June 15, 1998
Hello fellow daguerreotypists,
As you may have noticed, the issuing of The Daguerreian Annual is losing the sequential harmony it once had with the year in which it represents. We are well ensconced in the year 1998 and have just received the 1997 copy. To some this is no big deal. Others may get a little woozy with this loss of synchrony. If you are among the latter group: brace yourself. The situation can only become far worse as we are facing the specter of the millennium bug. Being on the board of directors, I can state to you we have had no emergency Y2K meetings and I have no idea if our computers are year 2000 compliant...so who knows...
With this in mind, and in our continuing efforts to release the latest breaking news on our 159 year old process, the opposite side of this paragon of prose is emblazoned with a chart for your entertainment. This chart is excerpted from a piece I penned for the next Daguerreian Society annual and is included here for the reasons already stated and to give you something to think about while your plates are out being plated.
In sifting through some 50 sources for "quicks," their recipes and recommended use, I tallied their occurrences and bromide of lime was mentioned twice as often as the runner up, bromide of iodine. Then, in descending order, came bromine water, Hungarian Liquid, Wolcott's American Accelerator, chloride of iodine, chloride of bromine, lime water, Gurney's American Compound, and Roach's Triple Compound--many others were mentioned once or twice.
A rose is a rose? One annoying difficulty with daguerreotyping is clearly identifying a particular color of silver iodide and trying to get THE color the same every time. Or, for that matter, telling someone about it. The colors are in a continual shift and at any one moment the color is really a blend of several colors. Throw in some iridescence and a verbal description is weak at best and matching to a color chip is impossible. In spite of this, and whether they equivocated or not, the historical record has several points of interest when looked at as a whole.
With the exception of Sparling and Thornthwaite, the recommended colors and proportions of iodine and bromine by these daguerreotypists are all different. This is not likely a semantic issue. With tens of thousands of daguerreotypists busy making millions of dags some commonality of terms would surely have bubbled to the top. The truth is that there is a wider range of useful coatings than one might otherwise expect based on two or three historical sources.
Also notable is the apparent trend, over time, from thin coatings to thicker coatings. If you toss out Fitzgibbon, up to 1853, all the first iodines were in the yellows. In 1853, all the Anthony Prize winners were in the reds. A better sense of this can be seen with Humphrey who commented fives times from 1849 to 1858. He initially recommended "light yellow" but each time got progressively thicker ending up with "rose red." I don't think this is happenstance. It is my belief that thin coatings have a narrower useful range in the proportion of iodine and bromine. As first iodine gets thicker, the exact proportion of bromine becomes somewhat less critical--meaning a wider range of useful coatings and a higher batting average. More on this later.
The accompanying chart is also available (and will open in a separate browser window.)