Talbot spent the last twenty-five years of his life developing and perfecting an effective photogravure process. That he should have spent so much time developing a process for printing photographs with ink rather than silver salts is not wholly surprising. Talbot’s early photogenic drawings are so ephemeral that, despite their exceptional beauty, they can never be exhibited or exposed to light without risk of change. Even his far more stable calotypes fixed with hypo were inconsistent in their permanence, many deteriorating in quick order; a reviewer of the 1862 International Exhibition described some photographs as “fading before the eyes of the nations assembled.” Thus, Talbot’s search for a photographic process using permanent printer’s ink was a final step in the refinement of his earlier, still imperfect, invention.
Talbot began his experiments with plant specimens, lace and grasses. By 1858, with his patent of the photoglyph, he was finding success reproducing film positives from continuous tone photographs. Many of his early experiments were made from positives supplied by Parisian photographers Clouzard and Soulier as they had produced very fine glass positives for stereo views. The image on this test is from a Clouzard and Soulier positive.
View of Edinburgh from Calton Hill, with three test patches, 1860s
Photoglyphic engraving from an original stereo
Photograph by Clouzard and Soulier
9.3 cm wide plate on 5.7 x 11.2 cm paper, irregularly trimmed