The 
Daguerreian Society


On this day (January 12) in the year 1839, the following article 
appeared in "The Literary Gazette" (London):
- - - - - - - - - - - -

under the heading: "FINE ARTS"


The Daguerotype
                                       Paris, 6th January, 1839

We have much pleasure in announcing an important discovery made by M. 
Daguerre, the celebrated painter of the Diorama.  This discovery seems 
like a prodigy.  It disconcerts all the theories of science in light 
and optics, and, if borne out, promises to make a revolution in the 
arts of design.
  M. Daguerre has discovered a method to fix the images which are 
represented at the back of a camera obscura; so that these images are 
not the temporary reflection of the object, but their fixed and durable 
impress, which may be removed from the presence of those objects like a 
picture or an engraving.
  Let our readers fancy the fidelity of the image of nature figured by 
the camera obscura, and add to it an action of the solar rays which 
fixes this image, with all its gradations of lights, shadows, and 
middle tints, and they will have an idea of the beautiful designs, with 
a sight of which M. Daguerre has gratified our curiosity.  M. Daguerre 
cannot act on paper; he requires a plate of polished metal. It was on 
copper that we saw several points of the Boulevards, Pont Marie, and 
the environs, and many other spots, given with a truth which Nature 
alone can give to her works.  M. Daguerre shews you the plain plate of 
copper: he places it, in your presence, in his apparatus, and, in three 
minutes, if there is a bright summer sun, and a few more, if autumn or 
winter weaken the power of its beams, he takes out the metal and shews 
it to you, covered with a charming design representing the object 
towards which the apparatus was turned.  Nothing remains but a short 
mechanical operation--of washing, I believe--and the design, which has 
been obtained in so few moments, remains unalterably fixed, so that the 
hottest sun cannot destroy it.
  Messrs. Arago, Biot, and Von Humboldt, have ascertained the reality 
of this discovery, which excited their admiration; and M. Arago will, 
in a few days, make it known to the Academy of Sciences.
  I add some further particulars.  Nature in motion cannot be 
represented, or at least not without great difficulty, by the process 
in question.  In one of the views of the Boulevards, of which I have 
spoken, all that was walking or moving does not appear in the design; 
of two horses in a hackney coach on the stand, one unluckily moved its 
head during the short operation; the animal is without a head in the 
design.  Trees are very well represented; but their colour, as it 
seems, hinders the solar rays from producing their image as quickly as 
that of houses, and other objects of a different colour.  This causes a 
difficulty for landscape, because there is a certain fixed point of 
perfection for trees, and another for all objects the colours of which 
are not green.  The consequence is, that when the houses are finished, 
the trees are not, and when the trees are finished, the houses are too 
much so.
  Inanimate nature, architecture, are the triumph of the apparatus 
which M. Daguerre means to call after his own name--Daguerotype.  A 
dead spider, seen in the solar microscope, is finished with such detail 
in the design, that you may study its anatomy, with or without a 
magnifying glass, as if it were nature itself; not a fibre, not a 
nerve, but you may trace and examine.  For a few hundred francs 
travellers may, perhaps, be soon able to procure M. Daguerreās 
apparatus, and bring back views of the finest monuments, and of the 
most delightful scenery of the whole world.  They will see how far 
their pencils and brushes are from the truth of the Daguerotype.  Let 
not the draughtsman and the painter, however, despair--the results 
obtained by M. Daguerre are very different from their works, and, in 
many cases, cannot be a substitute for them.  The effects of this new 
process have some resemblance to line engraving and mezzotinto, but are 
much nearer to the latter: as for truth, they surpass everything. 
  I have spoken of the discovery only as it regards art.  If what I 
have heard is correct, M. Daguerreās discovery tends to nothing less 
than a new theory on an important branch of science.  M. D. generously 
owns that the first idea of his process was given him, fifteen years 
ago, by M. Nieps, of Chalons-sur-Saone; but in so imperfect a state, 
that it has cost him long and persevering labour to attain the object.

                                                H. Gaucheraud.


(Cited from a transcription in Scharf, Aaron. "Pioneers of Photography" 
(New York: Harry N. Abrams, 1975) p. 41.  Scharf notes that this report 
is taken "...from the 'Gazette de France' of 6 January 1839, which pre÷
empted the official announcement made by Francois Arago at a meeting of 
the Academie des Sciences on 7 January.")
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Posted for your enjoyment.     Gary W. Ewer     
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01-12-98


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