Daguerreian Society

I purchased a half-year volume of this publication sight unseen. When I came 
across the following article, I felt that my purchase was a happy one. I am glad 
to share this text with you today. A few other comments about this are included 
at the end of today's message.
* * * *

On this day (July 20) in the year 1839, the following article appeared in "The 
New-York Mirror: A Weekly Journal of Literature and the Fine Arts." (Vol. 17, 
No. 4) page 31:
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  Letter from an idle merchant.--MR. MIRROR--I have recently returned from a 
flying trip to London.  My time was so fully occupied while there, that I had no 
leisure for memorandums of "Incidents of Travel," or "Pencillings by the Way."  
Now that I am safely home again, I take pleasure in remembering what I heard and 
saw during my absence--and in recounting it too.  But I have related my 
adventures over and over again to my friends, until they are weary with the 
recital, and have left me no longer a lion in their estimation, because I can 
roar no new note.  I am a merchant--my account books are all in perfect order, 
every receipt, letter, and bill filed, and in its appropriate place; few notes 
to pay this month, no discounts to ask for, a good bank account, and, worst of 
all, no customers to expect--what shall I do with my leisure hours?  How employ 
them more pleasantly than in giving to the public the thrice-told tale?  To be 
sure, I am not accustomed to writing for the public, except such articles as the 
printer is sure to send in a bill for inserting; but this shall not deter me 
from taking this first step to immortality.  I shall not trouble you with a 
tedious description of my voyage, but will commence with a time when--I had seen 
most of the "great attractions" of the metropolitan city, and was merely 
gleaning the field from which I had already gathered abundantly, as I one 
morning espied over a door a small sign with this inscription--"Mental 
Daguerroscope."  Something new under the sun!  Just what I came all the way to 
London to see--and I immediately walked in.  The room which I entered exhibited 
about equally the appearance of a chemical laboratory, and an ordinary 
engraver's office.  Here was an electrical machine, and there an engraver's 
stone--here a galvanic battery, and there a pile of designs; with a countless 
number of other things, presenting in itself a sight, no doubt as curious as the 
workshop of "Jabez Doolittle," but when compared with the wonderful results of 
the art which I afterwards saw there, it was nearly forgotten.  Upon my making 
some inquires respecting this art, of which I had never before heard, I was 
informed that it was a new method of taking impressions of objects, which method 
had first been suggested to the author by the lunar Daguerroscope.  He said they 
would soon take an impression, in seeing which, I might obtain a better idea of 
the process than by any description he could give.  A sheet of drawing-paper 
which had received the solution preparatory to taking an impression was first 
placed in a perpendicular position.  In front of this was seated the engraver, 
for so he was called, in a large arm-chair, covered with a kind of cloth which 
had rendered it nonconductoral of the electric fluid; his dress was of the same 
material.  He was now thrown into a profound "magnetic slumber," and while in 
this condition was charged with electric fluid until his eyes flashed open.  He 
immediately fixed them upon me, and that with such an unearthly glowing, that I 
could think of nothing but his satanic majesty, and began to retreat.  Just as I 
moved, he took his eyes from me and fixed them upon the paper before him, and I 
saw in art instant my own likeness there, in its full and perfect proportions.  
As fast as the impressions were taken, the sheet was removed and a new one 
substituted, until they became so faint as to be scarcely perceptible.  This was 
the "mental Daguerroscope."  There is no part of it secret except the 
preparation of the paper previous to being engraved upon.  I was now shown 
several specimens of landscape engravings by the same method, which rivalled 
everything in that line, as much as nature has heretofore excelled the most 
bungling productions of art.  The lunar Daguerroscope has reached perfection in 
this establishment, as you will readily believe when I tell you that, in taking 
a landscape impression a few days since, a perfect human figure, with long, 
flowing hair, and a fine pair of wings, appeared, flying through the air at a 
little distance from the earth.  Unseen by mortal eyes, unknown his presence; 
from whence, or whither bound, all a mystery; yet leaving his shadow to gladden 
our hearts with the belief that good spirits hover over us.  Messrs. Editors, if 
you, or any of you curious readers, would see these wonders, just make a trip to 
London--not in a steampacket, or a packetship, but as I did, in a--dream.    
Yours, A.

* * * * *

This text is from the 20 July 1839 issue of "The New-York Mirror: A Weekly 
Journal of Literature and the Fine Arts" (New York: Vol. 17, No. 4) page 31.
  Few details regarding Daguerre's discovery were available at this time; the 
public could only speculate about both the process and the product of the 
invention. This article is especially fanciful and seems to be in want of the 
details Sir John Robinson provides in his first-hand account (also published
in July 1839.) Robinson had opportunity to visit Daguerre in June or earlier
of 1839, and provided details of the visit in his article, "Perfection of the
Art, as stated in Notes on Daguerre's Photography." published in The American 
Journal of Science and Arts (New Haven; Vol. XXXVII, No. 1; July 1839) pp.
  This author uses the term "daguerroscope." The term is not unique to this
article, having earlier appeared in the 13 April 1839 issue of "The Corsair.
A Gazette of Literature, Art, Dramatic Criticism, fashion and Novelty"
(New-York; Vol. I., No. 5) pp. 70-2. An even earlier appearance of the word
is found in the 7 March 1839 issue of the "Daily National Intelligencer"
(Washington, D. C., Vol. 27, No. 8131.) Citing the 2 February 1839 "London
Literary Gazette," the article entitled "The New Art; or, "The Pencil of
Nature." mentions that "...The French call this instrument by the name of
its inventor the Dagueroscope."
                                                     --notes by Gary W. Ewer

All the above mentioned articles are available on The Daguerreian Society web 
    The article, "Perfection of the Art...":
    The Corsair article:
    The article "The New Art...":
Posted for your enjoyment.     Gary W. Ewer     

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