his greatest hero. But it would have been disastrous if Watt had been born in France. For in France, Arago realised, the patent laws made it difficult for inventors to obtain the necessary capital so, he said, ‘most inventors die in misery’.[11] But even before Arago was approached, Daguerre and Niepce had already pragmatically considered that it was not appropriate in France to try to protect their work by patent. Both Daguerre and the Niepce family also had earlier experience in seeking capital from individuals to help exploit or to buy–out their ideas by subscription. But when Arago put forward the notion that the Nation should buy the invention, when the Deputies and Peers of the two Chambers of parliament had decided that it was of benefit to France and indeed ‘displayed pride to be able to endow freely the entire world’[12] – montrée fière de pouvoir en doter libéralement le monde entier – by purchasing the discoveries of Daguerre and Niepce, then what would be the best way to make such a payment? No full records exist of discussions on this question, but Arago did make some relevant comments at the beginning of July in his report written for the Chambre des Députés:

We were not surprised that a sentiment should have come up almost generally in the public, apparently in consequence of a mistakenly written passage in the Motion, regarding an idea that the administration had haggled with the inventor; that the pecuniary conditions of the contract now proposed for you to sanction were the result of obtaining a discount (rabais). Gentlemen, it is important to go over the facts. Never did the member of this Chamber, to whom the Minister gave full powers, bargain with M. Daguerre. The subject of their discussion turned solely on considering if the recompense so justly due to this accomplished artist of merit should be a pension or a single payment. From the first, M. Daguerre perceived that the payment of a fixed sum might give the contract a shabby appearance of a commercial transaction. It would not be the same case with a pension. It is with a pension that you recompense the warrior wounded in battle and the magistrate who has gone grey on the bench; thus you honour the families of Cuvier, of Jussieu, of Champollion. Such comparisons could not fail to affect the honourable character (caractère élevé) of M. Daguerre: he decided on a pension. [13]

The widows of military men do indeed feature considerably as the recipients of state pensions, but it is worth pausing here to consider the men of science mentioned at the end of Arago’s Report. The botanist Antoine–Laurent de Jussieu died in September 1836. At the Chambre des Députés six months later a commission was nominated to examine the case for awarding his widow a pension of 6, 000 francs. Their Report was presented to the sitting of 10 April 1837, discussed and adopted three days later.[14] Pensions for the widows of the naturalist Baron Cuvier (1769–1832) and the Egyptologist Jean–François Champollion (1790–1832) had been considered together by a Bill placed before the Chambre des Députés in March and April 1833. In the case of these two men not only were pensions paid to their widows, but at the same time by a counterpart double Bill their manuscripts and books were also purchased by the state.[15] Cuvier’s library was acquired for 72, 500 francs, and the books and manuscripts of Champollion for 50,000 francs. Immediately after Champolion died in March 1832 the Journal des Débats pointed out he had no fortune to leave to his young family, and suggested they should receive ‘la protection du Gouvernment’. The Bill adopted in 1833 provided a pension of 3,000 francs for his widow, and for Cuvier’s widow the pension was 6,000 francs. It is significant that when this amount of pension for his widow was proposed immediately after Baron Cuvier died in May 1832, it was said to have been in conformity with a law of 1803 that the sum should not exceed 6,000 francs.[16] Maybe this limitation was mentioned in his particular case because otherwise a higher figure might be assumed for a man of Cuvier’s status. Comparing the value of money and cost of living in different countries and at different periods of time is far from straightforward. Throughout the 1830s the exchange rate (based on gold) between the Franc and the Pound sterling was extremely stable (less than 4% variation) at 25 Francs to £1, so that 6,000 francs was equivalent to £240 Pounds Sterling. Maybe not a huge annual income presumed relevant to the life style of the haute bourgeois, but certainly a good solid plein–bourgeois pension. This is not the place to provide a concise account of wider aspects of civil pensions provided by the French Government in the early part of the nineteenth century, for substantial secondary writing seems to be lacking on the subject and to go deeply into the subject from primary research would require a separate thesis. However, it can be said that the 1830s and 1840s, as befits the bourgeois preoccupations of the July Monarchy, witnessed a great deal of revision of the law regarding pensions and some of the governmental studies made at this period do provide some background history.[17] The July monarchy began indeed in a most exceptional way with laws of 30 August and 13 December 1830 for awarding pensions ‘à titre de récompenses nationales’ to the many victims of the fighting in Paris in July 1830: 490 injured received pensions averaging almost 500 francs, 320 orphaned children had either 250 or 700 francs, and 260 widows all received pensions of 500 francs. Clearly a very unique event. Throughout the remainder of the July monarchy to 1847, the number of exceptional pensions considered in parliament was around three or four yearly. A decree of 1803 did certainly stipulate a ceiling of 6,000 francs for all pensions other than retirement pensions or superannuations funded by payments from salaries.[18] However, the situation is not entirely clear, for there is some evidence that the sum was exceeded on occasion — the widow of General Dauremont received a récompense national of 10,000 francs in 1838, and in 1847 the widow of Admiral Duperré even obtained 12, 000 francs.

