August 19th has been designated World Photo Day, this being the day in 1839 the French government purchased the patent for the invention of the Daguerreotype, a photographic processes developed by Joseph Nicèphore Nièpce and Louis Daguerre and made the invention a gift “Free to the World”.
Shortly after Louis Daguerre’s invention of the Daguerreotype was announced a British scientist and inventor, William Henry Fox Talbot, asserted priority of invention based on experiments he had begun in early 1834. At a meeting of the Royal Institution on 25 January 1839, Talbot exhibited several paper photographs he had made in 1835. Within a fortnight, he communicated the general nature of his process to the Royal Society, followed by more complete details a few weeks later. Daguerre did not publicly reveal any useful details until mid-August, although by the spring it had become clear that his process and Talbot’s were very different.
Talbot’s process, named the calotype or talbotype, was a “developing out” process that made it possible to produce as many positive prints as desired by simple contact printing, whereas the Daguerreotype was an opaque direct positive that could only be reproduced by copying it with a camera. In short Talbot invented the negative/positive process that continued for the next 170 years until it began to be overtaken by digital photography.
The oldest existing camera negative is purportedly this one of a latticed window taken by Fox Talbot at his home, Lacock Abbey in Wiltshire, England in August 1835, four years earlier than the day designated World Photo Day by the French government.
By William Fox Talbot (1800-1877) – National Museum of Photography, Film and Television collection, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=4525845
Fast forward 181 years and I find myself in the very room that Fox Talbot took the above picture, here’s my version.
Lacock Abbey is now owned by the National Trust and has a museum commemorating the life and times of its famous previous owner. Here are a few more images from my trip to Lacock.