Daguerreian Society

On this day (May 20) in the year 1843, the following article appeared 
"Niles' National Register." (Baltimore, Vol. XIV., No. 12; May 20,1843; 
pp. 181-3.)
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Under the heading of:


  IMPROVEMENTS IN THE DAGUERREOTYPE.  From an imperfect report made to 
the academy of sciences by M. Arago, it appears that M. Daguerre has not 
yet made public the great improvement in the daguerreotype, announced by 
him some time ago, owing to his failure in bringing his results to that 
point of perfection which he hopes to attain.  His reluctance in not 
making them known, imperfect as they yet are, has created much 
dissatisfaction, and even doubts as to their importance.  M. Arago, 
however, expresses his perfect reliance in them, but acknowledges that 
he has not seen them.  He stated to the academy, from information 
confided to him by M. Daguerre, that his discovery, in a scientific 
point of view, bids fair to eclipse even the invention of the 
  So far as we can understand M. Arago, this discovery consists in 
submitting a plate, prepared in the usual way, to the action of 
electricity, which imparts to it so exquisite a degree of sensibility as 
even to deprive it of the power of receiving distinct impression of the 
objects reflected upon its surface.--M. Daguerre has not yet been able 
to contrive means to act with sufficient promptness, in order to expose 
the entire surface of the plate so as to receive the rays of light and 
form the impression upon every part of it at once.  That is to say, a 
plate under the influence of electricity, being placed in the chamber of 
the daguerreotype, receives impressions in the instant of time requisite 
to open and shut the orifice, of such varied intensity, that the parts 
of its surface first exposed to the action of light becomes too deeply 
impressed before it spreads itself over the whole surface, thereby 
producing only a confused mass of lines.
  M. Daguerre has not yet been able to succeed in striking out the light 
with sufficient promptness to admit the rays of light at once upon every 
part of the surface of the plate.
  The effect thus produced is similar to that obtained by opening and 
shutting the orifice of an ordinary daguerreotype, repeatedly, in taking 
a view which requires ten minutes of continuous exposure to the rays of 
  M. Daguerre has not, however, stopped at this point of his discovery, 
but has invented two methods, the one more ingenious than the other, in 
order to counteract this imperfection.
  First, he has employed a substance, the nature of which he has not 
revealed, to cover the surface of the plate, less sensible to light, 
than the ordinary combination of iodine and silver; and instead of 
exposing the plate to the continued and permanent influence of 
electricity, he interposes this mysterious substance only momentarily, 
but precisely long enough to receive the action of the rays of light.--
In other words, the plate being thus prepared, and placed in the 
chamber, it becomes capable of receiving without danger, the action of 
the rays of light for a given space of time; and in order to impart to 
it that exquisite sensibility which has already been noticed, it is 
sufficient to communicate to it a single electric spark; after which, it 
(the plate) reassuming its ordinary state of inertia, affords sufficient 
time to withdraw it from the further influence of the rays of light.  
Thus the operation is terminated; but in such a manner that it becomes 
possible to delineate a whole assembly in action, with an exact 
expression of each feature, and movement of every limb.
  Unfortunately, M. Daguerre has not yet exhibited any of these 
surprising results, either to the academy or to his learned exponent, M. 
Arago.  He has simply made known a theory, which others, more fortunate 
than himself, may carry into effect.--Undoubtedly, nothing could be more 
marvellous than that of being able to paint, in less than an instant of 
time, the most numerous assembly of persons in action; and the fact of 
this extraordinary electric influence upon chemical combinations thus 
exposed to rays of light, is in itself a discovery of the highest 
interest to the academy of sciences, although it may not be found 
applicable to the arts; and we think M. Daguerre ought not to have 
hesitated to make it known, more especially as its effects may be quite 
as much appreciated in the imperfect impression of the plate, as it 
could be in a perfect picture.                 [N. Y. Amer.

. . .(and another item under the same heading). . .

   From the Paris correspondent of the National Intelligencer.  
"Daguerre has nearly perfected his invaluable discovery, in obtaining 
instantaneous impression by means of electricity.  A slight haze, 
however, is left on the impression, which he wishes to correct before he 
exhibits the results of his new process.--He has his envious rivals and 
ready detractors, who sneer at his discretion, and express doubt, in the 
journals.  His friends boast that he has now rendered it easy to copy 
the largest assembly of persons, with their momentary countenances and 
most animated gestures. . . .

(Under the present heading are other daguerreian-related articles--all 
describing various experiments; time does not permit me to transcribe 
them at this time. --G.E.)
Posted for your enjoyment.     Gary W. Ewer     

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