Footnotes to R. D. Wood’s

The Calotype Patent Lawsuit of Talbot v. Laroche 1854


  ©   R. Derek Wood, The Calotype Patent Lawsuit of Talbot v. Laroche 1854:  a contribution to the history of photography to welcome the opening of the Talbot Museum at Lacock, privately published by R. D. Wood: Bromley, Kent, 1975.   ISBN 0–9504377–0–0. British Library X.709/30084


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1.   R. Derek Wood, ‘Gallic Acid and Talbot’s calotype patent’ (Part II of J. B. Reade, F.R.S. and the early history of photography), Annals of Science, 27 (March 1971), 47–83

2.   Much of the unjustified reputation of the Rev. J. B. Reade as an early inventor of photography was due to ambiguities in the report of Talbot v. Laroche, see R. D. Wood, ‘J. B. Reade, F.R.S., and the early history of photography, Part I. A re–assessment on the discovery of contemporary evidence’, Annals of Science, 27 (March 1971), 13–45

3.   R. D. Wood, op.cit. (1), p. 52

4.   R. D. Wood, ‘The involvement of Sir John Herschel in the photographic patent case, Talbot v. Henderson, 1854’, Annals of Science, 27 (September 1971), 239–64
[This paper is now online on this website here.]

5.   There was also legal activity to bring another London photographer, Thomas Sims (see Brit. J. Phot., 13 June, 1930, pp. 353–5) to the courts. No records in the Court of Chancery or of Common Law have been found. But there is evidence (page 6 of ‘Price & Bolton, Bill [to] W. H. Fox Talbot Esq [Dec 1854 to] 1856’, Lacock MS LA56.33) that some action was begun and then discontinued.
[Note that the Talbot Collection previously at Lacock, in 2005 was transferred as a gift to the British Library, to be its permanent home.]

6.   R. D. Wood, op. cit. (1), 63n

7.   Items concerning Talbot v. Laroche and the application to renew the calotype patent in the Talbot Collection at Lacock Abbey are: letters of 1854 and early 1855 to Talbot from W. Crookes, N. S. Maskelyne, and J. H. Bolton (Talbot’s solicitor); letters from W. H. F. Talbot to his wife, and a modern copy of a letter to Lord Lansdowne dated 5 January 1855; two statements (1854) by Alfred Noble about the technique used by Laroche; a list of a provisional forty–eight jurymen; an eighteen–page statement of account by solicitors Price & Bolton (‘Bill, 1856’ see ref. note 48) for the period December 1854 to mid–1856 (with a statement by E. W. Brayley) of the full text of letter dated 9 April 1839 from J. B. Reade to E. W. Brayley from which extracts were quoted (without unfortunately recording the date) at the trial (see R. D. Wood, Brit. J. Phot., 28 July 1972, pp. 643–7

8.   The well–referenced, but naturally short, article of 1901 on Sir William Grove in the D.N.B., 1901, 1st Suppl., ii, pp. 371–2, provides an excellent outline of his life and work. Surprisingly, no full scale biographic study is available, although a chapter has been devoted to him in Statesman of Science by J. G. Crowther, London 1965. Grove’s MSS correspondence is preserved at the Royal Institution of Great Britain and provides a major source of study for his life and work (a brief account of the Collection is given by K. D. C. Vernon, Proc.Roy.Inst. G. B., 41 (1966), 250–80.

9.   R. K. Webb, ‘Sir William Robert Grove (1811–1896) and the origins of the Fuel Cell’, J. Roy. Inst. Chem., 85 (1961), 291. Grove’s papers on this subject appeared in Phil. Mag., Feb. 1839 and Dec. 1842, and Phil. Trans., 1843

10. Letter from Gassiot to Grove dated 17 August 1840, Grove Collection, Royal Institution.

11. H. G. Lyons, Notes and Records Royal Society London, 1 (1938), 28–31

12. London Institution Reports for the 1840s bound in ‘London Institution Reports, 1830–1850’, Ref. AN 16.8, Guildhall Library, London

13. W. R. Grove, The Correlation of Physical Forces, London 1874. This sixth edition contains in addition his other ‘contributions to science’, and serves as his collected works (although some papers have not been reprinted from the original journals without occasional rewordings). The Royal Society Catalogue of Scientific Papers (London 1869–1916) lists sixty–five papers by Grove.