The award of a pension in relation to an invention was certainly not a common event. The inventor of a double–sided die for coins, Edmé David, was awarded a pension of 2,400 francs in 1837. David’s device had much earlier been directly purchased and used by the State for many years, and indeed provided an annual profit to the government. Because of his invention he had long been placed in government employment and his 2,400 francs had elements of being a special pension on retirement from public service.[19] Arago’s support for a pension for Daguerre and Niépce was not an entirely unique event for he was also involved in 1845 in obtaining a pension for the engineer Louis Vicat (1786–1861) as a ‘récompense nationale’ for his pioneering work many years before on hydraulic cement. Arago presented a report[20] to the Chambre des Députés on Vicat in a similar way to that done for Daguerre, and Vicat’s pension was also 6,000 francs.[21]


2.2 The first steps to acquire a pension

The way Arago proposed government recompense for Daguerre, and for Vicat (they happen to have been born in the same year), is in accord with his belief in republican policies of state provision for science and technology. Towards the end of his Rapport Arago says that ‘M. Daguerre perceived that the payment of a fixed sum might give the contract a shabby appearance of a commercial transaction’. Maybe so, but these words do sound suspiciously like those of an academic and man of the left more than an artist who had been running the Diorama as a commercial enterprise. Daguerre was aged fifty three in 1839 so it is maybe not too much of a surprise that Daguerre himself, according to Arago, had made a decision for a pension rather than a single payment. Then, ‘the rest followed from intentions of the Minister of the Interior’. In this way a provisional covenant was prepared along with a Motion by the Minister for the French parliament to consider an accompanying Bill to grant such a pension. The motion by the Minister stipulated a total sum of 10,000 francs per annum, with 4000 francs to Niepce’s son and 6,000 francs for Daguerre. In respect of the unequal share it is important to note that Arago stated that originally Daguerre himself had ‘determined the amount as 8,000 francs to be divided equally between himself and his associate, M. Niepce junior’. So a later decision had modified the amounts to be paid, to provide an extra 2000 francs per annum for Daguerre. It is not difficult to conclude that any total sum payable would have been entirely decided by the Minister. But if Arago’s statement above was absolutely accurate then the decision that Daguerre should receive more than Isidore Niepce would also have been made by the Minister. If the decision was made because it was thought Daguerre’s final technique greatly outweighed the contribution made by Niepce then there is little doubt that the Minister would have closely consulted Arago. Yet the extra amount for Daguerre was not said to be due to any such practical evaluation requiring judgement of a scientist rather than a politician. But the reason for raising the amount paid to Daguerre was publicly later said to be ‘because the condition specially imposed upon that artist [Daguerre] to make known the method of painting and illuminating Diorama tableaux (at present reduced to cinders), and above all by reason of the condition that he make public all improvements by which he may enrich his photographic methods’.[22] There is less technical evaluation within these two aspects which indeed make up separate clauses (no.s 4 and 5) of the provisional covenant drawn up in June. For it was on the fourteenth of that month that Daguerre and Niepce signed the document with the Minister of the Interior agreeing that a Bill (Projet de Loi) be put forward to award them pensions. On the same day Daguerre must also have been told that for him there was another extra recompense: again emphasising a concept of an honour being granted, it would be announced that he was made Officer of the Legion of Honour.[23] Here are the eight clauses of the provisional covenant signed by Tanneguy Duchâtel (as Minister of the Interior), Daguerre, and Isidore Niepce on 14 June:

2.3 Provisional Covenant of 14 June 1839 [24]

    Article First. MM. Daguerre and Niepce assign to the Minister of the Interior, acting on behalf of the State, the process invented by the father of M. Niepce, together with the ameliorations by M. Daguerre, and the latest process of M. Daguerre, serving to fix the images obtained in a camera obscura. They undertake to deposit with the Minister of the Interior a sealed packet containing the history and an exact and complete description of the aforesaid processes.

  Article 2. M. Arago, member of the Chambre des Députés and of the Académie des Sciences, who has already taken cognisance of the aforesaid processes, will verify beforehand all the pieces deposited, and to certify they are genuine.

  Article 3. The deposited packet will not be opened and the description of the processes made public until after the adoption of the Bill mentioned hereafter; then M. Daguerre shall, if it be so requested, carry out the process in the presence of a committee appointed by the Minister of the Interior.

  Article 4. M. Daguerre in addition transfers and in like manner communicates the processes of painting and mechanisms that characterize his invention of the Diorama.

  Article 5. He will be bound to make public any improvements in the one or the other invention which he may happen to make hereafter.

  Article 6. In payment of the above concessions the Minister of the Interior undertakes to ask of the Chambers, for M. Daguerre, who accepts the same, an annual pension for life of six thousand francs. For M. Niepce, who also accepts, an annual pension for life of four thousand francs. These pensions will be entered in the ledger of civil pensions of the public Treasury. They will not be subject to the prohibitive laws of accumulation. They will be revertible by half to the widows of MM. Daguerre and Niepce.

  Article 7. In case of non–adoption by the Chambers, during the present session, of the draft Bill containing the assignment of the said pensions, the present covenant will be null and void, and the sealed packet will be returned to MM. Daguerre and Niepce.

  Article 8. The present covenant is to be registered at fixed fee of one franc.

Done in three copies at Paris the 14th day of June 1839.
I approve of All the above,
signed T. Duchatel...Daguerre...I. Niepce.

2.4 Passage of the Bill through Parliament

The day immediately after signatures were placed on this covenant the Minister of the Interior brought his Motion before the Chambre des Députés, presenting the provisional covenant and the Bill signed by the King. Appended to the present article is a bibliography of contemporary sources published in France by which it is possible to follow the progress of the government Bill through the Chambre des Députés on 15 June, 3 and 9 July, and afterwards considered by the Chambre des Pairs on 17 and 30 July, and 2 August. Much of the procedures on all those days are not important to us now, but our attention needs to be particularly directed to the actual events that took place on 3rd and 9th July at the Chambre des Députés and to the publication of a report made by Arago. A few days after the Minister brought forward his motion on 15 June, a committee of nine deputies headed by Arago was appointed to produce a report on the background to the proposed Bill. [25] Arago’s report was deposited two weeks later to the Chambre des Députés on 3 July, but one significant fact that can be obtained by examination of the original records of the proceedings in the French Parliament is that Arago’s Report was not, in fact, actually read at the Chambre des Députés on that day, even though it did have 3 Juillet printed on it when it was later published in Daguerre’s Manual. Here is a translation of an official account of the sitting of Wednesday 3 July:[26]

M. Arago: I have the honour to present to the Chamber the Report of the Committee that was charged with examining the draft Bill to grant a pension to MM. Niepce and Daguerre.

