[London: R. and E. Taylor], 1840. First edition. 4to., 59 pp., 2 leaves of plates. Later wrappers with printed labels on the front wrapper and spine. Extracted from Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London, Volume 130. Fine. Housed in a newly made pamphlet case of cloth-backed paper over boards, with printed labels on the upper cover and spine. Item #52083
Sir John F.W. Hershel (1792 - 1871) was the son of the renowned astronomer, Sir William Herschel. His university years showed him to be a gifted mathematician, resulting in his election as a Fellow of the Royal Society. After brief forays into legal studies and an academic career at Cambridge, he became his father's assistant late in 1816. His independent means allowed him to pursue his interests in the sciences; among them was the study of light. In the spring of 1831, he conducted a series of experiments on the light sensitivity of salts of platinum; his earlier experiments with hyposulphites to dissolve "muriate of silver" applied to those with platinum salts, brought him to the edge of codifying the photographic process. He shared the results of these experiments with his friends, David Brewster, Charles Babbage, and William Henry Fox Talbot. His enduring scientific pursuit was the study of light, and as the first to embrace photography as a scientific tool, he invented numerous processes.
With the announcement of Daguerre's process on 22 January 1839, and Talbot's announcement within a few days, he made and fixed his own paper based photographs by 30 January 1839, and he had the foresight to reverse the negative to positive tones. Herschel presented his findings in a paper he read to the Royal Society on 14 March 1839, in which he stressed the superior qualities of hyposulphite of soda to common salt for the "fixing" of photographs. He withdrew his paper from publication out of consideration for his friend, Talbot, and only a brief abstract was published.
In, On the Chemical Action of the Rays of Light..., his first full published paper on photography, he stresses the necessity of using achromatic lenses, he introduced the terms negative and positive into the nomenclature, he described a process for making direct positive photographs and both negative and positive photographs on glass, the superiority of silver bromide over other silvers salts, and he predicts full color photography, having made a color photograph of the spectrum in 1839, in which he was unable to "fix" the colors.
WorldCat locates nine copies. Gernsheim - Incunabula of British Photographic Literature No. 1068. Roosens and Salu fail to list this.