14. In the case of Beard v. Egerton, Grove is mentioned as being in the Court of Chancery on 2 June 1845 (The Times, 3 June 1845, p.8) and in the Court of Common Pleas on 27 May 1846 and 25 June 1849 (Common Bench Reports, 3 (1848), 97–132 and 8 (1851), 165–216)

15. W. B.[sic] Grove, ‘On a Voltaic Process for etching Daguerreotype Plates’, Proc London Elect. Soc., 1843, 94–99. Also reported briefly in The Chemist, 2 (September 1841), 265–6, and published in full, plus a postscript of one paragraph, in Phil. Mag., 20 (January 1842), 18–24

16. W. R. Grove, A Lecture on the Progress of Physical Science since the opening of the London Institution. Delivered on Wednesday the 19th of January 1842. Printed, not published, London Institution 1842

17. Professor Grove, ‘On Photography’, Adv. Sci. Brit. Assoc. Report, for 1844, part 2, 37

18. Grove Collection, Royal Institution, London. As well as the ten letters here published by permission of the Managers, the Collection also holds three letters from Talbot to Grove not concerning photography dated 12 January 1843   (Grove’s reply of 13 Jan 1843 is in the Talbot Collection at Lacock Abbey — as well as a letter from Francis Watkins (Optician) to Talbot on the same subject dated 10 Jan 1843),   1 October 1847 and 17 July [1868?], and a printed facsimile circular Invitation for Grove to sit for his portrait at York in 1844. Six of Talbot’s calotypes of 1844 once in the possession of Grove have recently been presented by a descendant [Mrs P. M. Hamilton–Meikle] to the Royal Institution.

19a. William Henry Silvester ([1814]–1886): The birth certificates of his children are registered at Bloomsbury, Vol. I, p.34 and 43, and at Clerkenwell, Vol. III, pp. 87, 89 and 105. Silvester/Laroche’s studio and home at 65 Oxford Street, London, is enumerated in the Census of 1851 (Martin Laroche, his wife and five children and a servant girl) P.R.O., HO 107/1486/f638v. At the Census of 1861 he was no longer living there but a photographer Wm. B. Hollings age 26 and a young servant–girl are listed (P.R.O. RG9/66/f129). W. H. Silvester’s Death Certificate is registered at Kings Norton, Vol 6, p.11. He was described in the Death Certificate as a Portrait Painter aged 77, but this age was probably not correct (he was born before birth certificates were issued). [See ‘ “Martin Laroche” was not Canadian’]

19a§. [Research after this pamphlet was issued in 1975 found that W. H. Silvester was born 15 September and baptised 30 October 1814, see R. Derek Wood, Martin Laroche was not Canadian, History of Photography, 20 (Winter 1996), 371–3.]

19b. T. W. Thomas Horton, Phot. News, Vol. 33 (26 April 1889), 286

20. Fox Talbot Collection, file No. 148b, Royal Photographic Society. [see R. D. Wood's online transcription of Talbot's letter of 1 December 1851 to Lord Granville, chairman of the Finance Committee of the Exhibition of 1851.]

21. Unfortunately no relic of their relationship has been found, although two photographs marked ‘Bingham’ once in the possession of Grove were presented to the Royal Institution late in 1971 along with the six Talbotype mentioned in footnote 18.

22. Draft letter Talbot to Robert Hunt dated 6 and 7 November 1851 marked ‘not sent’, and (in particular) another dated 30 April 1852, Fox Talbot Collection, file No. 141, Royal Photographic Society.

23. Letter from Talbot to Herschel dated 13 November 1853, published in R. D. Wood, Annals of Science, 27 (Sept., 1971), 245–6. That the month of November 1853 was when Talbot gathered his forces is confirmed by Laroche’s letter to the Photographic Society in which he outlined the earliest steps taken in the action against him (Phot.J., 2 (1854), 34).