Many Voices: Read! Read! (M. Arago deposited his report into the hands of the President and descended from the tribune — We will recover [Nous rétablirons] the text of this report.)

The President [M. Sauzet]: The Report will be printed and distributed. I propose that the Chamber fix the discussion for next Saturday [i.e. 6 july] (Yes! Yes!) .

Immediately another deputy named Tesnière sought permission to deposit a report on the Bordeaux railway and asked for discussion on it to be therefore put off until the same Saturday. Many deputies were disturbed by that proposal, and Arago felt it necessary to seek reassurance that the day on which they would discuss awarding pensions to Daguerre and Isidore Niepce should be very firmly fixed, for his committee wanted to arrange on the same day an exhibition of daguerreotypes.

M. Arago: It has seemed to our committee that it would be appropriate for the deputies to see the results obtained by M. Daguerre’s admirable method, so they have taken steps so that on the day fixed the products will be set out in one of the halls.

Many Voices: Indicate yourself the day!

The President [M. Sauzet]: The Chamber will fix the day. The Report can, without difficulty, be distributed tomorrow, and the discussion put at the head of the Order of the day for Saturday.

M. Billaudel: Regarding reading of the Report of M. Arago — this question has not been decided.

The President: So the Chamber wishes to listen to this reading? (Yes! Yes! No! No!) If it does not insist, the Chamber passes to the Order of the day to discuss the Bill on the Paris to Orleans Railway.

It is necessary to emphasise that Arago did not actually read his Report (or the beginning and end sections that sound like a speech) on 3 July. Instead the report appeared in print two days after that sitting. As promised by the official Moniteur Universel, Arago’s Report as ‘an addition to the session of 3 July’ was available both to the Députés and the general public in a supplement of their issue No. 186 of 5 July 1839. [27] As has been well pointed out by Pierre G. Harmant thirty–five years ago,[28] careful dating of the first availability of Arago’s original Report is not an empty academic exercise: for without accurate information no meaningful judgement can be made on Arago’s statement that the French government were freely making Daguerre’s process available to the entire world — a factor of significance with regard to the later patenting of the technique in England. It should be noted in this respect that nothing had been said in the Covenant signed by Niepce and Daguerre on 14 June about the process being obtained specifically for France, nor was anything about this recorded by the minister involved. But Arago himself had clearly suggested on 7 January in his first public announcement about the daguerreotype ‘that France nobly endow the whole world with this discovery’ [29] and in his Report to the Chamber of Deputes stated ‘This discovery France has adopted...to endow freely the whole world’.[30] Arago did not use any loose phrase like ‘tout le monde’ for ‘everyone’, but used specific words ‘le monde entier.’ Even so, a patenting enthusiast, Jean Jobard of Brussels, who was in Paris at the end of June and beginning of July, gained an impression at the time that the daguerreotype process was only being purchased for the French. But Daguerre was very resistant to a suggestion by Jobard (apparently made at Niepce’s instigation) that foreign patents should be obtained: ‘an extreme delicacy persuades him that this would deprive the French Government of the pleasure of making a gift of it to Europe’. Maybe Madame Daguerre was of a different mind, and ‘M. Niépce did not share Daguerre’s point of view at all: less of an artist than M. Daguerre and much more positive’. Isidore Niepce was certainly very keen to obtain a patent in England. He wrote to Jobard,

I had despaired of persuading Daguerre to take the step in question; several days went by, when I committed myself to renew the attempt. I conducted him to the patent lawyer, to whom you had kindly recommended me, and it was decided there and then that he would write to London on the spot. I have in the meanwhile seen M. Perpignan again and I have been assured that the application for a patent covering England and her colonies was made on 15th July. [31]

Although the President of the Chambre des Députés had expected final discussion on awarding a pension to Daguerre would take place on Saturday 6 July, there was in fact a slight delay. The proposed display of Daguerreotypes took place on the following Sunday and Monday. And for the adoption of the Bill by the French Parliament to award a pension to Daguerre in exchange for the secret of his technique the most significant day was Tuesday 9 July. No deputy felt it necessary to speak on the subject. They went immediately to the vote. During the counting Arago appeared in the hall where daguerreotypes were displayed and spoke briefly about the technique, apparatus and cost involved to a crowd who assembled there.[32] The counting showed 237 white balls in support of the Bill, along with three black balls. However, as it was considered that the three black balls found in the urn were the result of an error,[33] the vote was unanimous. On 2 August the Peers voted ninety–two to four in approval of the Bill. It is not known who were the four Peers against the motion, or on what grounds. Thus the passing of the Bill through parliament that Daguerre be granted a pension of 6000 francs (£240 Sterling), as well as 4000 francs per annum for Isidore Niepce (with 50% after death to their widows), ‘in return for the cession made by them of the process to fix the images in a camera obscura’, consequently became law by an Order signed by King Louis–Philippe on 7 August. The way was open for Daguerre’s secret to be released to the public. It was carried out by Arago on behalf of Daguerre in a lecture that took place on 19 August 1839.

3. The daguerreotype secret revealed:

On Monday 19th August 1839 a special joint meeting of the Académie des Sciences and Académie des Beaux–Arts was held at the Institut de France in Paris. As we have seen above, less than two weeks before a procedure had been completed in the French Parliament to award a pension to Daguerre in exchange for the secrets of his technique. Instead of Daguerre the lecture was given by leading scientist and secretary of the Academy of Sciences, François Arago, who had done so much to facilitate government and public recognition for Daguerre. Arago himself had also made the original public announcement at the beginning of January that had stirred the attention of the world. In some ways therefore photography got off to a bad start when the technique used by Daguerre to produce such spectacular images with a camera remained secret for another seven months. As we have seen in the previous pages, the delay was undoubtedly the result of uncertainties in French political life in Paris at the beginning of 1839.


