View in Java Talbot, William Henry Fox  (British, 1800-1877)

In 1877, the publisher for the English translation of Tissandier’s History and Handbook of Photography asked Talbot to contribute an appendix to balance out the French bias. Talbot split his manuscript into sections, the first dealing with his original invention of photography and the other explaining his work in photogravure. On 12 September 1877 Talbot wrote to the publisher apologizing I have not been well, which has delayed my sending you the rest of my paper – I now send the second part … the third part is in preparation & will complete the Appendix. Tragically, he died within a week, the manuscript left unfinished. Talbot had already contributed two examples of Photo-sculpsit photogravures to include in each copy of the book, evidence that he had finally achieved his goal of rendering photographs in printers ink. His son, Charles Henry, completed the manuscript as best he could. Lacking specific details, he recalled that his father had greatly improved the laying of the aquatint ground… Although Charles Henry was unsure that his father used the term Photo-sculpsit, the 1866 prints carry this title and probably relate to a project that Henry Talbot had conceived of as the conceptual successor to The Pencil of Nature.

The view, half of a stereo, was probably taken by Walter B. Woodbury or his partner James Page. In a letter to Hugh Diamond Welch dated November 10, 1863 (which appeared in the Journal of the Photographic Society of London dated Jan 15, 1864) Talbot wrote: I take the opportunity of writing this note to send you a small specimen of my photographic engraving on steel which I made last week; it is quite untouched. It is a genuine view in Java – a ravine and small rivulet fringed with banana-trees. As I have no assistant, my engravings are not as yet worth publishing; but I think that in the hands of an artist, the process would prove useful and effective. Pray accept the specimen. The number of copies that can be printed, before the plate deteriorates, is at least 5000. The prints were made in 1877 from Talbot’s plate by the Copper & Steel Plate Printing Office, 78 Margaret St, Cavendish Sq W, London. In a letter to Talbot dated Aug 7, 1877, Thomas Brooker of that firm wrote, The ‘View in Java’ shews so little sign of wear that I should not hesitate to print from it some thousands more.

Reproduced / Exhibited

Schaaf, Larry J, and Talbot. Sun Pictures, Talbot and Photogravure. New York: Hans P. Kraus, Jr., Inc, 2003. Plate 56.

De Andere Fotografie de Geschiedenis van de Fotomechanische Reproductie in de Negentiende Eeuw: tentoonstelling in het Zeeuws Museum Middelburg 1989 (The Other Photography the History of Photomechanical Reproduction in the Nineteenth Century: Exhibition in the Zeeuws Museum Middelburg 1989) Exhibited chk. 11


Some Account of Talbot’s Process of Photographic Engraving William Gamble, Editor, Penrose’s Pictorial Annual 1902-3, A.W. Penrose & Co, London, 1902 p. 3