New York: Alfred Stieglitz, 1904. Four pages of a bifolium, 7 x 6 inches, on the letterhead of The Photo-Secession, dated May 20 - 04. Slight smudging to the 0 in the date line; an early fold and a few light creases; otherwise near fine. Item #52890
In the December 1903, Obrig Camera Co. trade sheet "Down Town Topics", Alfred Stieglitz wrote a stern warning on the dangers of Rodinal, an acutance enhancing film developer, calling it "decidedly poisonous." Edward W Newcomb, the editor of the PHOTO-AMERICAN, published a harsh and insulting rebuttal in the March 1904 issue, "It may be that Mr. S. has very tender hands and might as easily poison them in vichy water..." The controversy was picked up and reprinted and discussed in many of the contemporary photographic journals.
In this letter to Dr. Nicol (1828 - 1910) a frequent writer on photographic chemistry and the editor of the journal, AMERICAN PHOTOGRAPHY, Stieglitz defends his position on the dangers of Rodinal, and other topics: "My Dear Dr. Nicol: I leave for Europe on Tuesday in quest for a rest. I've had a very hard winter & am completely used up. Camera Work for numbers ahead is practically ready, & much is planned for the Secession. You have probably seen the vile insinuating attacks upon me on account of that Rodinal episode. Just think of Newcomb and Todd as authorities - both of whom would sell their souls for less than a dollar, & especially the former who spends most of his time in a Gold Cure establishment. It is a pity that our press is in such disreputable hands. I've used Rodinal since 1894!! and I mention many cases similar to my own. You know every individual has his idiosyncrasies. Metol hasn't harmed me yet & I've used gallons of it per week - but the alkali in Rodinal does mischief as far as I'm concerned. Now I mention Rodinal because it is the simplest of all developers & used by children & those that are ignorant of chemicals generally - for that reason it is the most dangerous of all developers! Such is my opinion & unless proven to be wrong I shall stick to the results of a ten year's experiment! This will interest you & hence I write it. Camera Work No. 7 was mailed a few days ago, hope you've received it. Also Secession leaflet No. 5. In great haste, with kind regards, Yours, etc. Alfred Stieglitz." Written in the margin is "Alfred Stieglitz, May 23, 1904." Likely a docket notation of the date received by Dr. Nicol.
An early and unusual letter from Alfred Stieglitz (1864 - 1946) in that it discusses technical aspects of photography, rather than his more common philosophic pronouncements.