Galignani's Messenger (Paris) 20 Aug 1839

Figure 2. Galignani’s Messenger, English language newspaper of Paris, 20 August 1839. This concise report of Arago’s lecture was reprinted only three days later in The Globe of London.

The Athenaeum (London), 24 August 1839

Figure 1. The Athenæum (London), 24 August 1839,
A translation into English of the second half of Dr. Donné’s account of Arago’s lecture in Journal des Débats (Paris) of 20 Août.

Although much attention is usually given to W. H. F. Talbot’s account in February 1839 of his process of ‘Photogenic Drawing’, the present writer holds that the months between the announcement of the daguerreotype in January and release of the secret in August were adorned by a different and very special breakthrough. The significance of the reading of Sir John Herschel’s paper at the Royal Society in London on 14 March 1839 was somewhat hidden in the earliest historical accounts of photography and has continued obscured due to historiographic reasons in later works.[34] But it did truly have immediate influence at the time. John Herschel had admirably solved the central problem standing in the way of the development of photography. The potential in using silver salts on paper to produce images on exposure to light was extremely common knowledge for many years before 1839, but Herschel opened the door to the future with his revelation that hyposulphites removed the photosensitivity so as to preserve the images obtained. But Arago’s lecture in August was the next momentous event in setting loose the daguerreotype technique. It thus became possible to obtain mirror–like images of the world of considerable evocative impact, not approached by the rather primitive techniques of photography on paper which were still effectively limited to photogram production (widely known, though lacking a solution to the problem of preservation, long before January 1839) without the use of a developable latent image. The first daguerreotypes rightly had very considerable impact. Although the product itself was not capable of further evolution it did imaginatively open the eyes of the first practitioners to a quality of picture that could be obtained with a camera and provided them from the very first a method of working in which an image although still invisible after exposure (‘invisible et seulement latente’) could be revealed by later chemical treatment.[35] The minds and hearts of the first daguerreotypists were opened and ready for future developments in negative–positive photography on paper and glass. Automatic processing has today made photography a more humdrum occupation, but, no matter how experienced, those photographers who continue to hand–craft their prints can still experience in a darkroom a sense of anticipation, and indeed thrill, whenever an image starts to appear. So it is indeed possible to envy those first pioneers of the daguerreotype who were in a position to create their own first images without having previously seen one of Daguerre’s own magic mirrors, or any other photograph, when they came across in their newspaper or journal the first description of the technique. It is not the intention here in the second part of the following bibliography (§4.2) to list secondary reprinting, translations, or abstracted reports of Arago’s lecture published in European countries or during its spread throughout the world. However, the compiler hopes that this short bibliography of the principal reports in France and England will make it possible to judge the limits to the information about the technique that was first made available. Arago’s lecture drew aside the curtain on Daguerre’s technique and Daguerre himself opened it up fully when his Manual was released three weeks later. It is not merely by reason of ‘priority’ (such priority disputes are unfailingly tedious) that various pioneers of the daguerreotype should hold a special place in the history of photography when they achieved success in taking the first daguerreotype in various countries as the technique spread throughout the world in 1839 and 1840. The delayed release of Daguerre’s secret gave a sense of anticipation and excitement to Arago’s lecture. But it did not provide a very adequate description of the practical steps required by the process. Any of the very few known pioneering daguerreotypists (such as D. W. Seager in New York) who produced a daguerreotype from Arago’s description before Daguerre’s manual became available should be honoured by historians. For would not the reader have shared a sense of achievement in making their own first daguerreotype from the very concise descriptions of the technique as published in any of the reports listed in section 4.2? Two are reproduced in figures 1 and 2.


Annotated Bibliography[36]

4.1 Government Bill and Arago’s Report

A. Chambre des Députés, séances 15 Juin, 3 and 9 Juillet 1839.

Reported in Moniteur Universel, 16 Juin, 991–2 (with‘Convention provisoire conclue le 14 Juin 1839’), 19 Juin, 1024 (Committee named at séance 18 juin), 4 Juillet, p.1208, 5 Juillet, pp.1232–3 (Arago’s report), and 10 Juillet 1839, p.1299. Minutes of the sittings in the official Procès–verbaux des Séances de la Chambre des Députés, 2e semestre 1839, vol.3, 89 and annexe 106 on pp. 569–578, vol.5, 84 (séance 3 juillet) and annexe 164 on pp. 595–618 (Arago’s Report), and vol.6, 51.

B. Chambre des Pairs, séances 17 Juillet, 30 Juillet, and 2 Août 1839.

Reported in Moniteur Universel, 18 Juillet, 1416, 30/31 Juillet, 1558–9 (J. L. Gay–Lussac’s report), and 3 Août 1839, 1579c. Also abstracts of the sittings in Procès–Verbal des Séances de la Chambre des Pairs, 2e Session 1839, tome 2, no. 40, p.753, no. 41, p.785 (Committee appointed), no.47, p.955, no.49, pp.1018–9; Chambre des Pairs: Impressions Diverses, 2e Session 1839, tome 2, Impression 82 [5 pp.], tome 3, Impression 127 [8 pp.] (Gay–Lussac’s Report).

C. Ordonnance No. 8099 signed 7 Août 1839, Bulletin des lois (Paris), 2e semestre 1839, tome 19, no. 669 (9e series), pp.189–91.

Also briefly reported (without giving Ordonnance number) in Moniteur Universel, 10 Août 1839, 1615.