24. The Rev. J. B. Reade mentioned that he had had contact with Mr. Grove when he wrote to Talbot on 24 June 1854 about the Henderson case (Letter J. B. Reade to H. Fox Talbot, Notes and Queries, 7 (1854), 34

25. Commissioner of Patents Journal, 6 (1859), 467

26. Photographic Journal, 7 (15 Feb., 1861), 99–101

27. Patent No. 8842 (1841), p.5

28. See especially the summing–up speech by the judge in the Art Journal, February 1855, pp. 49–54

29. A description of the techniques used by Laroche early in 1854 is given in two statements by Alfred Noble held in the Talbot Collection at Lacock Abbey: LA54.18 and 54.15

30. An unsigned article (by Henry Morley and W. H. Wills) in Charles Dickens’ weekly Household Words, 19 March 1853, Vol. VII, pp. 54–61 (the description of Henneman at work in his Regent street studio using the collodion process is on pp. 60–61).

31. Robert Ellis, ‘The process of Development in Photography’, The Athenaeum, 22 February 1851, pp. 224–5

32. The Athenaeum, 1851, pp. 224–5, 1286–7; 1852, pp. 22–3, 55–6

33. The Athenaeum, 1844, pp. 500–1, 929, 955; Adv. Sci. Brit. Assoc. Report for 1844, Part 2, pp. 36 and 105.  Before Hunt used ferrous sulphate as a developer in 1844, Alfred Smee had stated in the Literary Gazette of 18 May 1839, pp. 314–6, that ‘photogenic paper may be blackened ... by a dilute solution of proto–sulphate of iron’.  However, Smee did not have any concept of the use of this iron salt as a developer.

34. Reports of the trial appeared in the Phot. J., 2 (21 Dec. 1854), 84–95; Art Journal, Feb., 1855, 49–54 (especially useful for a long verbatim report of the judge’s final speech); and was briefly mentioned in The Times of 19 December, p.8, 20 December 1854, p. 9, with a fuller report in The Times, 21 December 1854, p. 11

35. The ten persons who appeared in support of Talbot were Alfred Noble, Dr. Miller, W. T. Brande, Prof. William Hofmann, Henry Medlock, William Crookes, N. Maskelyne, Antoine Claudet, Henry ‘Collins’ (Collen) and William Carpmael.

36. On Laroche’s side at the trial appeared the Rev. J. B. Reade, E. W. Brayley, Andrew Ross, Robert Hunt, A. Normandy, Dr. J. Stenhouse, C. Heisch, T. Taylor, W. H. Thornthwaite, Mr. Elliott and (according to the report in the Art Journal, February 1855, p. 49) an unidentified ‘Mr. Redmond’ who may possibly have been T. S. Redman, photographer and chemist at 77 Cornhill, London, and 6 Shards terrace, Peckham.

37. Sir John Jervis (1802–1856), DNB, Vol. 29 (1892), p. 363

38. Sir William Crookes (1832–1919), DNB, 1912–1921, pp. 136–7. Also see R. D. Wood, September 1971, op. cit., (note 4), p. 263n

39. A short rough note by Talbot on this subject in file No. 147 of the Fox Talbot Collection at the Royal Photographic Society says ‘Mr. Crookes will process this & show specns.’ Talbot also asked Crookes to carry out other experiments with collodion on paper in a letter dated ‘Lacock Abbey, 22 Dec’ (M. Hansch kindly provided a copy of this amongst other letter in the Agfa–Gevaert Photomuseum, Leverkusen), and Crookes reported the results of his experiments in a letter to Talbot dated 4 January 1855 (Talbot Collection, Lacock).

40. ‘I intend’, added Talbot, ‘to come down to Lacock tomorrow Thursday [21 December] by the evening express’: letter written on Wednesday 20 December 1854 now in the Talbot Collection, LA54.73, at Lacock Abbey.  This letter has also been quoted in part, but unfortunately dated incorrectly as ‘21 December’, in ‘W. H. H. Talbot, FRS., material towards a biography’, by J. Dudley Johnston and R. C. Smith, Photographic Journal, 108 (Dec., 1968), 361–371 (unfortunately the value of this ‘material towards a biography’ is reduced by incorrect dating).

