Sir John Herschel to W. H. F. Talbot, 7 November 1853

Science Museum Collection/NMPFT, Bradford, Ref 1937-5377

As transcribed by Talbot Correspondence Project, Document No. 06862 from original at National Museum Photography Film & Television, Bradford (Collection No. 1937-5377 ) previously in Science Museum, London

32 Harley Street
Cavendish Square [London]

Nov. 7. 1853

My dear Sir

Dr Bowring who is bringing out a work on the Decimal Coinage has taken a fancy to illustrate it with likenesses of people who have in some way or other helped on the cause and as he considers my evidence before the Committee to have had this effect, he includes me in the number. As I have not time to sit for my picture, I have promised to give him a Photograph. It so happens however, that among several which I have from time to time had done, there is not one that is in any degree satisfactory (to my friends) except one recently executed on Collodion by Mr Thomas – a professional chemist in Pall-Mall [London] but au fait de Photographie an amateur, and one who has attained rare excellence in the use of that material. He took this at the instance of a friend of mine Mr [Patrick} Dudgeon a devoted photographer, and who has worked in a sort of rivality with him, as also with my Brother in law, John Stewart of Pau, some of whose letters you may have seen in the Athenæum. – But here comes the gist of the matter and my object in troubling you – When I mentioned my wish to let Dr Bowring engrave a copy from this for his book he demurred, on the ground that possibly you might consider the publication of such a copy an engraved copy an infringement of your patent. – If so – of course there is an end of the matter and I must be gibbeted from one of those grim Daguerrotypes or grimmer Calotypes which <illegible deletion> have been done by some of those practical people who certainly in my unfortunate instance have not been happy in their efforts – for after all it is a kind of lottery – so much depends on accidents of light, manipulation & the momentary expression of the sitter.

I hope you will not think it impertinent or unwarranted my mentioning this dilemma as Dr Bowrings engraver is now pressing me and I must decide speedily.–

Believe me
My dear sir
Yours very try

JFW Herschel

[To] H. F. Talbot Esqr

engraving opposite p. 72 of Bowring's Decimal System in Numbers ... (1854)
Engraving of the portrait of Herschel by R.[?] Thomas appeared in plate opposite p. 72 of John Bowring, The Decimal System
in Numbers, Coins and Accounts
, London 1854

[top of page]     [Home Page]     [Talbot v. Henderson]