D. Display of Daguerreotypes at the Chambre des Députés was reported in La Quotidienne (8 juillet 1839), 3, which in London was translated into English in The Literary Gazette, no. 1173 (13 July 1839), 444; in Galignani’s Messenger, the English language newspaper published in Paris (9 July 1839), 3, with this report being reprinted in London in The Mirror (20 July 1839), 48, and Mechanics Magazine (27 July 1839), 320; in Moniteur Universel (8 Juillet1839), 1275 (9 Juillet 1839), 1281; and briefly in L’Artiste, vol 3 (2nd series) (14 Juillet 1839), 181. A second exhibition on 1 August at the Chambre des Pairs was reported in Journal des Débats (2 Août 1839), 3a.

E. Arago’s Report. ‘Commission chargée d’examiner le projet de loi tendant à accorder 1° au sieur Daguerre...2° au sieur Niepce fils, une pension annuelle...pour la cession faite par eux du procédé servant à fixer les images de la chambre obscure’, nine deputies headed by F. Arago were named at the sitting of 18 June, published in Moniteur Universel, 19 Juin 1839, 1024.

The present author believes it is necessary to clearly differentiate the original report (defined here as version I) from two later versions that are in fact the report modified in two different ways with the text of Arago’s later lecture of 19 August 1839:

Report I: the true report was first published in Moniteur Universel, 5 juillet 1839, 1232–3. It is the report of the special committee of the Chambre des Députés headed (and obviously written ) by François Arago, set up to consider grounds for a pension to Daguerre. This Report is characterized fairly accurately by the words of the editor of the London Athenaeum, 20 July 1839, 542, when he wrote ‘We have since received the Report, presented by M. Arago to the Chamber, on which that body came to a vote. We had intended to translate the principal passages, but find it is merely a repetition of facts which have appeared at different times in this journal, and throws no light upon the secret of the invention.’

Report II: Arago’s combined Report (version II) and Lecture: The last part of the full title of this second version almost makes the significant fact of combination clear: Rapport de M. Arago sur le Daguerréotype, Lu à la séance de la Chambre des Députés le 3 juillet 1839 et à L’ Académie des Sciences Séance du 19 août, (Paris: Bachelier, Imprimeur–Libraire du Bureau des Longitudes, 1839). This was a small Octavo–foolscap pamphlet of 34 pages. Exactly the same combined text also appeared in Comptes–rendus Académie des Sciences Paris, séance du Lundi, 19 août 1839, vol. 9, 250–67. The first two and last two paragraphs of the original Rapport were omitted. The text of Arago’s later lecture to the Académie des Sciences on 19 August 1839 was provided by adding a new opening paragraph and extensive footnotes in which practical details of Daguerre’s secret of the daguerreotype process were given from the lecture of 19 August.

Report III: Arago’s combined Report (version III) and Lecture: Printed in the introductory historical section of Daguerre’s Manual: Historique et Description des Procédés du Daguerréotype et du Diorama (Paris, 1839). This publication at last became available to the public in Paris on 5 September 1839. The text of his lecture of 19 August again appears in the same long footnotes as in version II, but differs in that the opening paragraph of remarks taken from the lecture of 19th August is deleted and instead the beginning and end of the original report to the Députés is restored. However, it needs to be added with regard to Daguerre’s Manual that an edition translated into English, printed in Paris by Belin but issued by McLean of London in November 1839, is deficient in omitting the end of Arago’s Report, but is otherwise complete. Also, the translation of Daguerre’s Manual into English by J. S. Memes, speedily issued in London that September, is a much more idiosyncratic work, but does freely translate all the text of Arago’s report including the original ending. At this later stage of events the additional information in footnotes about the technique as provided from Arago’s lecture of 19 August was of no consequence, appearing as it did alongside Daguerre’s own full Practical Description with diagrams of camera and processing equipment. But this re–publication in Daguerre’s Manual of the original text of Arago’s Rapport to the Chambre des Députés gave wide distribution of information about the background to previous work by Niepce and Daguerre. This appearance of the combined Rapport and lecture has been of considerable historiographic effect. Ease of access to the Report in Daguerre’s Manual, has undoubtedly led historians to pay less attention to sequences of events and other related contemporary sources of daguerreotype history.

F. Gay–Lussac’s Report. At the sitting of 18 July 1839 the President of the Chambre des Pairs announced the names of seven Peers headed by J. L. Gay Lussac ‘pour examiner le project de loi relatif à l’acquisition du procédé de M. Daguerre’, Procès–Verbal des Séances de la Chambre des Pairs, 2e Session 1839, séance 18 Juillet, tome 2 (no. 41), 785. The Report of the Chambre des Pairs committee under J. L. Gay–Lussac, was first published in Moniteur Universel, 30/31 Juillet 1839, 1558–9 and reprinted five weeks later in the introductory historical section of Daguerre’s Manual.

4.2 Arago’s lecture of 19 August 1839.

G. ‘Académie des Sciences. Séances du 19 Août. Exposition du Daguerrotype... [reported] par Dr. Al. Donné ’, Journal des Débats, 20 Août 1839, 1–3.

Dr. Alfred Donné (1801–1878) was the regular contributor of the scientific column of this prestigeous newspaper. His reporting of the proceedings of the Académie des Sciences was, according to his biographer, not entirely without occasional strain with François Arago who being secretary of the Academy was involved in production of the official Comptes–rendus that would appear only some weeks after newspaper reports. Donné’s feuilleton column along the bottom quarter of three pages was a substantial account of the lecture. Being widely reprinted in Europe, his review was of considerable influence in immediate spread of knowledge about Daguerre’s technique.

