Daguerreian Society

On this day (December 4) 
in the year 1839, Philip Hone took pen in hand and wrote in his journal:
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(1839) December 4.--I went this morning, by invitation of Monsieur 
Francois Gouraud, to see a collection of the views made by the wonderful 
process lately discovered in France by Monsieur Daguerre, which is 
called by his name. Mr. Gouraud is the pupil and friend of the inventor, 
and comes to this country to make known the process. The pictures he has 
are extremely beautiful,-they consist of views in Paris, and exquisite 
collections of the objects of still life. The manner of producing them 
constitutes one of the wonders of modern times, and, like other 
miracles, one may almost be excused for disbelieving it without seeing 
the very process by which it is created. It appears to me a confusion of 
the very elements of nature. It is nothing less than the palpable effect 
of light occasioning in a reproduction of sensible objects. The 
reflection of surrounding images created by a camera, obscured upon a 
plate of copper, plated with silver, and prepared with some chemical 
substances, is not only distinctly delineated, but left upon the plate 
so prepared, and there remains forever. Every object,  however minute, 
is a perfect transcript of the thing itself; the hair of the human head, 
the gravel on the roadside, the texture of a silk curtain, or the shadow 
of the smaller leaf reflected upon the wall, are all imprinted as 
carefully as nature or art has created them in the objects transferred; 
and those things which are invisible to the naked eye are rendered 
apparent by the help of a magnifying glass. It appears to me not less 
wonderful that light should be made an active operating power in this 
manner, and that some such effect should be produced by sound; and who 
knows whether, in this age of invention and discoveries, we may not be 
called upon to marvel at the exhibition of a tree, a horse, or a ship 
produced by the human voice muttering over a metal plate, prepared in 
the same or some other manner, the words "tree," "horse," and "ship." 
How greatly ashamed of their ignorance the by-gone generations of 
mankind ought to be!

The Diary of Philip Hone, 1828-1851
Edited by Bayard Tuckerman
(New York: Dodd, Mead and Company, 1889)
pp. 391-392

Posted for your enjoyment.      Gary W. Ewer       

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