41. Letter dated 15 June 1851, Talbot to Michael Faraday in Selected Correspondence of Michael Faraday, edited by L. Pearce Williams, Cambridge 1971, vol. 2, pp. 636–7;  Athenĉum, 28 June 1851, p. 688; Proc. Roy. Soc. London, 6 (1850–54), 82

42. Grove’s paper ‘On a method of increasing certain effects of induced electricity’ is dated 7 December 1854, and was published in the Philosophical Magazine of January 1855, 9 (4th series), 1–4. Grove had also written about his induction coil experiments to Talbot on 2 November 1854 (letter LA54.55 in Talbot Collection, Lacock).

42bis   [A teetotum is a top: a simple disc marked with figures and spun with the fingers as an alternative to a dice]

43. Privy Council Register, 1854, 4 January to 10 August, p. 617, at Public Record Office PC2/239, 617

44. London Gazette, Friday 1 December 1854, part 2, p. 3915

45. A copy of Talbot’s Petition for the renewal of his patent was published in the Photographic Journal, 2 (21 December 1854), 99–100

46. Notes and Queries, 11 (1855), pp. 16 and 71

47. Henneman’s statement made on 17 November 1855 (Chancery affidavit sworn in the case of Talbot v. Henderson, Public Record Office, C31/1127/1351) that since the Laroche trial the ‘immense ... competition in the art has become at least a hundred–fold’, need not be taken too seriously. Henneman had been the only photographer using the collodion technique (ie. he had been the only one with a ‘calotype’ licence) in Regent Street early in 1852. His statement made on 30 June 1855 (Deposition No. 5 of Proceedings of Talbot v. Henderson, Public Record Office, C15/157/T39) that there were then ‘at least 20 practising the art in that street’, is closer to the truth, but still misleading.

48. ‘Price & Bolton, Bill (to Midsummer day) 1856 [to] W. H. Fox Talbot Esq’, LA56.33 Talbot Collection, Lacock. A detailed eighteen–page Statement of legal work done for Talbot by his solicitors from Dec., 1854 to June 1856.
(a) ‘Yourself v. Laroche’, work done January 1855. pp.1–2
(b) ‘As to projected proceedings in Her Majesty’s Privy Council’, 26 Dec., 1854 to 6 Jan., 1855. pp. 2–3
(c) ‘As to your 3rd & 4th Patents’, January to July 1855. pp. 4–5 and some items on pp. 13–14
(d) ‘Yourself v. Sims ... rule to discontinue’, 13 February 1855. p.6
(e) ‘Yourself v. Henderson’, Jan., 1855 to June 1856. pp. 6–11, and some items on pp. 13–17
(f) ‘General Matters’, 28 Dec., 1854 to June 1856. pp.12–17
(g) ‘Summary’ of money, front page.

49. Art Journal, February 1855, p. 54; April 1855, p. 127

50. J. Werge, Evolution of Photography (1890), p. 116

51. Letter from N. S. Maskelyne to W. H. F. Talbot dated 22 January 1855, Talbot Collection at Lacock, LA55.6

52. William Carpmael (1804–1867) usually seemed very ready to tell Talbot to take legal action.  Although two ‘Opinion Books’ kept by Carpmael are still owned by Maurice Carpmael (of the still extant firm of Patent Agents in London) the first one only begins in 1855 and no photographic patents are mentioned. Mr Maurice Carpmael kindly told me in 1971 that none of the firm’s records of the 19th century have survived.

53. Talbot’s rough notes and letters regarding Pretsch at Lacock Collection LA56.21–24
[Note that the Talbot Collection previously at Lacock, in 2005 was transferred as a gift to the British Library, to be its permanent home.]

54. Letter dated 20 June 1686 from Isaac Newton to Edmund Halley, in Newton Letter Book, N1.55, Royal Society, London


                     [W. H. Silvester and family]
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