H. ‘Procédé de M. Daguerre’, Le Constitutionnel (Paris), Mardi, 20 Août 1839, p. 2 [cols 2 and 3].

This report, naturally in French, also appeared in English in the English language evening newspaper Galignani’s Messenger published in Paris. But it cannot be assumed that the English version (see item I) was translated from this French version. Only a brief description of the actual technique was given, so this is not a significant report. However, it was more than recompensed the following day in their fairly regular ‘Revue Scientifique’ fueilleton column (see item J).

I. ‘The Daguerreotype’, Galignani’s Messenger (Paris), (Afternoon edition), no. 7620, Tuesday, August 20, 1839, 3c.

This publication was an English language newspaper produced in Paris, thus the account of Arago’s lecture is in English, not French. It is the same as the one in French in Le Constitutionnel of the same day, but with the addition of a final paragraph of comment and two very short sentences. Thus it cannot to assumed that the English version was translated from the French. As well as the extra paragraph at the end, a few specific words about the technique were added at two points in the text with regard to need for a rim around the plate and ‘The angle used is 45 degrees’ that do not appear in the French version. Yet it is not inconceivable that it could have been truly translated from Le Constitutionnel, because Galignani’s Messenger was an afternoon paper and it would have been possible for a translator to add extra text from other reports published that morning. The English text in Galignani’s Messenger was followed by very speedy reprinting in London in The Globe on 23 August. This account of Arago’s lecture was poor on practical details. It was deficient in not even mentioning judgement of colour to be obtained when iodising. This comparative lack of detail might be of significance in the case of the very earliest trials of Daguerre’s technique in America, as it seems The Globe account was the most widely reprinted there.

J. ‘Renseignemens sur l’exécution des tableaux daguerrotypés’, Le Constitutionnel, 21 Août 1839, 1–2.

Although not a direct report of Arago’s lecture this is an interesting immediate response to the just disclosed technique and set out after an interview with Daguerre himself. The regular scientific correspondent of the paper (an unidentified ‘Isid. B’) points out ‘une analogie remarquable’ between latent image development of the daguerreotype with mercury, and use of invisible ink and nutgalls (gallic acid). For a discussion of the comments of ‘Isid. B’ see my paper ‘The Daguerreotype and Development of the Latent Image: “Une Analogie Remarquable”’, Journal of Photographic Science, 44 (1996), 165–7.

K. ‘Académie des Sciences. Description du Daguerrotype’, reported by Dr T. D. L, La Quotidienne (Paris), no. 233, 21 Août 1839, 1–2.

A full article but lacking in some aspects of the actual technique.

L. ‘ The Daguerreotype’, The Globe and Traveller (London), no. 11528, ‘Friday Evening, Second Edition’, 23 August 1839, 3.

The Globe was an evening newspaper, but no information exists about the time of day it first appeared on the streets. The report of Arago’s lecture is exactly the same as that in Galignani’s Messenger, but not stated so to be.

M. ‘Principle of the Daguerrotype’, dated Paris 21 August, The Athenaeum (London), no. 617, 24 August 1839, 636–7.

A translation into English of the last half of Dr. Alfred Donné’s account in Journal des Débats, thus providing a good practical description.

N. ‘Fine Arts. The Daguerre Secret,’ The Literary Gazette and Journal of the Belles Lettres (London), no. 1179, 24 August 1839, 538–9.

Also reprinted in Mechanics’ Magazine (London), vol. 31, 7 September 1839, 426–7. Not an entirely complete reprinting, but only merely omitting last half of second paragraph and first half of third paragraph concerning historical remarks on camera obscura and earlier attempts to use sensitivity to light of silver salts.

O. ‘La Description du Daguérotype’ by Jules Janin, L’Artiste (Paris), vol.3 (series 2), no. 17, 25 Août 1839, 277–83.

The art critic Jules Janin had been an influential enthusiast for the daguerreotype images he had seen during the first half of 1839, but this long report of Arago’s lecture in the non–technical Janin’s usual rather highflown style is dominated by his disappointment that the technique was so complicated. Immediately on that Sunday 25 August (perhaps the journal was actually issued the previous day) Daguerre took Janin along to his own apartment to personally demonstrate the technique which was reported by Janin in the following issue of Sunday, 1 September 1839, vol. 4 (series 2), no. 1, 1–3.

P. ‘Le Daguerréotype,’ Comptes–rendus de l’Academie des Sciences Paris, vol. 9 (2nd semestre 1839), 250–67.

Arago did not publish his lecture as a single entity but the new information about the techniques released at the lecture was added to a modified version of his earlier Report to the Chambre des Députés of the previous month. As we has seen in section §2.4 of the present article, Arago’s Rapport to the Chambre des Députés had been deposited, but not read, at the Chambre des Députés on 3 July for immediate printing, so that the original text was first published in Moniteur Universel (Paris), 5 juillet 1839, 1232–3. In Comptes–rendus, the first two and last two paragraphs of the earlier Rapport were omitted and a new first paragraph added to the text as to why he, not Daguerre, was delivering the lecture of 19 August. The substantial core of the lecture in providing details of Daguerre’s process was printed in extensive footnotes. Exactly the same combined text was issued by Arago as a separate publication, Rapport de M. Arago sur le Daguerréotype lu à la séance de la Chambre des Députés le 3 juillet 1839 et à l’Académie des sciences séance du 19 Août, (Paris: Bachelier, imprimeur–Libraire Du Bureau des Longitudes, 1839), 34 pp. [British Library copy is bound with other tracts, shelf–mark 1399 B33 (1)]. When Daguerre’s Manual became available to the public in Paris by the Susse Frères edition on 5 September (and the Giroux edition a few days later) the combined Rapport and Lecture was included. However this time it was another modification restoring the original full text of the July Rapport and removing the introductory paragraph of his 19 August lecture. Arago’s account of the technique given in the lecture remained as extensive footnotes, but at this stage was of little consequence as it was appearing alongside Daguerre’s own full ‘Practical Description’ with diagrams of camera and processing equipment. See also item E (II and III).

Q. ‘Académie des Sciences, Séance du 19 Août. Le Daguerreotype’, Moniteur Universel (Paris), no. 243, Samedi, 31 Août 1839, 1706–7.

Although not verbatim, this detailed account (stated as reprinted from Journal de l’Instruction publique) provides better than any other a feel of the lecture in progress. Questions posed at the end of the lecture are reported with Arago’s answers: ‘Cette communication a excité les applaudissemens de l’auditoire, et M. Chevreul a exprimé à M. Daguerre la haute satisfaction de l’Institut.’

R. ‘ The secret of M. Daguerre...’, The Art–Union (London), vol. 1, no. 8, September 15, 1839, 132–3.

Introductory part of the report is abbreviated, but otherwise text is exactly as in Galignani’s Messenger (Paris) and The Globe of London (see items I and L).


[1]  Traité définitif du 13 juin 1837 (‘La Liste sera ouverte le quinze Mars mil huit cents trente huit, et close le quinze avril suivant’). Niepce’s copy of the Agreement is in the Hamel Collection in St. Petersburg, transcribed in T. P. Kravets, Documents on the History of the Invention of Photography (Т. П.  Кравца,   Документы  по  Истории  Изобретения  Фотографии  – Dokumenti po Istorii Izobreteniya fotografii), Soviet Academy of Sciences, Archives Publication No.7: (Leningrad, 1949), pp. 451–2, document No. 148; Daguerre’s copy (which passed to Arago) is preciously reproduced in photo–lithographic facsimile in Anales del Museo de La Plata. Seccion de Historia General. 1., (La Plata, 1892), pp. 25 and 27.

[2]  There is little to chose between a minor range of biographies of Arago, which includes Maurice Dumas, Arago 1786–1853 La Jeunesse de la Science (Paris: 1943, 2nd edition Paris: Belin 1987). Henry Aragon, La Vie Politique de François Arago (Toulouse 1924) does not provide an adequate account of Arago’s political career or attitudes, as it is viewed from the standpoint of departmental politics of Pyrénées–Orientales, using local published sources. Arago’s scientific writing is well compiled in Oevres Complètes de François Arago, edited by J. A. Barral , 13 vols (Paris: Gide, 1854–62), but an authoritative commentary is lacking.

[3]  Letter dated 2 janvier 1839 from Daguerre to Isidore Niepce, in Kravets (note 1), 462–3, document no. 152.

[4]  Arago’s announcement of Daguerre’s discovery in Comptes–rendus de l’Académie des Sciences Paris, 8 (séance du Lundi, 7 Janvier 1839),.4–7.

[5]  Le Moniteur Universel, 9 janvier 1839, p. 39. – ‘M. Arago se propose donc de demander au ministre de faire l’acquisition du procédé de Daguerre et du lui en donner une juste récompense.’

[6]  The fighting in the streets of Paris on 12 and 13 May was extensively reported in all Paris newspapers of 13 May and following days. Good reports from Paris in English of those events can be found in The Times (London), 15 May 1839, 4–5, where is also listed (p.5f) the appointed Ministers.

[7]  Vingt–cinq ans à Paris 1826–1850: Journal du Comte Rodolphe Apponyi, 4 vols (Paris: Plon, 1913–26), III, 1835–1843 (1914), 368–74.

[8]  Text of an undated letter addressed by Arago to ‘Monsieur le ministre’ (without providing the personal name) in Barral (note 2), XII, Mélanges (1859), 724–5.

[9]  Chambre de Députés:Exposé des motifs et projet de loi sur brevets d’invention’, Moniteur Universel, 22 Avril 1843, 867–72; ‘[P. Dupin] Rapport sur le projet de loi relatif aux brevets d’invention’, Moniteur Universel, 7 Juillet 1843, Supplement A, pp. i–v [between pp. 1798and 1799]; ‘Discussion du projet de loi relatif aux brevets d’invention’, Moniteur Universel, [11, 12, 13, 16, 17, 18 Avril] 1844, pp. 900–6, 915–21, 933–8, 966–73, 982–9, 1003–4; ‘Loi sur les brevets d’invention [Ordonnance no 11341, 5 Juillet 1844]’, Moniteur Universel, 8 Juillet 1844, 2089–90. The above documents and reports are also printed in Procès–verbaux des Séances de la Chambre des Députés. Both the Exposé des Motifs and the Rapport made by Philippe Dupin in 1843 provide a useful outline of the earlier history of patent law in France, and Moniteur Universel, 1845, 2242, has a ‘Relevé statistique des brevets d’inventions délivres depuis l’année 1791 jusqu’au 1er semestre de 1845’.

[10] Arago did not write specifically on the subject of patents, but his views are preserved through his contributions to the final debates over several days in April 1844 in the Chambre des Députés leading to the new patent law of 5 July 1844 (see note 9). His part in the debate is found in Moniteur Universel, 1844, pp. 903, 905, 919–20, 934, 935, 967, 968, 972, 984–5 (his amendment of article 30 of the new law), and 985–6 (his comments relating to article 32).

[11] ’Aussi on ne trouve pas de capitaliste. La plupart des inventeurs sont morts dans la misère’, Arago’s remarks at sitting of 16 April 1844 at Chambre des Députés, Moniteur Universel, 17 Avril 1844, 986.

[12] Remarks at end of Arago’s Report, not actually made in the Chambre des Députés, but as first published in Le Moniteur Universel, 5 juillet 1839, 1232–3.

[13] ibid. (note 12); and see Bibliography item E (Arago’s Report I and III).

[14] Moniteur Universel, 1837, 743, 850, 886

[15] The two Bills, the first for purchase of libraries of books and manuscript of Cuvier and Champollion, the second for award of pensions to their widows, were dealt with in the Chambre des Députés at the sittings of 2 March and 6 April 1833 and at the Chambre des Pairs on 20 April, Moniteur Universel, 3 Mars 1833, 586; 7 Avril 1833, 987; 21 Avril 1833, 1128.

[16] [M–C. B.] Montalivet, ministre de l’intérieur, Rapport au Roi, Moniteur Universel, 16 Mai 1832, 1207: ‘Aux termes de la loi du 15 Germinal an 11 [=5 Avril 1803], aucune pension accordée par l’Etat ne peut excéder la somme de six mille francs’.

[17] Ministère des Finances. Exposé historique et analytique des questions relatives à la rémuneration des services civils, Février 1841: Paris, 40pp; Ministère des Finances. Exposé des Motifs, Projet de loi sur les Pensions de retraite des fonctionnaires et agents civils, Mars 1841: Paris, 39pp. Both of these studies can also be found bound in Procès–verbaux des Séances de la Chambre des Députés, Session 1841, Tome 10. [British Library S.401/271]

[18] Ordonnance no. 2161, ‘Loi relative aux Pensions, Du 15 Germinal [An XI ]’, Bulletin des Lois de la République Française, 3e série Tome 8 (2e Semestre de l’An XI [=1803] ), no. 267, pp. 87–8. This short decree has four clauses only, with article II concisely stating ‘Aucune pension ne pourra excéder six mille francs’. Yet it is ambiguous as to the extent to which article II stands alone without reference to the other clauses.

[19] Moniteur Universel, 18 Avril 1837, 917

[20]‘Rapport fait par M. Arago sur le projet de loi tendant à accorder une pension annuelle et viagère à M. Vicat, ingénieur en chef, directeur des ponts et chaussées’, Moniteur Universel, 1 Juin 1845, 1541–3

[21] Ordonnance No. 12109 for L–J. Vicat’s récompense nationale was signed on 16 Juillet 1845 and for the preceding progress of the Bill through the Chambre des Députés see Moniteur Universel, 1845, pp. 816, 887, 1736–7, 1752, 2203

[22] Remarks at end of Arago’s Report (note 12), and see Bibliography item E (Arago’s Report I and III).

[23] Moniteur Universel, 16 Juin 1839, 987, ‘Par ordonnance de ce jour...a nommé M. Daguerre officier de la légion–d’Honneur’.

[24] ‘Convention provisoire conclue le 14 juin 1839’, first published in Le Moniteur Universel, 16 Juin 1839, 991–2.

[25] Moniteur Universel, 19 Juin 1839, 1024 and Journal des Débats, 19 Juin 1839, 3.

[26] Moniteur Universel, 4 juillet 1839, 1208. As well as this verbatum record, a shorter account also appeared in Journal des Débats, 4 Juillet 1839, 3.

[27] ‘Addition a la séance du mercredi 3 Juillet [1839, Chambre des Députés]. Rapport fait sur le projet de loi tendant à accorder: 1o au sieur Daguerre, une pension annuelle et viagère de 6,000fr., 2o au sieur Niépce fils, une pension annuelle et viagère de 4,000fr. pour la cession fait par eux du procédé à fixer les images de la chambre obscure, par M. Arago, député des Pyrénées–Orientales’, Moniteur Universel, Tome 103 (no. 186), 5 juillet 1839, 1232–3.

[28] Pierre G. Harmant, ‘Un petit point d’histoire’, Le Photographe (Paris), 52 (20 Decembre 1962), 627–8, discussed the need to accurately date the appearance of Arago’s Report. He established a framework of dating for movement of the draft Bill through parliament without which the present author would have found his own bibliographic presentation (items A, B and C) considerably more difficult to establish.

[29] Arago’s suggestion on 7 January 1839 in his first public announcement about the daguerreotype ‘que la France, ensuite, dote noblement le monde entier’.

[30] Arago’s Report to the Chamber of Deputes published on 5 July 1839 stated ‘Cette découverte, la France l’a adoptée; dès le premier moment, elle s’est montrée fière de pouvour en doter libéralement le monde entier.’

[31] S. F. Joseph and T. Schwilden, ‘Sunrise over Brussels: The first year of photography in Belgium’, History of Photography, 13 (1989), 355–68 (Jobard’s conversations in Paris and letter from Niepce on pp.358–9).

[32] Journal des Débats, 10 Juillet 1839, 3.

[33] Editorial comment in Le Constitutionnel, 10 juillet 1839, 1: ‘les trois boules noir qui se sont trouvées dans l’urne, sont considérées comme le résultat d’une erreur.’

[34] The historiographic reasons why Herschel’s paper of 14 March 1839 has been treated with reduced significance by historians following the first writings of Sir David Brewster does indeed need further attention, but the present author has touched on the situation in ‘J. B. Reade’s early photographic experiments – recent further evidence on the legend ’, British Journal of Photography, 119 (28 July 1972), 643–7 (section on ‘significance of the date’ on p. 645 and note 5 on p. 643).

[35] R. Derek Wood, ‘The Daguerreotype and Development of the Latent Image: Une Analogie Remarquable’, Journal of Photographic Science, 44 (1996), 165–7.

[36] British Library in London: shelf–marks are as follows. Journals: L’Artiste, PP 1931 pe; Bulletin des lois, PP 1362; Procès–verbaux des Séances de la Chambre des Députés, S.401; Procès–verbal...Chambre des Pairs, S.402; Chambre des Pairs: Impressions Diverses, S.402. Newspapers: Le Constitutionnel, MF 31; Galignani’s Messenger, MF 29; Journal des Débats, MF 21; Moniteur Universel (vols 102–103), F17; La Quotidienne, MF 25.

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